Democracy Failure Essay

Democracy Failure Essay-53
Just scratch the surface of the human community and soon you will find the horde.It is the “unreasoning and unreasonable human nature,” writes the zoologist Konrad Lorenz in his book “On Aggression,” that pushes “two political parties or religions with amazingly similar programs of salvation to fight each other bitterly,” just as it compels “an Alexander or a Napoleon to sacrifice millions of lives in his attempt to unite the world under his scepter.” World history, for the most part, is the story of excessively self-assertive individuals in search of various scepters.

Just scratch the surface of the human community and soon you will find the horde.

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Indeed, for the Athenian democrats, elections would have struck at the heart of democracy: They would have allowed some people to assert themselves, arrogantly and unjustly, against the others.

The other fittingly imperfect Athenian institution was ostracization.

When one of the citizens was becoming a bit too popular — too much of a charmer — Athenians would vote him out of the city for ten years by inscribing his name on bits of pottery.

It was not punishment for something the charmer may have done, but a pre-emptive measure against what he might do if left unchecked.

In Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov,” the Grand Inquisitor says: “There is no more ceaseless or tormenting care for man, as long as he remains free, than to find someone to bow down to as soon as possible.” And what a sweet surrender!

Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Hitler and Mussolini were all smooth talkers, charmers of crowds and great political seducers.What we see, for instance, in “The Triumph of the Will” (thanks, in good measure, to Leni Riefenstahl’s perverse genius),is people experiencing a sort of collective ecstasy.The seducer’s pronouncements may be empty, even nonsensical, but that matters little; each one brings the aroused crowd to new heights of pleasure.It flares up almost mysteriously in some fortunate place or another, and then fades out, it seems, just as mysteriously.Genuine democracy is difficult to achieve and once achieved, fragile.Their relationship with the crowd was particularly intimate.For in regimes of this kind, whenever power is used and displayed, the effect is profoundly erotic.To be a true democrat, in other words, is to understand that when it comes to the business of living together, you are no better than the others, and to act accordingly.To live democratically is, mainly, to deal in failure and imperfection, and to entertain few illusions about human society.The institutions of democracy, its norms and mechanisms, should embody a vision of human beings as deficient, flawed and imperfect.Ancient Athenian democracy devised two institutions that fleshed out this vision.


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