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Something Better Than Democracy (?)

This is not a travel blog. But, there is no where else to express this philosophical idea that has been running around in my brain like hamster in one of those wheels. Do not suggest FaceBook. I have tried to post items of FaceBook that do not have anything to do with a mangy puppie, or what I had for lunch,and no one seems to care. In fact, I think I have be defriended  by a few people because I dared to use facebook for something that was not inane. So, I am breaking tradition here, breaking my travel rhythm, to express an idea.

Don’t worry, I’ll get back to the light hearted travel stuff next week.

I think this is a new idea, at least I have never heard it spoken about by pundits or serious commentators. Being at least new to me, it is both historically and philosophically immature. It might get some “hurrumphs” and it might get some people’s ire raised, but you know me, that is what I do. So sit back, have a coffee or tea or a beer or some other form of mind relaxing (but not hallucinogenic) substance and read on.

I have come to the conclusion that Democracy, with a large D, is a joke. Maybe a cruel joke. I have become convinced that it is a conspiratorial enterprise serving  pablum to the masses.

I grew up in what is called a Democracy. I participated in my Democracy at the local state and national level. My political experiences started in 1968. Motivated by, or more aptly put, disgusted by, the Viet Nam war I was looking for something I could do, even though I was still too young to vote. I started by taking Eugene McCarthy flower shaped bumper stickers from the local “Clean for Gene” office and pasting them on the rear of expensive cars in the shopping mall near my home. But the most memorable thing for me that election cycle was that I shook hands with Bobby Kennedy, on the morning of the last day of his life.

The next election cycle I got serious for George McGovern because my future included a draft to fight in a war I thought was just plain wrong. I stuffed mailboxes and made phone calls.

“Hello, good evening, Sorry to call you at eleven o’clock at night. I am calling on behalf of the McGovern Campaign. We need your vote to help defeat Tricky Dick.”

I was now old enough to vote and I was motivated to participate inside the system. St. George could not slay the dragon Nixon, but praise to everything holy I did not get drafted or have to move to Canada. I never wanted to be a Toronto Blue Jays fan anyway. During that election I watched McGovern self implode. I also watched one of his main campaign managers in action, a smart young guy named Gary Hart. I was among the first people to actively (very actively) work for Hart when he formed his “exploratory committee” to run for President in 1984    As a result of my efforts I became a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. We all know what happened to him. Damn, I was hoping to become to cultural atache to Bolivia. Oh well.

My last full blown effort at politics found me the co-manager of a campaign for a bright young man who was running for  a seat in the California Assembly. From that insiders viewpoint, I witnessed Machiavellian  machinations that left me numb. I stopped my active political life. Since then I have donated a few $ to Obama, and yes, I have even voted when motivated.

So do not say I do not know how Democracies work. Also, be slow to disagree with me when I say they don’t. Allow me to blabber on before you call me names, OK?

My first exposure to a democracy being a joke was when I was a 10 year old wide-eyed kid living in Bolivia. They had an “election” while I was there. The parties (about 6 of them) were known by their colors. People voted blue, green orange, yellow, or even red. It soon became apparent even to a ten year-old that there was not a lot of (what I would later learn to be) critical thinking going on here. When the peasants (about 95% of Bolivians can be called peasants without any derogatory meaning, they just are) who were almost all illiterate went to the polling place they voted for the same color as their comrades out of nothing more than peer pressure. They had no idea what Mr. Green or Mr. Chartreuse would do for them, or for that matter why they were voting, except that it made them think they were in control of something. PABLUM.

Since then I have lived in Chile, Peru and Panama. Chile is rather well educated. They had an elction to end the rule of Pinochet (more on him later) and re-install democracy in their country. Pinochet seized power in the worst way, but I was left with impression when he left power that in the end he helped Chile an awful lot. A benevolent Dictator.

Peru had an election while I lived there. Peru, has two faces. The urban educated upper classes, and the rural pablum eaters. On a couple of occasions Peru has gone out on a limb and elected reformers, however the reforms never seem to happen. Just more pablum and frustration for the people.

I also lived in Panama. The educated vote their pocket book, and the indigenous vote with no more discretion than the Bolivian peasants. Sad.

You can look around the world today and see many exercises in Democracy that are just plain bullshit. Iraq? Iran?? Afghanistan??? Southern Sudan? The list goes on. The reason they are bullshit is simple. An uneducated population. At least poorly educated.

Now I am not (as you damn well know) some intellectual powerhouse. But I consider myself an “educated” person. The cornerstone of my University education was a required class (In the California system anyway) called Critical Thinking. It taught me how to read an op-ed piece, an everyday news story, even Hitory. It taught me to take it apart and examine every quote, every supposed fact. Examine who wrote it, to determine the authors pedigree. I can sum up what I learned in one simple question I ask every time I read a politically oriented article or hear a speech or a talking head on TV. I ask myself “He would say that wouldn’t he?” If the answer to that question is yes, then what I just read or heard is useless. However, if the answer to that is no, then maybe I should look into this a bit more. Why would he say that? What is behind the story?

I seriously doubt, in fact I am 100% sure , that the majority of people in “developing nations” (the 3rd world in my day) do not posses this skill. They are led down the path to the polling place by people who want to seize power “Democratically”. All the great intentions of the Carter foundation aside, that is not good democracy.

