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?

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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.

Knowing Right from Wrong

Most of us learn the unspoken moral code of what is right and wrong in society growing up, but recently I have noticed that people are bending those rules and the generation that is emerging is ignoring them altogether. They may know it’s wrong and still chance it, for example the American tourists (with a guide) who got caught carving their initials into the Colosseum in Rome and got arrested. Of course they knew it was wrong, but didn’t think they would get caught.

Another example are the arrogant folk that tell you are wrong when there is no evidence to prove that except in their ego. I often encounter such people and while I love a good debate, I choose not to waste my breath (or time typing) on narrow-minded egos. Even when someone is wrong, unless it is dangerous, I realize people need to find out certain things alone and it’s not my place to tell them, unless they ask for an opinion. That means sometimes watching them fall; harsh you may say, but if you try to protect a child from falling, how will they know what to do when you are not there when they do fall?

There is never a blanket solution for everyone, what is right for one maybe wrong for another. Perhaps someone isn’t ready to listen to a certain point of view or is able to understand it yet? I take the approach to keep an open mind about why people think as they do and respect where those beliefs come from.

I sometimes look at forums with philosophical debates, only to find people telling each other (and me) that I am wrong or right. I don’t need anyone to tell me either, because it’s individual. What’s right for me won’t be right for another, but sharing thoughts and theories is what philosophy and spiritualism is supposed to be about. Instead, it becomes a competition to see who thinks someone is right or wrong followed by a lecture from several egos. If someone has a questionable theory, I ask how they came about it rather than tell them they are wrong, because to them that might be the only truth they are able to see.

The only person who you should listen to is you, because you know yourself and what is best for you and what isn’t.

Revenge: A justified act?

What is justice these days and is society just? Who decides what is just? The imbalance in the justice system has led to people seeking revenge; justice as they see fit and what is deemed right.

It may seem to be moral, a father who kills someone who murders his child, but is it just? Some would say that’s real justice, however justice is when society decides and convicts someone of a wrongdoing and they either accept the decision of those who represent society or request an appeal. However, the justice system is subject to corruption from police officers forcing false confessions, withholding evidence and lawyers eager to make a plea bargain to lighten their workload.

An effective and moral justice system may prevent acts of revenge and society could begin to have faith in the justice system. It’s not foolproof and as society evolves, so does the definition and boundaries of justice. All these and more contribute to a justice system in decline, hence why some feel the need to take matters of moral laws into their own hands. While that feeling may arise in many, when someone is acquitted or found not guilty due to lack of evidence, do they have a right to seek their own form of justice? We, as humans abide by the laws set in each country that is how a civilized society functions, so we cannot take the law and reinterpret to our needs.

I do believe in the law of Karma. It’s not something you can predict and can take longer than the legal system and in some cases it maybe quicker than the system. Revenge is best kept as a thought, an emotional reaction to a wrongdoing, because to act on it renders one no better than the perpetrator. True justice will find its way, as long as you trust and believe and have faith.

Obstacles or challenges?

I’ve hit some major roadworks on the Yellow Brick Road, not totally unexpected but nethertheless, do I view them as a challenge or an obstacle? We all have obstacles and once we overcome them, we can see them as challenges. I do despair, having had more obstacles and challenges than a Marine and S.A.S assault course put together. Apparently I did ask for them once upon a time and you get what you ask for. I’m figuring out if I can unask some of them, but there has been no reply to date.

To the optimist, things will never appear to be an obstacle, however I am a realist and obstacles do happen. Why? Maybe we need to slow down, or the way we are going isn’t the best direction and it’s a hint to go another way? Or quite simply we’re at a crossroad and confused.

Regardless when you’re on a journey you are prepared as much as you can be for these eventualities, but are you emotionally? I don’t think we as humans can ever prepare ourselves emotionally for all events as much as we think we can. This is part of life’s lessons; to dig deep and experience pain and how to deal with it. Honestly, it’s not fun and who wants this experience? Yet once we have, we know what to expect and how to cope or at least have an idea. It’s not something a book can tell you what to do, even those self-help books, because we all react differently and have varying thresholds of pain and acceptance.

Most of us will become more resilient, cautious, wary and at times melancholy. I see it as normal and wise, because it is a fool that does not see what is really there and the wise accept what is there and deal with and overcome the obstacles, because Life in itself is the biggest challenge.

Philosophical Ponderings

I remember as a nine-year-old pondering why do we exist? I always had questions, but observed people and knew when to ask and when not to. Instead, I would carry around my books and find a corner to read when the adults around me were too busy. Yes, I had the dolls to play with and cuddly toys, but I was immersed in my stamp collection and books. In those days, it was Ponder and William, Little Miss Pepperpot, the Moomins, The Chronicles of Narnia and the Dragon’s Quest. As a member of the Puffin Club (now sadly defunct) I had my bookplates, which I proudly put in all my books.

“Why am I here?” I would ask myself and “What am I doing?” I was a loner, reading and writing everything down. I could read people, but my innocence was soon shattered when I saw the unpleasant side of people. There was little I could do, and I couldn’t understand why or how people could be so mean. Now, I know it’s human nature, when people feel they need power, they make others look small to make themselves look and feel better. Back then, I was a four-year-old at kindergarten and I learned my lessons early on. Even now as as adult, I am perplexed when I encounter people determined to boost their ego at the expense of others. I don’t let them; sometimes I walk away or I find an appropriate way to confront and address the matter as diplomatically as possible. The truth is some people aren’t interested, they don’t want to listen and without their ego boosted their self-esteem diminishes. It’s their issue and not yours and they have to discover this themselves. Knowing and understanding why people behave as they do can help you deal with situations more effectively.

Throughout life, I look at all sides of an argument or discussion, there are always at least two sides to a story, often more and I learned that what one person sees or hears, another sees and hears something completely different. How can that be when things are so obvious?

An adult once gave me some good advice, “Remember people will not see things as you do or will be able to do things as well as you.” The advice came from a White Witch as she read my palm, as my teenage self smiled and thanked her and I have never forgotten those words.

Is it a gift? Perhaps, the ability and perception to see things from multiple viewpoints and understand them is something I thought everyone was capable of. I realize that it is not the case. Through experience we can help others see things through others eyes, by articulating the differences and explaining the reasoning, thus create harmony and find resolutions. A negotiator or peacemaker? The philosophy is to be fair, just and unprejudiced.

A Philosopher to me is someone who can see the reason behind the logic and reactions—conflicts can be resolved by finding common ground and helping others to understand how the other party thinks and feels. There are different types of Philosophers, all with their own set of beliefs and morals. They expound theories and concepts of how society and humanity ought to be, what should work and what won’t. I’m a realistic Philosopher, I’ve seen human nature at its best and at its worst and I’m sure I will encounter more. Herein is my philosophical expedition…