Saturday, June 19, 2021

Why Democracy Died

To know why democracy died, it is necessary to understand why it came into existence.

Democracy is an improbable form of government. Throughout the thousands of years of human existence, before the emergence of cities, states and empires, humans lived in tribes of hunter gatherers, small groups of no fixed address, each tribe dominated by an alpha male or chief who impregnated most of the women and killed anyone who got in his way.

The agricultural revolution meant both an increase in population and the creation of settled communities with permanent housing, irrigation works, markets, temples, defensive walls and fortresses. With the rise of such communities, or city states, one man (or occasionally woman) rule remained the rule but with some elaboration. 

One man could not rule a city without a hierarchy of soldiers, administrators, and priests, the heads of each institutional group naturally acquired a degree of personal power independent of the Chief, or Prince, or King. But still the system remain firmly top-down, with trouble from uppity plebs subject to brutal suppression.

Rulers of large cities naturally sought to subordinate smaller cities, so that city states generally gave way to empires. But top-down government headed by a single person, the Prince, the King, the Emperor, remained the rule, though now with subordinate individuals, as for example, military commanders, tax collectors, architects, and priests wielding ever great powers.

But whatever the exact form of government of the newly risen city states and empires, no ruler had the insane idea of asking the people, the peasants, the surfs, the helots, the slave class, to take the reigns of power and dictate to the rulers what should be done.

Not, that is, until the emergence of the peculiar Greek city state of Athens during the late bronze age.

Why did this bizarre transformation in the government of Athens happen? Several unusual factors contributed.

Important was the geography of Greece which comprises many islands, and a mainland deeply indented by sea inlets and divided by mountain ranges, thus providing many small habitable areas of cultivable land sufficient to support a city state while providing natural defenses against attack by neighboring communities. As a result, the city states of ancient Greece survived long after Egypt, Persia, North Africa, Italy and China had been subordinated to imperial regimes.

Not that the inhospitable terrain discouraged imperialist ambitions among the leaders of the Greek city states who engaged repeatedly in mostly futile campaigns to subjugate one another.

A consequence of such wars was the acquisition of slaves, either soldiers taken captive in battle or the inhabitants of territory temporarily occupied during interstate conflicts. As a result, the landowning citizens of Athens were not obliged to till their own lands. Being free to pursue other interests, some naturally engaged in politics. And as the Athenian state was small, the most effective means to pursue a political career was by speaking in the town square.

This inevitably gave power to those who could rouse the mob. The game was formalized with those attending in the public forum registering their support for or against this or that proposal by marking a ballot in the form or a clay tile, or ostrakon, and dropping it into an urn to be counted. 

Athenian ballot form
Slaves and women were excluded from participation, but the male owners of slaves and women, referred to themselves as the people, or demos, hence democracy. Rule, that is, under the leadership of men of ambition and rapacity, who, intent only on elevating their own status, wealth and power even at the expense of the people, had the ability to sway the crowd. 

This crazy system, under which the greatest rabble-rousers drove Athens into endless wars against other Greek communities, might have continued to this day had not the Romans imposed imperial rule upon Greece from without. Thereafter, democracy became extinct throughout the world, until the modern era.

And it was modernity, and in particular industrialism and the consequent phenomenon of total war, that made the emergence of mass democracy inevitable.

Industrialization required the assembly and organization of large numbers of well disciplined workers in mines and factories, at docks and construction sites. Trouble was, the large assemblies of workers operating capital intensive systems of production and distribution were alarmingly prone to revolt against brutal conditions and long hours of work for miserable pay at a time when the newly enriched entrepreneurial class engaged in the most extravagant displays of wealth and privilege.

What to do?

Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, Commander in Chief of British armed forces, victor over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, and UK Prime Minister during the 1820's, urged the rapid development of railways to facilitate the movement of troops to deal with workers' rebellions. 

But instead of reliance on the systematic application of force, Britain's middle and upper class reformers reduced the risk of revolution by alleviating the horrible conditions of life for the mass of Britain's working people. This they did through successful campaigns to eliminate child labor, reduce working hours, improve work place safety, create a system of universal education, introduce old-age pensions (the necessary legislation set before Parliament by that prime target of today's British Woke university hatred, Winston Churchill), and  extend the franchise, universal suffrage for men being achieved in 1918.

That mass democracy arrived in Britain in the final year of Europe's great civil war was no coincidence. With millions of working men returning from a grotesque world of filth, lice, and mass slaughter in a struggle with German working men with whom they had more in common than with their own ruling class, some adjustment in the political system was essential to the maintenance of political stability.

That the war had already detonated Russia's Bolshevik Revolution to be followed by the deposition and murder of the of the Tsar, his wife and children, and that it threatened Germany with the same transformation, further concentrated the minds of the British elite on the need for greater deference to the interests of the lower classes. 

The refusal of Liverpool's dock workers to load armaments for shipment in aid of the anti-Bolshevik forces in Russia, provided further stimulus to ruling class deference to the opinions of the proletariat. 

Thus was democracy in modern form instituted in the nation that, more than any other, created the modern world. It was a response not to wokeness, but weakness. 

But the Western world is now post modern. 

Automation and AI have largely eliminated the need for either a working class of unskilled or semi-skilled workers, or a lower middle class of clerks and secretaries. 

Furthermore, modern weapons have entirely eliminated the value of mass armies. Future wars will be won, not by laying down the lives of millions of citizen soldiers whose loyalty the ruling class has earned, but with advanced technology weapons operated by a small cadre of military technologists.

How then, for the elite, which is to say the owners of modern technology, to dispense with the encumbrance of democracy.

Cancellation would be one solution. But it would be messy. It would provoke demonstrations, probably violent. With blood spilled, resentments would burn indefinitely.

But technology provides a superior alternative: mind control through media manipulation; indoctrination in the guise of education; garbage entertainment as distraction; plus fake news; fake elections; fake presidents; and a fake pandemic to force compliance with an increasingly authoritarian state.

Hence, endless bullshit TV news; the woke university; pornography as acceptable entertainment; President Biden; Meghan Remarkables; plus Covid19, facemasks, lockdowns and social distancing.

Image source
Democracy was interesting while it lasted. Now get used to the increasingly arrogant Gates-style techsploitation, to population reduction, and a pivot to a world order of which the main features were anticipated by Aldous Huxley (Brave New World) and George Orwell (1984).


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