Democracy is told, in history, as having been born in Athens. It is not unlikely that ancient and dead civilizations may have had governance in such a similar method in the past. However, only records of Athenian Democracy remains as the inception of the philosophy of politics or political theory / science. It is told then by many a specialist, that democracy dies in Athens only to revive in America and France, after the Renaissance. This new ideal of democracy is being pushed by the Enlightened brittish, french and german philosophers.
False, says Francis-Dupuis Déri in his book “Démocratie: Histoire politique d’un Mot – Aux États-Unis et en France“, a carefully collected testimony of famous figures and historic research, to wind the clocks back. Democracy does not, in fact simply disappear after the Athenian experience. It exists for a short while in Rome, though the republic is not exactly democratic, in the sense that it is no longer the people who govern, but an aristocratic few, headed by the Emperor. This leads into various horrible experiences (not that Athens did not have their own!), and then we see other examples of democracy, in its purest form.
Dupuis-Déri identifies medieval communes, during the early middle-ages, as being only loosely governed by their monarchs. In fact, the Monarchs provided very little logistical support to their subjects, other than protection, festivities, taxation and war. The subjects were entirely self-sufficient and self-managed. In fact, Francis even records in his book that there were assemblies, not unlike Athenian assemblies, where the subjects of a given commune would gather to decide amongst themselves how to best manage their plot of land.
There are plenty of other examples in his book, but I wanted to begin by pointing out that Athens wasn’t the only example of true democracy, but that we’ve been taught that it was, in order to puff up our chests, when we speak of Western countries as being democratic. Which is probably why we consider the Athenian model as being utopist, an ideal, a dream. How can we possibly have such a system now of these days, with the massive bodies of citizens to consult? Athens had large assemblies of thousands of participants, and those who were the organizers were picked randomly. Why do you think that is?
Because, in Athenian democracy, every citizen was tasked with being informed. They were not just profitting from their privilege as citizens and voting here and there. In fact, Athenians had far more political responsibility than any citizen in our day and age! They were required to be trained academically by the age of 21. The entire city depended on every citizen proudly wearing the badge of honor of democracy. Philosophy was the word of the day, with many different schools of thought clashing during these assemblies; market prices were being decided, foreign policies established, war, olympiads, legal matters, treasury…
It was the affair of all to ensure that the city ran well, not just a select few. Those who were picked to perform certain roles only performed them for very short terms, instead of the 4 year curriculums we often see in our modern societies. Francis Dupuis-Déri actually goes even further, in his book, and says that our current system is: Anti-democratic. Odd, wouldn’t you think? He pinpoints the issue “modern democracies” have with actual democracy, the Athenian one, as being the risk of letting the underprivileged be any close to the helm.
To the views of the Founding Fathers of America and the revolutionaries in France, the poor are emotional, irrational members of society who are dangerous and must be contained. John Adams is recorded as having thought, in his letters, that democracy was demagoguery and the affair of young 20-somethings, but that by the age of 40, you should have grown beyond the nonsense of democracy. The problem with democracy and the people being subject to tyranny is that they are easy to manipulate, and as such, the poor governing themselves would quickly reduce the privileged few to nil. What this says of course is that the privileged few, the rich, wish to retain their hold on power.
What better way to do this than to make democracy appear as if a distant mirage, this impossible ideal that can never be achieved? That is why John Adams himself rebuked his wife, when she asked him to consider the rights of women, in the newly founded United States. Something John Adams backhanded with ease. In France, there were feminine assemblies, women who wanted to have an active part of society. At one point, however, these assemblies caused a little bit of trouble, and in 1793, they were reduced to silence. Philosophers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau had written at large about how the destiny of women was to be submissive to man, and protected from the political ring, being the emotional dandelions that they are. Suffocated, the women’s movements of the 18th century was reduced to pockets of small, inefficient resistance, against the “Great Revolutionaries”, who did not see fit for women to be anywhere near the political arena. The catalyst for such reactionary policy against women was in part attributed to Olympe de Gouges, who had published a counter-argument to the “Human Rights” book released by the revolutionaries, to add “and women, too”. Funny, how one of the great victories of humanity has such an upsettingly dark and cold underbelly.
