The Flawed State Of Democracy

I watch the world, as each day there are more protests, yet many of these are peaceful with rational and logical requests. If democracy truly existed, then surely there would be no need for protests because the will of the masses will have been heard? Power and control rule humanity, so what part does democracy play? What is democracy these days, and is a republic truly representative as how it was intended back in ancient times? Blood has been spilled and countless lives have been sacrificed in the name of democracy, so why is it so important and has society become complacent in accepting limited democracy, or are others expecting more than they should? The will of the people may seem right, but do the masses know what is right, can they be trusted, and what if they aren’t and the minority are right? Look at the Salem Witch Trials; a classic case of where the minority were right and governance failed the minority.

First of all what is defined by democracy or a republic? A republic is where people are represented via elected representatives, who in turn nominate a President to oversee the republic. This is a type of indirect democracy called a representative democracy, but how many of them are drowning in red tape, bribery, corruption, and rules that favor the government in the name of the people? States can refer to themselves as a democratic republic but are they truly democratic, or is that what they wish others to believe? The idea is that citizens govern for the collective public good, but there will always be a minority and majority of what is considered good.

Democracy is much harder to define, but one assumes democracy as a right to freedom of speech, such civil and human rights these days. They confer power through people power—numbers to urge governments for reforms. In short they have the right to have a voice. In ancient times where direct democracy took place (Athens) citizens had the opportunity to raise concerns, but to be recognized as a citizen was similar to the terms that voters had to fulfill early on in the western voting process. Not everyone had a say or was entitled to vote. As time has progressed, more people are able to vote compared to the excluded, which included women, foreigners, non-landowners, slaves, and those who had not reached the age of majority. It does appear the current generation takes the right to vote for granted, or that equal rights or citizenship is natural. Of course they should be, but history tells us that these freedoms are a result of centuries of campaigning by those who were denied such rights. This is why history is important so that people realize that the rights they have are a result of sacrifices and bloodshed.

A republic usually has a charter or constitution, which theoretically protects the people from a possible corrupt government, whereas an absolute democracy would allow a majority to vote against a minority. Here, the will of the people would be carried with no legal framework. Both types are susceptible to manipulation, but more so the latter which is why a direct democracy wouldn’t work in many of societies today, perhaps only small groups where the outcome can be decided by the majority. Theoretically a republic protects the minority and limits the powers of the majority.

In France the Fifth Republic governs with a Parliament, but also has a President elected as a head of state, who then appoints a Prime Minister who oversees Parliament. During the recent French elections it is poignant to note not who won, but the balance of the blank votes and abstentions. It is a message that the people do not feel the democratic process is working, and by casting a white/blank vote as 4 million people did, they were actually voting to express how undemocratic the system was. The electorate had a poor choice of candidates, and many chose not to vote or to make a protest vote. The safe choice was an idealist candidate (Macron) from the previous government who was inexperienced, or the far right candidate (Le Pen) that had been associated with racism, but who vowed to look after the interests of the people.

From the 42 million votes let’s see how democratic the result was, and was it the will of the people according to the INSEE and Ministry of France? A third (34.87) of the voting electorate  did not like either candidate, and did not feel that either candidate represented their interests. Roughly 20.75 million voted for Macron, 10.64 million for Le Pen, and 12 million abstained. It is worthy to note from that 12 million, 4 million made the effort to get up and go to a polling station to cast a blank vote in protest. That does mean than more than half the electorate did not vote for Macron or want him as their head of state. Therefore, it is not the majority of the citizens, but the majority of those who made valid votes that matter. Sadly blank votes don’t get counted, but are recorded to increase the turn out percentages.

In the recent US elections it was similar where 231,556,622 people were eligible to vote, but 92,671,979 (40 percent) didn’t. Only 138,884,643 (60 percent) voted and one can consider those who voted for a third party or a non-existent candidate were making a protest vote. Clinton got 65,853,516 votes, and Trump 62,984,825. Therefore, due to the mechanics of the Electoral College where some states no longer adhere to the original concept of its inception, a majority vote did not win. You then wonder how democratic is the system, because republican democracy is designed to protect the minority from those who try to manipulate the system. The Electoral College was designed to protect the minority when it was created, yet one wonders how democratic it is today considering the original concept has been altered, and states have different electoral college rules in regards to what are deemed faithless electors. In my opinion, electors should not be bound to vote for any candidate other than the one they feel is in the best interests of the people. That was after all the concept of the Electoral College in a bid to prevent bribery and corruption over votes.

