Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Two Fantasies of Democracy"

One of the best takes on our current situation, here.

An excerpt:

So, we now careen between the two parties, the one promising to solve our problems, the other promising to get Government out of our lives. We love and hate them both: two years ago we longed for a savior to deliver us from Bush’s incompetence and put the nation back on the footing of hope and change; today we fear socialism and long for morning in America.

Our hatred of Washington is a hatred of ourselves, above all for our contradictory longings that we refuse to face. We pine for a time of accountability and responsibility, but fear the burdens of sacrifice and self-government. We ache for a government that can make America great again, and suspect that any effort in that direction will further impoverish subsequent generations. We long to be self-sufficient, but fear a world without safety nets.

Anti-Washington fever will rise to dizzying heights in coming days. The chattering classes will conclude that Americans have a firm idea of their destiny, choosing one party over another in coming days. Few will understand that the source of our loathing will be the division within ourselves. The divided government we will embrace is the division in our souls: two versions of democracy. In the one version, democracy is rugged individualism. In the other, democracy is a gentler concern that no one should be left behind. Both are fantasies born of bad modern anthropology. Our country oscillates between two fantasies of democracy – a downward spiral that is self-perpetuating and mutually reinforcing. The election is no more than a radar blip in the erosion of self-government. The more deeply we hate ourselves, the louder our denunciation of Washington will resound. The din of self-loathing will soon be deafening.


James the Thickheaded said...

While I would agree with this fellow's negative short-term expectations, I strongly disagree long-term. I think our democracy fails because we want to put it on automatic, go back to what we were doing, and be left alone. When the road ahead is straight and flat, this might work out alright. The rest of the time... well... I'll save you the stumping I'd do if I were in this thing... and maybe I'll post it someday.

But FWIW, I think our children could make a better world if we taught them well... and if we better understood ourselves.

I think fact is, the Bosses of the left and right have both encouraged us to not even give it a shot. And we've followed on for the most part. There's a part where this is the right thing, but there's another where I'd admit we've probably been irresponsible. Render to Caesar in our day... in a democracy... may mean something beyond what we've been comfortable assuming as a minimalist justification of being passive participants. I'm not sure precisely what... but I think we may be reaping the harvest of a minimalism that depends on letting the other guy carry the burden... and allowing all the unintended consequences to reverberate.

It will get better if we begin to behave differently. But the sense of crisis and corresponding responsibility is not sufficiently advanced for it to get better without looking worse first. For now, we all prefer to think the other guy did it. LOL!

Kontiki said...

Hi John
How are u doing :):)
Democracy !! u guys suffer in USA ! i cant believe it , please come and see demonstration 4 NORMAL human rights always end with beat and arrest ppl , young man killed for argue with police officer , bloggers arrested for voicing up their opinions , you cant change ur government , election and choose the president I can write pages about that :(