“If liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in government to the utmost.”–Aristotle
I deliberately chose the Aristotle quote to begin today’s post because Aristotle was not a big fan of democracy. He was quite cynical about it, but not because he loved dictatorships.
“Republics decline into democracies and democracies degenerate into despotisms.”–Aristotle
This second quote seems more germane to the state of things in the United States as it stands right now. The dumbing down of America, especially regarding the topics of civics and the U.S. Constitution, has brought us to this dangerous place in our checkered history. We are at a tipping point. Will we continue along the path we traveling–asleep at the wheel–or will we jolt ourselves awake to avoid getting stuck the ditch filled with murky corruption?
It’s hard to get away from the constant barrage of advertising by candidates, political parties, and the like. The result, however, is burn-out and apathy from the voting public. Each year, the amount of money spent on political–specifically presidential advertising– increases exponentially. The individuals and the party that spend the most usually win the election. Entire fortunes are flushed into campaigns for higher office. By nature, people hate advertising. There is so much political advertising that I wonder if the overall goal is to engender more apathy and cynicism so that fewer people will be enthusiastic about voting.
I stumbled upon an insightful statement while researching architectural styles the other day. It reminded me that esteemed architect Frank Lloyd Wright espoused controversial views. “A free America… means just this: individual freedom for all, rich or poor, or else this system of government we call democracy is only an expedient to enslave man to the machine and make him like it.” Then I decided to Google “Wright’s political views”. I came across another interesting passage that directly links his architecture with politics. The quote relates to the corner window in particular:
“The corner-window is indicative of an idea conceived, early in my work, that the box is a fascist symbol, and the architecture of freedom and democracy needed something basically better than the box. So I started to destroy the box as a building. Well, the corner-window came in as all the comprehension that was ever given to that act of destruction of the box. The light now came in where it had never come in before and vision went out. You had screens for walls instead of box walls–here the walls vanished as walls, the box vanished as a box.”
If you are interested in an architect who literally thought outside of the box you may wish to investigate Frank Lloyd Wright.
Another noteworthy individual from the past to consider is Walter Cronkite. He embodied the true nature of a good journalist. With today’s manufactured distrust of the media, it is important to remember that journalism is the unofficial “fourth estate” of government. Journalism aka the media, keeps tabs on the powers that be. Good journalism reports and lets the chips fall where they will. Unfortunately, in this age of corporate consolidation there is a serious failure of media competition. Cronkite worried that the ownership of media companies had fallen into fewer and fewer hands. This situation is a very serious handicap to the distribution of essential information to the citizens. If Walter Cronkite was alive today, he would probably be greatly alarmed at the consolidation of corporate media interests.
The point I’m trying to make is that ignorance is poison to a democratic republic. Ignorance is the tool that tyrants cultivate among their followers. Education and intellectual curiosity are the antidotes to ignorance. Everyone can read the U.S. Constitution–it’s on the Web and it’s not a particularly lengthy document. We don’t have to consume material from pundits and echo chambers. There is a lot of informative material that has been created by people from across the spectrum of political theory. Explore outside the box of political dogmas. Great fiction and non-fiction books have been written that are not political screeds.
A post like this can only point to democratic values. It is up to each citizen to educate her or himself objectively. Politics doesn’t have to be reserved only for people who can spend millions of dollars on candidates that represent their interests. Citizens are Americans–not mere cogs to be used by political parties. This holds true for my readers in other nations, too. You are citizens of your countries and not just pawns to be used by politicians and political parties.
Today is the International Day of Democracy. It is a good time to rededicate ourselves to the highest ideals of democracy. The future of freedom for all depends upon it.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes author and screenwriter, Ray Bradbury. “If you know how to read, you have a complete education about life, then you know how to vote within a democracy. But if you don’t know how to read, you don’t know how to decide. That’s the great thing about our country–we’re a democracy of readers, and we should keep it that way.”