So what does the future hold for democracy? Do the people have a right to decide who should govern and represent them, and how do they ensure there is no corruption? That is why the judicial system must remain impartial to ensure that democracy is balanced between the wishes of the people, and what is legally moral and correct. What happens if there is a corrupt government? There are measures to remove them, but what if they fail? That would mean the end of democracy where the will of the people is halted, silenced, and is controlled. I fear that the judiciary in some countries has lost their way among all the precedents and statutes, and while their job is to interpret and uphold the law, they must also do so by taking into consideration the shift in societal expectations and values.

Democracy isn’t necessarily about the will of the masses, but what a media outlet wishes to promote. Are owners persuaded to promote things to influence the public, who in turn donate vast sums to certain parties in governance? Yes, there are rules about such donations, but there are also loopholes. Some may call them incentives, but others may say it’s legal bribery. This has always existed and probably will continue in some fashion. Those who seek power will find a way, even if the masses oppose. That isn’t actual democracy, but it’s still called that because it is a diluted version of what society accepts, yet the masses feel helpless, and many comment that they don’t vote because it won’t make a difference. It can and does, however, realistically not all of the time. People need to value democracy, and use it because if they stop, then that allows the dictators to take control, and trying to regain a democratic voice again will be hard. It would be a regression of the advances made in society that campaigners and protesters have fought for with their lives.

If the will of the masses is not a democratic majority, then that system needs to be reevaluated. What if the government fails in listening or to represent the people adequately? Well, riots and protests ensue, and that is democracy—when the masses declare that they are not being heard. Is human nature compatible with true democracy? I find it hard to reconcile because there will always be factions, and the masses aren’t always right, nor are governments. So how can a perfect society exist when the very nature of democracy and its perceptions are flawed and idealistic?

What Defines ‘You’?

The recent election results in the USA has made me think about what really defines us—how others perceive us, what and how our beliefs are shaped, and what influences us and how that impacts us and shapes our development. There are multiple factors that once combined contribute to who we become, but does that define you, and what your morals, standards, and beliefs are?

First of all, our direct environment can affect our beliefs, and morals, which is why the first few years of life are important as it creates a foundation for what we believe in. However, things can change so nothing is set in stone. Our parents, siblings, teachers, peers, and the people such as neighbors can provide an initial foundation for what we become and what we build upon. But what about those who come from a background where there was instability, does that mean it will affect a child and their development? It could go either way; perhaps that is what they know and expect in life, or they will see it and know that is not the direction they wish to follow.

What you choose to do for a living, where you decide to live, your choice of friends, political beliefs, religion, lifestyle choices, even what newspaper you opt to read, all contribute to what external perceptions people will have of you. Of course it is wrong to stereotype, but often psychologists find patterns that fit into categories, and people will do this subconsciously, wondering whether they want to get to know you better or not.

I have met many people who have overcome a background that was less than ideal, or they appear to have done so. Take for example Hollywood actors who came from humble backgrounds; on the surface they may have changed and evolved, but perhaps underneath it all, it was that lifestyle that pushed them to escape, or that part of them is still grounded in those early beliefs?

We aren’t always a product of our environment, but some people are. You simply can’t generalize because we all have choices, and some seek out other paths, while others are content to follow the path ahead rather than to source an alternative one. I come back to the Trump voter, which I think many psychologists would like to study and try to understand their beliefs, morals, and levels of humanity. Indeed, I feel it would be a useful study, however, many people will not admit openly to voting for Trump, or those that do have no answer when questions of discrimination or racism are raised. Instead of answering the question, people divert the answer towards Clinton, and say Trump wasn’t as crooked as her. Therefore, they silently admit (for they can’t deny) by evading the question that Trump has made racist statements, thus by supporting Trump, they also support racism. That’s what I can’t get my head around. Two friends (both from ethnic backgrounds) said they supported Trump over Clinton, and both are women. It confounds me, having being a victim of racism that people could support someone who has publicly been racist.

