All systems are impermanent, but while they are in favour they seem eternal, at least as far as the future is concerned. Feudalism must have seemed so until absolute monachies made it seem old hat. Democracy seems so nowadays, but one should not be complacent.

There are certain conditions in which democracy does not really work. The most obvious of these is that it does not suit tribal societies. In countries where people will always vote for their tribe, there is no way that democracv is going to provide a fair or acceptable government for minority tribes. This has been the case in some countries in Africa, for instance, as in some states in India.

However, sociologists now think that societies in Europe and in North America are becoming more tribal. It is much easier to move house these days and people tend to move to places where they can live with people like themselves. The internet should be a source of easy communication and in some ways it is, but there is also a strong tendency for it to be a sorter of people too, again linking like with like. Increasingly we are only talking to and mixing with people similar to ourselves. This is making politics more polarised. Views become more extreme. The other side are viewed with less respect. Compromise becomes more difficult. The whole political business becomes more bitter.

In this circumstance, if a situation arises where it starts to be apparent that one of these polarised groups is never going to win an election, one has all the ingredients for that faction to start to consider the whole system unacceptable. Furthermore, they have little to lose. Such situations are dangerous.

If democracy is to be preserved, something has to happen to change the direction of this trend, otherwise other forces will come into play and what we now take for granted could become unsustainable.

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Replies to This Discussion

yes. this is a really crucial issue.  In many different places the facilitation of ethnic/local communities' autonomy and of groups' coalescence has been for a long time considered as a factor contributing to the promotion of equal rights and democracy. In fact it is has been the cradle of dangerous germs of fundamentalism and of systemic instability, due to crosses vetos, ignorance of the reasons of the others, lack of dialogue and of shared ways to problem-solving. Now we are all going to pay for the consequences of such a view: a sort of multicultural coexistence of fascisms of different kinds, intrinsically driven towards both reciprocal conflict and disregard for individuals' rights (as what really counts is allegiance not freedom, blind consensus not samma-ditthi)...  

The assumption that representative democracy and its inherent partner nationalism are desirable needs to be examined more closely and there are many aspects of this that are at the heart of the social and ecological problems we face today. Firstly we are born into hegemony with our only way to represent our social affairs to choose periodically our particular rulers. Alienation grows both hatreds and ethical lack. It brings about much substance abuse, personal and social depressive states and social unrest.

The modern state and representative democracy have developed in recent times to meet the needs of the corporate state.  Governments themselves are and have always been simply the point of social organising and control of the population for the benefit of the corporate class.  It is the corporate class that have led us into this ecological disaster and they have done so knowingly in seeking endless power and greed.  Governments have been both powerless and complicit in this endeavour. 

I believe that more people are fearful of a power vacuum than of ecological catastrophe.  Our entire social view has been corporatized and this is rather invisible. A movement towards direct democracy involves people developing alternative structures, subverting what currently exists and developing a strong resilience to all classes of rulers. We need revolution and revolutionary thought begins such a process, not reformism.

Winston Churchill famously said that democracy is the worst form of government... apart from the alternatives :-) There is quite a bit of truth in this. However, polity is never static. All polities are in process of evolution. 'Democracy' in America is not what it was fifty years ago and that was different from fifty years before that. Again, no system is perfect as far as one can tell. This is because all political systems are populated by unenlightened human beings. It is not even certain that enlightened ones would necessarily make a perfect job of it. Managing (feeding, housing, educating, coping with natural and other disasters, occupying, and generally providing for) a large population is not easy. Left to their own devices people in general are not noted for immediately seizing upon the most altruistic activity available. I do not have an ideal in mind, but I try to follow the evolving forms and see the opportunities and pitfalls they present. I try to learn what this business of being human upon a small planet is all about.

I like very much the governamentality construct (M Foucault). A hidden-structural power keeps in control minds-bodies and reproduces the conditions for the subjugation of multitudes (the latter is a spinozian term). But, if this is true we cannot assume that multitudes may be able to make subversions and revolutions aimed at changing the world (in view of an ideal world). History shows that these kinds of experiences can take place but are not the result of clear and distinct ideas stemming from enlightened multitudes (the latter is a real contradiction, a dream, a nightmare may be). Much better to wake up and to look for plausible ways for being human on this small planet: a not an easy task, which implies solidarity and compassion (with and for other humans) and is firmly based on individual wisdom, morality and samadhi.

I guess there has to be a middle way that is inclusive rather than exclusive - that embraces the collective and the individual. But I do agree that there are structural constraints that are a lot more powerful than most people recognise. I imagine, for instance, that if Donald Trump were to become president, at the end of four years he probably would not have been anything like as different from Obama as he thinks he would be. As soon as you have the actual responsibility you run up against the constraints.This is not to say that those who take politcal initiatives can do nothing, but very large scale forces are in play. Here at Eleusis we try to live in a way that could conceivably be a good example, but we are a tiny island and could easily be swept away by any number of eventualities over which we have no control. However, we proceed in the faith that whatever is put in to the cosmic system must come out again somewhere, somehow, sometime and, therefore, even the smallest contribution matters.



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