The End of Democracy? a system on the brink of failure
Of all the concepts humans have created, I think Democracy must be the most human. No other species works this way. Bees are born Workers, Drones, or Queens, and we dogs work out our leadership by fighting, sometimes to the death. You see, all the rest of us species take leadership as something ordained by strength, not by the willingness of the group. And because we all understand that, the group is actually willing to follow that leader!
But you folks have come up with this amazing idea, that if the majority of your group wants something, the rest of the group ought to accept that as the decision. It does wonders for Peace, which is one of my favorite causes. After all, as much as they may dislike each other, we can assume that, next month, Boris Johnson and his supporters won’t be fighting Jeremy Corbin and his to bloody messes in the streets! And Democracy probably does, more often than not, result in the best results for each society that adopts it.
And yet, always, it has proven imperfect. Not because people make the wrong choices, but because they’ve never let it work as it should.
In ancient Greece, where the idea first took a major hold, only adult male citizens were allowed to vote – not women, not kids or teens, not non-citizens, and not slaves (who totaled over half the people there!). Later incarnations, like in France and England, tried to merge Democracy with their Monarchic traditions. And the United States, which likes to brag about how much it spreads Democracy around the world, spent most of its first 200 years not letting women or non-white men vote.
But the past doesn’t really matter in all this. After all, Handsome wouldn’t let me have the house to myself today if I still had the problems I did as a little puppy – pooping and peeing and chewing everything up all over the place. And similarly, just because something was done in a wrong way a couple of centuries ago doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done right today.
But today, Democracy has problems the ancient Greeks, and revolutionary French and Americans, never dreamed of. Today people around the world are told they can vote, but if they actually show up to do so, are threatened or beaten. Polling places are placed near the people governments want to vote, and way too far away from those they don’t. And now we’ve got this crazy cyberattack nonsense, where people from other countries will create social media to get people to vote against their own interests, or even just to add chaos to a country to weaken it. And then, when a government is voted in by those methods, of course they’ll do all they can to keep them from being changed, knowing they might then lose re-election.
So what’s the human race to do? Should Democracy be tossed aside, as something that served people well for a long time but has outlasted its usefulness, like tobacco and the horse-and-carriage? (Or, what I’d like to see, coal mining and terrorism?) Or is there hope for it, a way for it to improve and get a little closer to the ideal it began as?
It’s a tough question. When what was once the world’s greatest empire is on the verge of voting itself into near-irrelevance and poverty, and the dominant nation of the last century is a year away from likely re-electing a criminal gangster the world laughs at, both due largely due to foreign online interference, it’s hard to argue that their systems are better than, say, a stable monarchy. And other countries, like Turkey and The Philippines, are electing leaders that act like dictators or monarchs, grabbing more and more power for themselves, making us onlookers wonder what good Democracy ever offered in the first place.
And the world itself isn’t looking so great right now. I doubt there’s ever been a time before when wildfires were raging in both Australia and California (who have opposite seasons), while Venice is flooding and Dallas is freezing and Paris has been breaking heat records. And all because of something scientists have seen coming for twenty years or more, but voters keep electing charlatans and liars who deny it, and thereby don’t do anything to help stop or slow it. Islands are disappearing, plants are dying off, and animals are going extinct every day. It’s nothing less than nightmarish.
But I’m going to argue for Democracy anyway. Because it offers one benefit all the other methods of governing don’t: the possibility of change.
Oh sure, kingdoms and dictatorships have been overthrown through revolutions, but what other form of government allows the people to peacefully say “Hmm, we’ve made a mistake, so let’s fix it now.” And that doesn’t just mean changing who’s in charge. It can mean changing a law to allow more people to vote, or their votes to count in different ways. It can mean electing people who will fight against phony influence in elections. It can mean voting to find new ways to deal with problems we can’t even conceive of yet.
You see, the powerful will always do what they can to keep their power. This doesn’t make them bad people, it just makes sense. And, at the least, what Democracy does is forces them to give up just enough of that power to enough people, if they want to keep voted in. At least that’s how it’s often worked over time.
For those who want a “strongman” in charge, I can tell you that a dog pack is a pretty rough environment. And for those who want an inherited monarchy, I can tell you worker bees and drones have a great work-ethic but not much imagination, and that if they had nearly as much as dogs or humans, those hives would see upturns all the time.
So while the greatest Democracies in the world go through this really bad period, I – incapable of voting or being voted for anything – recommend you humans double-down on this one-person-one-vote idea. That crazy notion that no one of you deserves more of a say than any other. That eventually the best of you will rise to the top, if no one keeps you from it.
And then do everything you can to make it so.
The rest of us are counting on you.