While politics is  a grey area, it can still define the core basis of your beliefs, just as your religion can. Often it’s easier to say you don’t follow any particular party or religion to avoid people judging you, because they will even if they never say anything. It’s the same when you are a child, where your parents don’t want you to be friends with those from bad families. Outward perceptions and judgments are made all of the time, but do they matter? People are more comfortable around those with shared beliefs, but that doesn’t mean they can be trusted automatically. That’s a red herring, which is why people do create public personas and images so that they can attract the desired friends and networks. What groups you join, and who you follow on social media defines the kind of person you are to the outside world, because you are making a statement to say, ‘This is what I agree with and like,’ so be careful who you follow or like.

As a child I was bullied for being clever and looking different, and as a result I ended up a loner observing all that was around me rather than be involved in things. I knew where I came from wasn’t a great neighborhood, but often as a child that is one thing you cannot control. You can’t control where you live, but you can make the best out of the situation, and you can choose who you wish to speak to and who to avoid. I say that, because I did, although for many I know that may not be possible. If someone I didn’t like visited I would hide and be shy, to avoid having to interact. Now, I just block them on social media or ignore their emails.

When people meet me, they are surprised at my background because I’m not typical of my peers or the natives in my area, nor am I similar to my parents. That’s because I decided for myself what my beliefs were going to be, based on moral principles, and logical and realistic facts. I was born in a small mining village where most people lived in council houses, supported Labour (and hated Thatcher), and thought if you didn’t speak with a local accent you were a snob. Yes, it’s a small minded place, and I always knew that and couldn’t wait to leave, but even the locals will admit that the area is rundown with few prospects. Throughout my childhood I battled against my direct environment, often arguing with those in authority because I saw them as small minded. I did win on several occasions, because my argument had basis and was logical. I nearly got suspended from college, but all could see I had a valid case and argument and I got my way and hopefully paved the way for others.

While our beliefs can adapt or change according to our personal experiences and influences, do they differ greatly from what foundations were created as a child? I find that social media has more of a brainwashing effect on people, and the media too depending on which paper you choose to read. Finding neutral and unbiased reports, and opinions, is much harder which is why I like philosophy, because it is supposed to look at all the options and then let the reader decide. Naturally, a philosopher can highlight what appears to be logical or rational depending on which philosophical approach they are taking.

What defines me is my moral compass and that is the bedrock of my belief system. I know right from wrong, even though I may have made errors in the past—that is how I know what is wrong for me at least. I am influenced by very little, but then again I don’t get impressed easily, even at my own achievements. Are you thinking for yourself, and can you explain why you have your beliefs or standards? If not then maybe think to yourself why and how did those perceptions come into being. Are you an individual or a byproduct of what you see and hear?

Surround yourself with like-minded people…

That’s easier said than done, but how do you define like-minded, and if you are an individual is that even possible? The people we choose to have around us influences us subconsciously whether we like it or not, and on a societal level subliminally tells people about the kind of person you are or your beliefs. It shouldn’t, but people sometimes can’t help but judge on the surface. Why else would your parents forbid you from being friends with those who have been involved in dodgy dealings? It’s because who your friends are, or whom you choose to be in your circle reflects on how you are perceived and judged by society.

Naturally, there are instances where you cannot choose certain bonds, like your peers, family members, work colleagues, or neighbors. Reputations count, and a neighborhood with desirable residents is highly thought of (posh versus the rough council estates), so people do judge you on where you choose to live. The workplace is a little harder, because sometimes you choose a career, but you can’t choose the reputation of the company. People like to name drop where they have worked, because it elevates their status, but does that really matter?

Can you choose honest, kind, generous, and intelligent company all of the time and is it even possible? Does that mean you should abandon friends that have made mistakes, such as a friend who had an affair, or who got fired from a job for stealing. As a friend you choose whether to support them and give them a chance, or to distance yourself. Humans aren’t perfect, and we do all make mistakes, but having the kind of people who are on your wavelength with shared beliefs does make it easier, and can inspire you.

