Democracy’s hypocritical roots

David Haley

As American as baseball, apple pie and imperialism, democracy long ago burrowed her way into the mental marrow of our populace. In the 18th century, we shoved Monarchy off the cool ivory throne of governmental quintessence and onto the floor, splintering her into a thousand paltry shards while we jostled in the replacement.

We continue to commemorate, illustrate, and disseminate democracy with Oceanic zeal; but only rarely do we question her supremacy, and even then, halfheartedly. If there truly remains no room for improvement, what are we afraid of? And if not, why do we refuse to ponder the possibility of progress–that is, a potential successor to democracy?

One might contend that our current state provides all men the best possible opportunity to pursue happiness; and hence, he says, we ought not impugn it. I would ask this man to live a year in a blue collar, and to see if, after only two seasons of substandard housing and healthcare, his mood did not match his neckband.

Democracy, it is proposed, grants the people what they want; but is this really the case? Moreover, is such an arrangement even preferable–that is, does the populace desire, or even know what is best for them? Consider the following repercussions of public demand.

Popular radio stations play a watered-down amalgam of mediocrity. Hollywood slobbers over mostly insipid garbage, relegating many of the best films to bijou festivals. Every four years the government peddles us a pair of vapid (but viable!) presidential candidates. Surely better alternatives exist; why aren’t they offered?

We are certainly not the first to court democracy. Athens, for instance, squabbled with her when she was but a budding adolescent. Plato saw clearly then her blemishes; the ease with which emotive rhetoric bent public opinion troubled him. He observed as his compatriots acquiesced to sophistry, brutalized and executed dissidents, jettisoned law, and endorsed the disgraceful Peloponnesian war.

Sound familiar?

It should.

Roughly 2,500 years later, we adorned democracy with a liberalist crown; but her acquisitive tresses, it seems, have swallowed all but the gilded tips.

How tolerant, how progressive are we if, in a nationalistic stupor, we refuse to honestly evaluate, reform, and if need be, dissolve our government? This is not to suggest we ought to search obsessively for coup d’état. Rather, we should ask as Thoreau did, “Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in government? Is it not possible to take a step further towards recognizing and organizing the rights of man?”