10 Apr 2012

Philosophy - the downfall of man - Part 5 – Democracy will always fail.

Philosophy - the downfall of man - Part 5 – Democracy will always fail.
by P.K.Odendaal - 10 April 2012.

Quotes added 26 February 2014.
Here are a few well known quotes about democracy:

Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. Johan Adams (1814).

Democracy stands between two tyrannies: the one which it has overthrown and the one into which it will develop. Paul Eldridge (1965).

Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage. H.L.Mencken (1949).

Democracy substitutes the selection by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few. George Bernard Shaw (1903).

Note added 25 July 2014

The conventional view is that democracy is based on the notion that more half the people are right more than half of the time, giving a success rate of just over 25%. Well ... that is meagre and will not cut the mustard for anyone who can make their own decisions.
However, my notion is that most of the people are wrong most of the time (about state issues). That gives a success rate of very near to nil - and that is why democracies are failing everywhere, especially when they are coupled to capitalism. The social order of politicians of democracies is that of socialism, and we have seen from Rumsfeld's adages that a socialist will spend other people's money until it is exhausted.

Note added at end: 21 April 2013

Note added 6 November 2013.
Socrates posited that the rich are corrupt and the poor are feeble and that the middle class should run the democracy, meaning that a democracy will only work when you have a very large middle class - and that is the most revealing and true statement that I have ever heard on democracy. In terms of our values of today, which is still the same as two thousand three hundred years ago for Socrates, is that the middle class should run the country. He said that those middle class people, who own property and are not rich should run the country.
I will take two examples on the extremes of this argument to elucidate the proposition.
In Canada 69% of the people own homes, and I will take that as an indication of the size of the middle class. Only 1% of the people earn more than $ 191 000 per year and are termed rich. The latter are not rich, but are excluded here from the middle class. The lower income group earning less than $ 14 000 are only 14% of the population, which gives us a middle class on this count of 85%. So my deduction is that the middle class in Canada is between 70% and 85% - wow - that is an achievement! And this is the success of democracy in Canada, which democracy I rate as one of the best in the world.
In South Africa the middle class is not greater than 10% presently having grown from about 3% some twenty years ago. And this is the failure of democracy in South Africa, but not only in South Africa, but also in all states with a small middle class. It is valid for states like Egypt and probably most of the Arab states and most of the dictatorial states in the world.
In fact, a state with a freely elected government with a middle class of less than about 30% is no more than a dictatorial state.
And that is my deduction - that the size of the middle class determines the success of its democracy - a failed state form, but which may still work, but then only in states with a very large middle class.
There is a worldwide movement and pressure on undemocratic states, instigated by the USA, to convert their form of government to a democratic one, two thousand four hundred years after it was proved to be a failed system, and explained and said to be so by the greatest of all philosophers, Plato.
And so the USA will continue to do to shore up their political and economic system, based on wealth for the top 1% of their population, as more recently manifested by the creed of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Ultimately they will want wealth for the top 1% of the world, which will be mainly their citizens.
Fortunately many fledgling states coming out of dictatorships have chosen not to go that disastrous route, and there is a growing consensus by political analysts, that the new systems should not be democratic.
Back to Plato and his early wisdom, but first, the famous allegorical tale of Socrates as modified by myself.