This also applies to online communities as well as real life interactions. I have discovered certain websites or forums have communities that either you feel comfortable with and can join in, or the members are so far removed from your perceptions it’s not worth trying to interact. An example would be a political forum, where the owner and moderators are right wing and biased; they attack any one who doesn’t agree with them and so there is little point being part of that community. Another one I encountered was one on couponing; the community was given the power to remove any deals they didn’t understand, didn’t think was a real deal, or ones that they thought were misleading. Of course these are all subjective, and when I realized that the community was made up of stay at home moms aged 25 with at least three children, the uneducated, or unemployed when a posting was flagged as confusing and difficult to understand. I’m not sure how difficult it is to understand buy two items and get a free gift, but for some that is hard and obviously not the kind of company I need to deal with or interact with.

There was a New Moon recently and I had a dream that referred to the Fibonacci sequence. I wasn’t sure what that message meant and asked a community I do take part in their thoughts. Someone asked if I saw the Fibonacci Arc; unsure of the significance, another member compared it to the beginning of the Yellow Brick Road. Then I recalled this blog I started, that charts my journey on the Yellow Brick Road. I have been stuck on my journey for a while, just as Dorothy fell asleep in the poppy field. Perhaps it’s time to have faith in the Yellow Brick Road again, and the path will clear; maybe I will find some like-minded company to accompany me on my next leg of the journey?

Bad things happen to everyone

I constantly hear the phrase, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” However, how do you define a good person? Many people do delude themselves that someone is good, or choose to overlook any less than favorable traits, often finding an excuse for them. Others consider themselves good, but how do they come to that conclusion? A good person is subjective, in relation to what? How can you measure goodness—in comparison to those around them, or based on what they have done? Does working for a charity automatically make a person good? Not always, because people may have other motives, such as wanting to appear philanthropic, or others may work for a charity because they need a work reference. Are those affiliated with a church or religion deemed good without question? Should they be? A person of the cloth has traditionally symbolized goodness, but in recent years it has been revealed that there has been corruption and less than moral behaviors in a number of religions.

Society has become a minefield of people with high expectations, where tit-for-tat is expected. Whenever a deed is carried out, many subconsciously store it and expect something in return, whether it’s being neighborly, or helping a colleague meet a deadline at work. Do these deeds make you a good person because you choose to help another person? Shouldn’t we all help one another without wanting thanks, a reward, or the favor returned? That’s the sign of a truly good person—one that does things from the heart, and who doesn’t make a tally of the deeds or expects anything in return.

We then move onto what is defined as bad? When things don’t always go according to plan, some people think that something bad has happened to them. It’s subjective as to what one expects, and how one copes. There are people who would say bad things happen because someone deserves it, but do they have a right to judge? A bad thing can be someone being in a tragic accident and losing a limb, or to another a bad thing is having a partner end a relationship. Neither is pleasant, but can one be equal to another?

Humans choose to do bad or good things, and Fate can force the hand of bad situations for a number of reasons—many of which we will never be privy to. It could be repaying Karma, helping another Soul learn a lesson, but we cannot expect good things to happen all of the time. Even those with a gifted life may think they have bad things happen to them, often superficial things, for example, if they can’t find a parking space when they go shopping, or a hotel has doubled booked their reservation. Are those really bad things, or just inconvenient, and thus are labeled bad. In the real world they are not really bad things, but in the mind of those who expect good things to happen all the time, they are.

It’s not a matter of whether a person deserves good things to happen to them, but what a person considers good or bad. In the context of society those boundaries get stretched and what some consider a good act, others would consider normal. For example, helping an old lady with her groceries—it’s a good act, but it’s normal to help the elderly. Has this been elevated to being exceptionally good because people no longer do what is considered normal human nature? Has society become more selfish, and thus the definitions of good and bad are dependent on the culture and generation of the person? Is it bad when a restaurant runs out of the dish you want, or you get stuck in traffic and are late. These are superficial bad things that with patience and understanding can be dealt with. Much of what we perceive as bad or good is in our minds, as we judge from our experiences. Bad things happen to all of us so that we can appreciate the good, and stop considering the superficial things as bad.

Good things happen to bad people, but are they really that bad? When bad things happen to good people, do we assume a person is good, or merely is it what we wish to believe? People expect good things to happen to them if they do good things, but it’s not like a see saw; a good act doesn’t automatically lead to someone receiving good luck. Is good luck, the same as when things work out as planned? Life is not perfect, and as much as one likes to plan things, they can go wrong. When good things happen, we should appreciate them, and when bad things surface, we brace ourselves and ride the storm. At times the storm is long and destructive, but we survive—a little battered and bruised, but with a greater appreciation of when good things do occur.

