Sep 3, 2013

Choosing Illusions

  One of the most chilling concepts in theology is the idea that we choose Hell: the idea is that at the time of judgement everyone is presented with heaven, part of which is a clear, perfect view of reality, including the reality of ourselves. The damned are the ones who decide not to look, who reject reality for lies because reality is too much for them. The damned choose to be damned because, to them, eternal torment is preferable to the truth.
  Perhaps most people participating in modern politics are likewise rejecting reality for illusion.
  I have expressed my views on Communism elsewhere. It seems obvious to me that the various people and groups that still adhere to and promote Communism do so out of improper motives. They are, in the end, rejecting reality.
  Are the members of Democracies that much better at recognizing reality? The slide of Democracy to collapse is so well known and understood that some of America's founders opposed Democracy and, when they were overruled by the democratic process, warned the nation of the danger. The French First Republic was notable for the Reign of Terror, a bloodbath that presaged the horrors of the 20th Century, and for lasting barely over a decade before being transformed into an empire that started the first global war and transformed civilians and such into 'acceptable strategic targets' of war. The French Second Republic lasted only about three and a half years but was still riddled with riots, uprisings, and death and, again, collapsed into a bellicose empire. The French Third Republic fell to invasion and the French Fourth Republic collapsed under its own weight. The French are on their Fifth Republic, so far, and still cling to the idea that the concepts that created the Terror, the Napoleonic Wars, are important to France being a great nation....
  From France to Germany, the USA to the UK the rise of democracy has seen the decline of nations and, much more importantly, decline for the citizens of those nations. I am not discussing increases in material goods, I mean the legal rights and moral health of people. Considering the level or unrest visible in these nations, I do not think greater wealth replaces less freedom and degraded public morals. From the rise of nationalist parties in Europe to movements such as Occupy and the Tea Party in the USA people demonstrate that they know they are losing ground but continue to return to Democracy again and again.
  Why?
  Because, in the end, Democracy is a comforting illusion. The spectacle of 'the electoral process' catches the eye; the platitudes of politicians and pundits engage the ear; the ritual of voting lulls the mind; the continual, meaningless bickering between interchangeable empty suits numbs the spirit. The flashy pomp and weightless rhetoric of 'politics' is so ubiquitous that people become sick of 'hearing about politics' and tune it out without realizing that is the goal - apathy. Yet even those who want to change, want to make an impact stick to the same pattern, use the same formulas, try to 'engage voters' and 'frame the narrative' and 'create a grassroots movement' and on, and on, and on... just like the people they wish to replace for being ineffectual (at best) or corrosive (as usual). They don't realize that they are just slapping a new coat of paint on the same Potemkin village.
  The question that strikes at the core of modern Democracies isn't 'which party should I vote for?' it is 'why is it that, no matter who is in power, things never get better?'
  Sure, this constituency might get that tax increase/break they wanted, and that group might get the program increase/cut they spent sixty million euros lobbying for, but overall things still got worse; the economy is still booming and busting with each boom a little lower at apogee and each bust a little lower at perigee; the overall burden f taxes, fees, fines, and such still creeps up each year, somehow; the burden of laws and regulations makes it harder and harder to get anything really done and done well; but once the 'electoral process' parade begins most people get in line for the ritual of casting a vote.
  The Western culture really hammers us all with the idea that political systems boil down to "Democracy vs. various types of tyranny" and has done so for over a Century. The replacement of centuries-old, stable Monarchies with Democracies was of key importance to Western Democracies after WWI and WWII and we are still reaping the fruits of these changes in the Balkans and the Middle East. But the most stable nations in the Middle East are still monarchies; Lichtenstein is a beacon of success in Europe (and the citizens routinely vote down attempts to introduce more democracy to their nation), and it seems that as the Constitutional Monarchies of Europe degrade the powers of their monarchs their nation's see their own wealth and influence degrade as well. Yet, still, Democracy is idolized.
  Certainly, some few see the issues with Democracy and go too far, rejecting all government as inherently bad, but this is just another form of accepting the illusion that there is either Democracy or nothing worthwhile.
  So, what do we do?
  Start pointing at the 'electoral process' and laughing. Long and loud. Start asking the real questions, such as,
 'But what was the real meaning of the speech? Not the signals, not the opposition to another party - the real, inherent meaning?'
 'When did your life get better because of Democracy?'
  'If your duty conflicts with Democracy, what would win?"
  And be a proud monarchist!
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