Now let us look at the United States. Talk about pablum. In this case expensive pablum. I am not sure how many hundreds of millions of dollars were spent in 2008 or 2010 to elect the people now in power. One thing I am sure of is that if all that money went to schools or to feed the poor, the country would benefit a lot more than it has or will from the leaders we now have.

Public Education in the USA was deemed absolutely necessary by  Benjamin Franklin because he knew that no democracy could survive unless the people were educated. I agree.

But lets take a look at the most disturbing (to me) facet of American democracy today. That would be the Tea Party. Even if you ARE a Tea Partier, you must admit that you are NOT analyzing what the likes of Sarah Palin have to say. You just can’t be. So why is the Tea Party still tapping kegs and rolling into the night? Simple. Many people in America have grown very tired of elitists, of people smarter than they are running things  They do not like having to try and understand what a politician is saying, even though they dumb down their rhetoric so a sixth grader can understand it.  So they rally around a dimwit who likes to say “golly gee” and shoot reindeer.

Democracy, yes, even in the USA is a joke.

So what else? Here we go, sit back far enough away from your monitor so you cant’t spit on it or throw it out the window.

Ready?

Benevolent Rulers.

I live in such a country now, The UAE. I lived in Chile under what I call a benevolent Dictator.  I have traveled and spent time in others. The one thing they all have common, and this is a very rare thing, is an incredible amount of natural resources. Here it is of course oil, in Chile it was copper. Having these resources is not the end all. It requires strong man, a ruler, a one stop shopping power source who just happens to be benevolent.

The rulers here in the UAE (all 7 of them), the Sultan of Oman and the kings of Qatar and Bahrain all qualify as benevolent Rulers. So does the King of Thailand.

As an aside, I was in a class last semester with a princess from Bahrain. A real princess, her Uncle is the Benevolent Ruler. I expressed this philosophy to her and she laughed and said “Ah we have brainwashed you!” I laughed and said “By example.”

Thanks for reading. tell a friend. But this is NOT a democracy, so don’t bother commenting.

Just kidding, fire away.

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5 Responses so far.

  1. The governments are chosen from the people and how the people are in attitude, that is how their government is.

  2. Ace says:

    Things work quite well here in the UAE under the various BD’s. I think this is in a large part because there is more than enough money to go around and most Emiratis are content with the status quo. The UAE government wisely shares the country’s wealth with its citizens.

    Sarah Palin aside, you should be cheering the Tea Party movement. These people are questioning the entrenched elite of USA, Inc. They are tired of the direction the country is going, the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots and are unhappy with the dwindling power the people have, as am I. This is not unlike the radical movements in the late ’60s except the Tea Partiers have mortgages, children, jobs, etc. and are seeing much of the “American Dream” they worked so hard for slipping away….that’s why they are pissed-off and disillusioned. The “Establishment” is bleeding them dry. Just because they lean to the right doesn’t make their gripes any less noble than the Tom Haydens and Abbie Hoffmans from past opposition movements.

    • Tom Hayden and Jerry Rubin were very bright men. I sat down to a pitcher of beer with Abbie Hoffman one day and walked away knowing I had just shared an hour with an incredibly intelligent man.
      Sarah Palin is not even worthy of comparison to them.
      Read the Port Huron Statement
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_Huron_Statement
      now try to compare that to anything being said by a teabagger. You just can’t.
      Their gripe is not with “The Establishment”. It is with intellectuals leading the country.

  3. Susan says:

    Well, Forrest, you have a point there. But there’s a couple of things…First of all, I wouldn’t call Pinnochet a benevolent dictator. Thousands of dissenters ‘disappeared’ under his regime. I think that you have to remember when you have a BD, you can’t have freedom of dissent, assembly, speech, press….all done away with. A BD if he (let’s say “he” for the heck of it.) doesn’t get corrupted (remember absolute power corrupts, etc….) can be of great benefit to a country in terms of the lowest levels of survival (a la Maslow) food, shelter, health care, etc. I would assume the people for the most part would be minimally educated, because an educated public would probably want those freedoms I mentioned).
    In a democracy, it’s true that the rich are benefited to a much greater extent and all the power and money goes to them. There just aren’t enough progressive and educated people in the US and probably other democracies to make a difference with an intelligent vote. People generally vote in reaction to the current leadership and tend to believe what they’re told if they’re told a lie enough times by someone who has gotten their trust or by the media. They don’t tend to do any critical thinking as you mentioned, but just repeat the party ‘line’.
    However, I would bring up the social democracies in Scandanavia where they seem to have mitigated the vast difference between rich and poor and established a democracy that is fair to the general population. Go Denmark! Where the pay scale and housing is fair and pretty equal and power isn’t about what you do for a living.
    I started worrying about you in your last blog when you used the phrase ‘benevolent dictator’. I said to myself, “oh, oh. There goes Forrest.” By the way, we have similar political experiences. I ran a precinct house for McCarthy and was in Long Beach when Bobby Kennedy was there the day before LA. He was the enemy in that campaign, but that changed instantly. McCarthy imploded at the convention as I sat screaming at the television with that Chicago madness (something you wouldn’t see under a BD, I might add.) Oh…I just thought about Egypt right now, but I guess that’s not so benevolent. I supported McGovern…fizzle. Wes Clark…fizzle, Kerry….Fizzle………..and on and on.
    Thanks for bringing up such an interesting topic. Try not to go to the dark side.

  4. Dorreene says:

    Forrest, I enjoyed your insights. Bottom line, any government is only as good as the people running it.

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