Let us conceive of a puppet-show and of people watching it, without knowing what a puppet show is, believing that what they see to be the true life, and without knowing that these puppets are being manipulated by people hiding behind a wall or screen. What a beautiful metaphor for this world we live in. These people watching the puppet show take everything they see as the truth, and base their moral values, hopes and aspirations on this farce. In the example of Socrates, he considered these puppets in the light (pun not intended) of a shadow cast on a dark cave wall lit up by a fire silhouetting these puppets as shadows being thrown on the cave wall.
Let us say further that there are a few persons who have looked behind the scenes, or those who pull the strings, and know that this is a farce. These are called the enlightened people.
If you look at the Baroque era when the Roman Catholic Church and a large part of the enlightened world staged a puppet show and used the world as a stage to play on, you will see the validity of this allegory.
Plato lived at the end of the first and failed democratic era of old Athens, when Athens went down as the vanquished city in the Peloponnesian War against the Spartans – a very undemocratic state.
I quote from the able words of T.Z.Lavine : From Socrates to Sartre – The Philosophic Quest. (single parenthesis mean words inserted by myself)
The Allegory (the one above, modified by myself) may be viewed as a devastating criticism of our everyday lives as being in bondage to superficialities, to shadow (puppets) rather than to substance. Truth is taken to be whatever is known by the senses. A good life is taken to be one in which we satisfy our desires. We are unaware that we are living with illusion, superficial knowledge and false and conflicting ideals. Our lives are dominated by the 'manipulation of truth' by newspaper headlines, by radio broadcasts, by the endless 'shows or shadows' on the television screen and by the echoing voices of opinion makes.
The Allegory may be taken as equally devastating criticism of the science of our time, with its emphasis upon that which is known by the senses. Science, too, is chained, so that it can see only the 'puppets or shadows'. Its basis is in sensory observation. It does not venture into true causes or into long range consequences. The empirical scientist is not so different from the winner on TV quiz shows who knows 'the answer but not the truth', or from the prisoners watching the shadows on the cave wall.
The life in the cave (or by people watching the puppet-show) is the life of politics. Both the leaders and the public are ignorant and corrupt, without true knowledge of themselves or of the world, motivated by greed, power, and self-gratification. They are chained in bondage to ignorance and passions, to mob hysteria for or against fleeting issues, believing in current ideologies which are the illusions, the shadows on the walls of the cave.
It is also an Allegory of the (enlightened) liberated ones, having made the ascent to know the truth and the good, has a mission to return to the show, to bring enlightenment, to bring the good news, even though they may be killed for their services. Plato was thinking of Socrates and 'we' of Jesus Christ.
Finally, for us, as for Plato, it is an allegory of despair and hope. Like Plato, we live in a time of loss of meaning and commitment, of crumbling standards of truth and morality, of corruption of political life and decline in personal integrity. This is our despair. But there is hope – the hope of ascending to truth and values which are the best we can know as guides to the good life. For us, the first step is to recognize current illusions for what they are.
If I revisit my previous Part 4, it explains more ably the sort of illusions I alluded to, which, in the end, become delusions – we are well on that way. Who shall expose these politicians and media for what they are?
Like the Sophists of old, many people today claim that the laws only protect the rich and the powerful, that they are not based upon justice and need not be obeyed; they are moral relativists who deny that morality is valid other than for the group which believes it.
I conclude with the ideas of Plato on democracy :
After Socrates was put to death, Plato was more than ever convinced that a democratic state, a state ruled by the many, is doomed to disaster. The many, he believed, can never know what is good for the state. They lack the necessary level of intelligence and training – they are concerned only with their own immediate pleasure and gratification, and they are swayed by unstable, volatile emotions which render them susceptible to clever demagogues or to mob passions. He believed that a democratic government, run by the many, cannot produce good human beings, and in turn, he believed that good people would find life impossible under such a state.
What a moving and accurate description of the new South Africa, and a few million of its most skilled and learned people, living in a sort of exile abroad.
Democracy is for the birds. In can only work in a homogenous society where everybody has the same level of education, civilization, values and learning – a situation which is not attainable in any society.

Note added 21 April 2013.

There were quite a few shooting incidents in the USA in 2012 and 2013, and because of that the President of the USA instigated proposed laws against the free purchase and use of assualt and other weapons. The polls shows that 90% of Americans want stricter control over weapons (not of mass destruction - that any state can manufacture freely). The proposed legislation (about smaller magazines) was put to the vote and the majority was 54 votes against 46 votes, which is not a 60% majority. The proposed legislation was defeated. Will you now believe me when I say democracy will fail everytime (when it is really important).


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