The problem here being that the aristocrats that governed then and govern to this day, knew that if you give rights to the underprivileged, they will ask for more. As more and more rights are given, the power of the privileged few thins up, and the people can now organize themselves in larger crowds, and face against the political body. In order to avoid this, every effort has been made, in democratic societies, to block every progressive movement in its tracks. Sometimes, it succeeded (1930s, polemic regarding radio communications, resulting in the communications act), and other times it did not (feminist sufragette movement, women’s rights). Therefore, what the wealthy have decided, over time, is to use these communications platforms, such as newspapers and radios (nowadays internet) to preach a world economy, and preach geopolitics based on said economy, so that only those with specializations are given the right to rule.
This is an ideal of new democracy that exists since the 19th century, and was further indoctrinated into the minds of the citizens whose countries who underwent said revolutions. A gentle slumber came over the citizens, who became convinced over time that they are not worthy of the power their country has. That they should leave matters of politics in the hands of the powers that be, because (as we are told frequently) this is how you uphold democracy. Modern democratic institutions are far less democratic than everything that has come before them. Yet, we are repeatedly told that they are the ideals every country should aspire to.
Francis relates to this, in his book, leaning on the shoulders of these wealthy elites: If they can consider that the poor are by default emotional and irrational individuals, how can they honestly consider themselves to be completely objective, and in the capacity to know exactly what the people want? Modern capitalism has answered this arrogance by creating demand where there was none, and then asking the citizens to beg.
Effectively, we are back to square one, ideologically speaking. Christianity has been swapped with “money”, where the “one person, one voice” was changed for “one dollar, one voice”, and thus those who have more of the latter matter more than the former. Churches and Cathedrals have been replaced with gigantic towers, reverred as the perfect example of the imagined solidity of the Market Economy. Merely two millenias ago, human beings knew that money could corrupt, and had put in the ideal failsafes to avoid them.
Nowadays? We embrace the corruption. We welcome it, because without it, the very foundation of democracy (which we do not have) would crumble. Without having the power to the few (which is anti-democratic), we would not have true democracy. Francis even goes so far as to say that the electoral process is deeply anti-democratic, simply because it results in an “elected aristocracy” (une aristocratie élue), which if you take a moment to think about it, is shown within congress.
What types of people do you have in congress? They are not of the people. They are individuals who have had superior, 2nd-cycle studies. University degrees, friends in high places, an actual oligarchy and plutocracy behaving as if it is the greatest democratic institution since Athens! There are exceptions to this, of course, but primarily, those you see in Congress or in the Senate are individuals born in privilege. The few that do manage to slip through the cracks are used as an example that if the poor just try hard enough, they will pull through!
You will of course smirk at this, if you remember that per the Founding Fathers, the people should not get anywhere NEAR the helm. The people are NOT supposed to be involved in politics. Those who are in politics are specialized, technical individuals whose sole purpose are to write legislative papers to ensure that the power remains in the hands of those who should be handling it. Again, to “preserve democracy”, but moreso the “elected aristocracy”. You CAN do politics, if you are loud enough and have access to a public forum, a blog or have done the necessary studies to be “legitimately heard” in the formal channels.
The informal channels are barely worth mentioning, as that which becomes viral hardly ever has any relevance on a humanitarian basis. It does not educate: Shock value does little to inform the people, it merely provides a moment’s disgust or outrage, and then the people go back to their everyday worries. Whenever democratic institutions do happen to make their way into more widespread usage, its existence is constantly threatened by corporate and private interests. Such is evident with feminism, a movement whose sole purpose is to promote equality between genders, so that the difference between a man and a woman becomes solely a matter of appearances. You can find evidence in the way racial equality is treated in modern day media (all lives matter!).
Changing a Word
Democracy, if it exists in modern society, should find the requests of feminists, #BLM, gay pride, simply necessary reminders of social liberties and justice, and act upon fulfilling their requests. Rather, they are used to exemplify how undemocratic our society is. Because democracy is power to the people, and when only a minority get into the higher echelons of power, the lower classes will eventually rise to protest against this privilege. Those in privilege will therefore fight back, and use reverse ideologies, to pretend that THEY are the ones that are being oppressed and THEY are the ones that suffer the most from racism, sexism, homophobia, atheism… Completely disregarding both history and actual social studies on the phenomenon.
- Ex.: Atheists oppress Christians? America is primarily Christian and legislation has oppressed atheists for the longest period of time. Legislators are primarily theists. Even the President of the United States is a Christian.