 

 

Reality versus Perceptions

What is reality and how do our perceptions change? Sometimes it comes with age and experience and other times it’s just plain common sense. Is society so blinkered these days where reality seems so abhorrent and sad that people have to create perceptions to survive?

Who wants reality when they can live in a bubble and pretend that their lives can be like celebrities or reality television stars? Reality shows are staged and scripted by prompts; people don’t really live like that and if it gets boring or people don’t cooperate they ‘leave’ the show.

The problem is the media hypes reality to be something it’s not, and behind closed doors the persona of most people is in fact very normal and boring. Famous models and actresses do walk around without makeup and politicians and actors do take public transport. Reality is not always exciting, but is about survival and being as happy and content as possible. The media tempts and goads us to buy bigger houses, buy expensive clothes, and to eat out at fancy restaurants. If the average person can do, then we all can, can’t we is the message they portray. In society we are perceived as equal, but it’s human nature where you will always find someone who wants to be bigger and better than a sibling, neighbors, or friends. No one will admit it, but it’s true.

Our perceptions change when we yearn for something that we are led to believe we can be or have. We want to believe it’s possible, or some choose to only see what they want to see. Many don’t want to know about the homeless street people (thinking it’s their own fault) or the single parent working two minimum wage jobs, or that the elderly maybe lonely and need help. We are led to believe that these things are taken care of, but in reality they are not. What if it was you?

Reality is seen as depressing and boring, but is honest and is how many people do live or survive in this world. People do struggle to put food on the table and live hand to mouth, racism and sexism still exists despite the laws making it illegal, and people do lie and cheat. Accepting reality and acknowledging it is much better than pretending it doesn’t happen, yet the reality for the minority is that their lives can be out of touch for the masses. Even the celebrity life can be a façade—what is perceived and what is reality are two different things. The sibling of a famous actor told me that they saved their air miles to travel, even though they are a multi-millionaire. I remember well-known comedian traveling on the bus standing next to me, and a model and pop star were told that they had to give up the two tables they were using and to let me have one. That’s reality, what many don’t see.

Society is built up on materialism, and humanity, in helping others and protecting nature comes further down the list. What we perceive makes us happy, but how real is it? Are you brave enough to see reality in humanity for what it really is, or is it easier to create your own perceptions?

Losing and Regaining Faith

There will be times in an incarnation when self-doubt rears its head, or there are instances where you question things and lose your Faith. It can be in humanity, yourself, or both. I was inspired to write this as someone commented that they were spiritually tired and when that happens you can lose Faith. I do feel this is normal, because our Faith does need testing at times, when we get complacent or take things for granted. It can even happen when neither of those things takes place. I see it as if you on a voyage and lost at sea, hoping and fighting to find your way back to safety or what is familiar.

No one can tell you how you should feel and that you are wrong or faithless, because Faith can waver; one day you maybe strong, and weaker another. You must have Faith in yourself first, then that can stretch to others and humanity. Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect, when humans are not perfect. The media and society does create a stereotype that is an idealistic framework, but these model citizens don’t exist, and those that do, only appear for a short period of time. Life and a Soul incarnation is about learning and growing and that means developing your Faith too.

We will all have days where we question, ‘Have I done enough, could I have done more?’ or ‘What can I do to make things better?’ The lesson is you can only do what you can, some things are beyond our control, when things haven’t gone as they should have (despite perfect planning), shows us that we cannot plan everything, and sometimes bad things do happen to good people. We lose Faith because we expect things, and at times it doesn’t seem fair. That’s when you question Faith; you’re a good person but luck and good things don’t come your way, but someone you know who is selfish and mean gets a new job and gets to travel round the world. It’s not always fair, and one can question Faith if you never seem to get a break even if you are grateful for what you have.

