"A Republic may be converted into an aristocracy or oligarchy as well by limiting the number capable of being elected, as the number authorized to elect."
This is a relevant quote when one ponders on his or her chances of being elected to any local, state, or federal office. It would be a task that would
require what only a tiny minority of people have: Charm, good looks, money, no major skeletons in the closet, and a supporting spouse. And we know that some of the most infamous
criminals in history possess these very attributes.
The important point, the relevant point that Madison was suggesting is precisely this: If members of the democratic polity feel that
they will never have a chance to serve the Republic, then they will either quit on it or slavishly support it like a love-sick puppy. In either case, the Republic falls or we should say, fails,
and by the time the people are alert it is too late. Too late. What a horrendous thought at this stage of the game.
And the lack of outrage among the people tells my gut it is too late. The people are busy betting on games, going to Indian casino's,
laying down the tracks of treachery for some slight twenty years ago, laughing at life, trying to avoid the confrontation that will make them feel small and
dozens of other things. They feel the Republic is not theirs so they have lost interest. And this is much more catastrophic then Iraq.
It's likely that America will start to resemble the Europe that emerged out of the medieval period, after the Crusades. Once Europe was a
Power the social relations froze and weren't thawed until the democratic revolutions. And it was much more democratic in those days in this sense: Those in power understood that their
power was dependent on the working of all other parts of the society. Now, the powerful have no such illusion. They have no such connection.
That, of course, is only one aspect of it. Many people do run at the lower ends of the Republic. You might even say that the lower
ends of the Republic, save it. That would be saying a lot. But, when I see a housewife, for instance, or a middle-class store owner on the city council or
on a county board, it makes things seem plausible. Yes, often the housewife or the business owner are indicted for corruption, but more often they are
doing the work of the people. A local board or city council can see with their eyes what the problems are. There are too many homeless people or traffic is
in gridlock, or sections of the city are dying for lack of money. Most local politicians and people can see, smell, hear, and taste the
problems that surround them. How is this possible in a huge nation-state like this?
Since most of the problems at the federal level are too complex for even those elected to high office; especially those elected to high
office, we rely on experts and scholars to tell us what is wrong. This is one thing the framers of the Constitution did not foresee. They figured human beings have an
instinct to solve problems because everyone lived in close proximity to everyone else. This is hardly the case now and one reason why people, at large, seek some form of
community through the internet or television; something, anything to connect them to a representation of the society that claims them. So, on the one hand, incredible mediation at the expert level
between the citizen and the politician and on the other huge fabricated communities through which the people are fed an incredible array of pap. This, I would say, is an awful disconnect that results in
the corruption of the system as a whole.
Many people assume we live in an oligarchy. Some prefer it as long as their lives are good. But, it will only be a matter of time before
the oligarchy lives at the expense of the people and while they have stupendous Roman holidays, the people wallow in a degraded life.
We are still in the habit of comparing our lives with less robust economies and, in fact, "the way they lived
in history." This is not the thing to do. A citizen should live in the utter present and compare his life to the richest life and poorest life and see
where life connects between them.
December 5, 2005
Politics is an awful green room filled with the moans of the dying. There is no joy there.
It is either about stabilizing power or overcoming it. It is a ceaseless battle that we try to subdue in ourselves but see out in front of us
like the vision of an ancient army climbing over the hills we have played in as kids. No person of good sense wants President Bush to fail in Iraq. But no person
of good sense wants to see his misdeeds go unpunished. And they are punished by taking power away from those who have fostered the policy and who
keep claiming the emperor has beautiful raiment.
And so the thing is irrevocable: The Bush Presidency is dead and nothing will revive it, including
the sweet ass-kissing types who stumble over their words in defending the man. We are in a period of transition. President Bush is a dead duck. No one believes him. No one listens to him.
This is the saddest event a president has to suffer. And yet, even at this late date, we want things to work out.
An administration that starts to resemble the KGB by planting stories in newspapers is shamed from the
get-go. And good luck when it tries to retrieve its credibility. I view the present administration as paranoid, ignorant, inexperienced, without any type of leadership. And
yet, even now, I want the policy to succeed.
A more reflective question is this: Why have the baby-boomers produced such awful leaders? And it goes back to the excess of the
60's-70's, to the disaffiliation of the time, the alienation, the fear of atomic war, the grotesque visions fostered by dope and loud music, the total turning
off to intelligence, "intellect," and the embracing of cult thought, of shadowy mythology and the rest of it.
It's a putrid mess and our fuming intellectuals will not save us. Don't fear taking the heels of the
leaders and holding them to the ghastly fires of truth. Only a populist movement enraged by what has happened to the democracy will save it at this late date.
And, by the way, the rest of the world is rubbing its hands waiting for our fall. Americans carry around them the fallacy of some type of
invincibility but it's a terrible illusion by inexperienced, ignorant people. We must see ourselves as better than we act at the present
And what, eventually, happens? The culture experiences a catastrophe that puts it back to square one. The values
become bottom-line, there is no or little discretionary income, everything goes back to the beginning. And then there is building upward, over time, through very tough
times and it disciplines one generation and fosters the resentment of the next generation. It's an archetype for a democracy that can not afford to have the barbarism, ignorance, alienation that this one is
What one doesn't want to lose is the beautiful foundation of the culture: The belief in options, in new horizons, new visions, outrageous ideas and imagination that will help seed the future.
We are the oldest democracy; but we are the newest one as well when we learn with every new generation that democracy fosters great aspiration in new people, on the Earth for the
first time. Much of the filthy past slides from them and they see a magnificence that can be theirs.
December 1, 2005
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