- Ex.: Women now have more rights than men? America is predominantly managed by straight white men. Most CEOs are white men. The Fortune 500 individuals and their top members are primarily male. Women still have the brunt of “nursing” responsibilities, being the main caretakers at home, being the ones normally left with the children after domestic abuse cases, being the ones in nursing homes, hospitals, kindergarten, special children education…
- Ex.: Black people now have more freedom than white people? Black people are still in poverty more than other social classes in America. They are still in prisons more than other social classes in America. They are still less educated than other classes. Their revendications are less heard than white people revendications. (this includes feminist revendications by white women!)
- Ex.: It is the onus of the underprivileged to become privileged. If the underprivileged become privileged, then there will be a new class of underprivileged people. The point of equality is to erase privilege, so that it is shared across the board.
- Ex.: Social equality has been reached? Read the above. We still treat all the less privileged classes like they are primarily emotional, and the privileged classes all bear the fatter end of reason, making them the only ones from whom truth can be extracted, in the eyes of society. Just like John Adams and the Revolutionaries figured they were. No such thing has been reached and if anything, it is even more glaringly visible now than ever before. Only difference is those who suffer from it do not keep quiet anymore.
It is thus delusional to pretend to be democratic, if we promote none of the features of a democracy: Equality between citizens. If equality between citizens was self-evident, no one would question social justice movements. Rather, the hypocrisy in questioning any social justice movement which seeks to erasure of all social classes, to promote hegemony, as was the case in Athens, (slaves and women notwithstanding: I will hearken to the term “citizen”, which held that anyone with such a title was equal to his brother) is that it reveals our disdain for it. Our current society does not promote hegemony, it promotes social status through money and prestige, which again, promotes inequality and reveres it.
As it was not a choice for homosexuals to be homosexuals, it is not a choice for individuals to be poor and it is not a choice for women to be housewives (not all the time, of course). The issue here is that this is a systemic issue, which has been turned on its head to claim that privileged white men are the ones suffering the most from it. Originally, the thesis of egalitarianism is that equality between social classes has been reached.
Preposterous: If that was the case, men would be as present as women in socially and culturally “feminine” jobs. You will mostly find women in “soft sciences” and men in “hard sciences”, a seemingly obvious nomenclature to favourize phallic representations of skill. Men are “hard” and therefore more objective, and women are “soft” and therefore more subjective. Which plays into why “feminism” and “gender studies” are sneered upon by those who claim only “hard sciences” and “stats” can provide evidence of something like the patriarchy. This reductionistic view of sociocultural impacts of the patriarchy serves to extend the deadline of privilege bestowed upon the imperialistic society we live in, by claiming in one instance that stats can be switched every which way, and if you manipulate them enough, men become the oppressed group, and women the Matriarchal oppressors. ( Read here, why this is wrong )
Masculinists and egalitarians will therefore refer to anything that is not a technical field as mere stamp collecting. You can refer to my article on Scientism, to make the clear connection between this worldview and the inherent hatred the American establishment has for democratic values. I will therefore carry on, here.
As democracy is part of the humanities (political theory, political philosophy), it bears witness to the ruthless treatment of Scientism, and the reactionary responses of the establishment to anything that is held within its bounds. Under a truly contemporary democracy, women would be equal to men and their relevance in scientific fields would be elevated. You could say that a “representative democracy” which exists in other countries, might be sufficient to fix this problem. That much is true, but those countries are not America, and America has nothing but contempt for such systems, believing them to be too complicated. Many revolutionaries in America agree that representative democracy would be sufficient in reducing the gap between various social inequalities. It would be a first step, in my view, as every opinion would be represented in Congress and in the Senate. THAT would be the beginning of democracy, disregarding feminist or masculinist points of view. In order for anything to change, America needs to embrace actual democratic values, and not this makeshift secular religion of money, which has only one goal: To perpetuate social inequality. Whether it be between men, women, social races, handicapped individuals, autistic folks, homosexuals…
The view that those who are not related to the issue at hand are the most suitable to find solutions for it means that we will forever see white men in positions of power, and this view is not only racist, sexist and homophobic, it is entirely undemocratic. Demographies in America have been changing for centuries, and it is time that the American government starts to listen to its people. Those who are given advantages can begin first by letting those of socially oppressed minorities have their own voices. It can start by letting feminists work at breaking down barriers between genders. It can start by recognizing the many differences and how they make the American people truly unique, and how unifying that should be; not divisive.