Individualism and the challenges to democracy: uncertainties in the hands of men


All Writings, Government, Individual, Observations, Society / Sunday, March 5th, 2017

The rise of individualism and social congregation of like-minded individuals on social networks is, most certainly the end of traditional democracy.  Already there is a kind of reactionary leadership, leading to a weakening of authority.


Recommended video: Why Socrates Hated Democracy


To begin with, democracy was always a less-than-perfect idea for forming a government.  However, as human nature dictates, people looking for escape look for even a less-than-perfect idea to find some comfort.  A man who has been working all day and late into the evening, will cherish any sleep he can get.  Our world worked very hard, albeit toward destruction, during the great wars of the 20th century – WW1 and WW2.  It would make sense that, mankind would look for rest.  Democracy promised to give rest, but the demons of destruction continued to be at work inside and outside those countries where democracy was accepted as a viable system.

Other systems of government never have had the same appeal as democracy because, democracy holds out the promise of freedom and empowerment.  This balance between government power and popular freedom is always a challenge, highlighted by temporary cycles of regular elections.  People are free to express their dissatisfaction with the ruling government, especially when it is time for them to elect a new government.

With the advent and growth of the Internet, especially social media, these cycles of expressing discontent have shortened very considerably.  Where a whole population could look for a few years of constancy, there is now a daily challenge to a weakening system and idea of governance, that is democracy.  In all this upheaval, those who rise against the democratic system and seek its demise don’t themselves have an alternative.  When the institutions of democracy will weaken and crumble, there is possibly no viable replacement in the minds of opposers.

The issue of echo chambers on social media is a threat to democracy.  Not that democracy is the greatest idea ever to have come to man, but it has been an excuse for unity among national and the international community, while continuing to ensure the rights of humans.  Democracy was dutifully advertized as the hope of mankind.  When those same countries which have been at the forefront of advocating democracy are themselves feeling strong challenges – as the U.S.A. facing internal challenge from the climate of moral relativism and political polarization – the rest of the world is compelled to wonder with a sense of apprehension.

The simultaneous existence of two different ideas – capitalism (Alternate link) and democracy – seemed to promise not only freedom, but also the opportunity to dream of a better future.  Perhaps the illusion was, everyone would have the right of electing the government, and all would have a share in the collective prosperity of the nation.  These promises have not been fulfilled!  The patience shown by the people in view of the promises has continued to dwindle, one disappointment after the other.

The disappointment people feel is reflected in the time of religious, economic, and political extremism.  The Brexit phenomenon, election of the Republican party with Mr. Donald Trump as President, similar nationalistic ideologies emerging in France and Germany, and the spread of Islamic fundamentalism have created a dangerous mixture.  Strong leaders take advantage of such uncertainty, and not necessarily for the public good.  The public is itself now untrusting of the leaders, whoever they may be.  The people are more inclined to believe a derogatory news about their leaders because, it reflects what they expect.

A fundamental change in the perception of what government is

Humans are prone to revisions of their present existence on the basis of history.  And yet, history is itself a narrative of what one prefers to believe about the past.  Two people look at fossils: one sees the evidence of a global deluge, and the other sees a meteor strike killing all the dinosaurs.  Two men look at a country: one sees deprivation due to colonial rule, and another sees an empire that left behind people, ideas, and infrastructure.

These views of history are relevant to how a government functions because, in a democratic system or otherwise, those who make a government are themselves individuals with certain ideas about history and identity.  Whenever difficult times have come, people have sought to find security in finding a group they can identify with.  This group promotes a certain view of history not merely by means of some narrative, but most prominently through their present actions and ideas.


These views of history are relevant to how a government functions because, in a democratic system or otherwise, those who make a government are themselves individuals with certain ideas about history and identity.


 

This is visible every time Mr. Trump speaks of “making America great again“.  This view has to be based on an understanding of the past that legitimizes, supports, and propels this view among the people.  In other places around the world, leaders are appealing to national identity as a means of finding popular support.  This pursuit of national support itself means, there are astute observers who seek power and have lost faith in a globalized world.  The evidence is before us!  It confronts us in the news, day-after-day.

In all these views and affairs of the government, it is easy to lose sight of the common people who seek nothing more than to have a safe, simple existence.  They do not seek political involvement or annexation of other lands, and they never think about genocide as a solution for anything.  Governments have engaged in mass-killings through their weapons and armies, not the everyday people.  So the real reason for violence on an international level is, the actions of governments.  That was true in the past, and it continues to be a threat today.  The greatest wars have been when religion added its voice and power to the ambitions of a government. (examples include Mughal Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, Israel, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the ancient kingdom of Babylon)

Wherever and whenever a religious ideology merges with national identity, it gives a different nature to the existing government.  The persistence of an individual in the heat of religious sentiment far outweighs what any other motivation could possibly evoke.  The unfortunate reality is, religion has not been a reason for peace.  Knowledge of religion and selected texts fuels enmities and the cruelest treatment of others.  Religion transforms the nature of individuals, and much more so the nature of a government.

Those governments and individuals have emerged as remembered in history, those with influence, who recognized the power of religion.  It is easy to be misled in this pursuit!  The claimed authorization by God without proportionate evidence is a dangerous delusion.  In the case of a government it becomes more dangerous due to the influence and power it can have.

Individualism has challenged this traditional status of the government, and threatens to curtail its ambitions.  This is a good thing, but it presents ongoing power struggles within a country.  At the extreme end of popular uprisings, the threat of anarchy in the absence of government does not provide a desirable option.

Seeing individuals in the crowds
Seeing individuals in the crowds

What would be the desirable solution?

The desirable solution would be that governments reflect more closely the desires of an individual.  For this, governments would have to give up power and respect the powers of an individual.

The goals of a government are also likely to change with a more individualized focus.  When satisfaction and good living of the citizens becomes a primary objective, it is a fundamental change.

The shift toward peaceful coexistence with other nations can be a worthy goal for all governments.  If this becomes the evident desire, individuals will be likely to support such a government.  However, when it becomes clear that a government seeks to interfere in other countries, or seeks to increase its own powers at the expense of its citizens, the present day power of the Internet and social media is a ready, powerful challenge.

Great armies and weapons exist today at the disposal of governments as the guarantee for peace.  This guarantee for peace is also the threat to peace!  It has been the longstanding paradox of this world since WW1 and WW2.  The people in a democracy favoring war invite their own hardships, for when war happens the entire load of spending and sustaining war falls not upon institutions but on the real people making decisions.  With such a heavy burden upon the mind, how could any government seek peace – democratic or otherwise!  Each individual must contemplate the future for themselves and the future generations.  Individual choice for peace matters.


The Creator of all things in heaven and earth, watches closely at our hearts, our desires.  The final judgment at the end of ages is in his just hands, not the hands of mankind.


 

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