I lose Faith in humanity when I see people in the corporate world turn a blind eye to the façades they create, lies they justify, and others that are harmed, or when people fail to help a fellow being in need because they are afraid of getting hurt or sued. The worst is when bystanders or security guards watch people being attacked and they choose not to step in, or seeing someone being bullied and turning a blind eye. These are only things one can counteract by staying true to yourself and retaining your integrity. Lead by example and do not follow others. When you lose Faith in yourself, often it is when you are at a crossroads of what you wish to do and what you want to do. You question whether you are being selfish and self-indulgent, sensible, or practical? It’s a time when your questions aren’t being answered, but they will later, or maybe you need to ask different questions?

Having Faith requires trust, and trust takes time to gain and moments to lose. On the journey of life, many of us will be ‘lost at sea’ or find ourselves on an uncomfortable road. It’s a challenge, so when we do regain our Faith, we are more prepared for the times when things are difficult or unclear. When that happens our Faith does grow, and that is part of Soul Growth.

What is ‘Freedom’?

What is freedom? It’s when we are free to act or think as we choose without any constraints, so can it really exist? We are influenced by our peers, the media, and our environment throughout our life, so are our thoughts ever truly free?

I speak as the eldest and even as a child, I would have to look out for my sibling, so was I ever truly free to think as a carefree child when I had to make sure my sibling was safe?

Our actions are limited to what is legally and also what is morally permitted in society, so again, are we acting freely or within a framework and guidelines?

My thoughts are the closest thing I get to some kind of freedom, even then they are mired with thoughts of responsibility or moral conflict. I may have a less than generous thought about someone or an incident and maybe Karma will wave its finger at me, but surely I have that freedom to think that? Isn’t that human? If someone does the dirty on you at work, then you have some rights to think ill of them, if only for your pride and self-esteem. To me, while yes, you can then turn around and say, “It’s their problem and Karma will deal with it,” a human reaction should be free to express anger or hurt. While they are negative emotions, as long as they are transient, then learning from them makes you stronger. Learning to let go of things can be hard, but we should be free to do it when we are ready.

Writing down your thoughts, whether good or bad is an act of freedom. However, should they fall into the wrong hands then could it be libelous? If it is published or distributed, yes it can be. If they were stolen or distributed without prior knowledge, isn’t that a breach of privacy? People should be free to express their thoughts in their journals as long as they keep them safe and private. What happens to them years after they have died though? When I see published letters from celebrities’ archives, I think they should be kept private; in particular the one recently published from Joe DiMaggio to his wife Marilyn Monroe. He was expressing his private free thoughts and they weren’t to be shared with anyone else. With some diaries, they have proved to be an invaluable primary source for historians, while they are private, they also depict an accurate picture of an era or event. They also show the personality of the person, notably Anne Franks and Samuel Pepys whose famous diaries have helped piece together some important moments in history. Neither would have imagined their private thoughts would have been published for billions of people to read at the time.

Then there is the internet; today it’s the same as publishing something in a newspaper except it’s harder to delete or retract. Once you express yourself online, it is recorded forever unless the site is deleted. People confuse freedom with the rights of freedom; we have rights for freedom of speech and expression in many countries, but be prepared for public backlash if it is an unpopular opinion. That’s the thing about freedom, people have the freedom to reject or oppose your thoughts. It goes both ways. With libel laws, true freedom has limits in the public and even when allowed it can still cause harm and controversy, so does freedom harm others? It can, which is why true freedom cannot truly exist if we are bound by the legal and moral laws. These exist to protect, so to enjoy freedom, some freedoms must be limited or curtailed. Therefore true freedom cannot exist in society.

Few of us are free in our actions; as a child we have compulsory education (not always a bad thing), then as adults we are expected to have a career and then a family. Those who break from this are seen as eccentrics, but freer. I have a few friends who are able to live freely without having to have a home and working job-to-job and renting in random places. I’m sure it is liberating and I have been there, but it also gets tiring. It’s not as free as people think, always thinking where to go next and what if?

Many of us yearn for freedom, but what kind of freedom, and what is it exactly that holds us back? Duty, responsibility, morals or fear? Freedom to me is to be able to do what I want without harming or affecting others and to be able to express myself without fear of recrimination. I find that in my writing though not all the time. I can see imprints of guilt that linger and moral conflict from what I feel I should be doing and shouldn’t be thinking. Then I ask, “Am I truly free,” and realize even my inner thoughts are not as free as they should be.

© 2015. The Nomadic Philosopher. All Rights Reserved.

This was first published on Great Minds and Thinkers.