The great paradox of democracy is that the system is supposed to break the chains that bind the citizen to the state, but instead it immerses the citizen in the state. If you go back 200 years in any country in the West, you would find that the people had very few dealings with the national government. They had dealings with local government, but even that was minimal. Politics, even in Britain and America where popular government was established, played a minor role in the lives of citizens.
Today, in supposedly free countries, no one can be free of politics. Everywhere you go, politics plays a part in your life. Political correctness governs the workplace and the academy. If you fall behind in the latest trends in pronouns, you could end up in a struggle session with the human resource people. Entertainment is saturated with multiculturalism and the lectures that come with it. It is nearly impossible to live in a modern western democracy without politics.
One reason for this is the natural logic of democracy. The proper way to run society, according to democracy, is for the people to express their will through a plebiscite or an elected body like a parliament. The good citizen takes an interest in his society and makes his opinion known though his vote or through participation in public and private debates about the issues. The system is intended to encourage the people to get involved and participate in the political process.
Therefore, someone who does not wish to participate in the democratic process is, in effect, opposed to democracy. If being a good citizen means keeping up with politics and participating in the process, not doing those things means you are something less than a good citizen, maybe even a bad citizen. This logic not only works on the laggards, but it encourages everyone to be a scold. The person trying to avoid politics will be a target by the champions of democracy.
Of course, one goal of democracy is to get people to cooperate with one another in order to set public policy and shape society. Rather than one guy dictating the rules or a group of powerful people making law, the people come together and find some compromise that suits the most amount of people. A point of democracy is to allow the losers to accept defeat, as they get something in the compromise and they have a chance to win the next time. Democracy is about compromise.
Compromise has an important meaning in democracy. It is not a grudging compromise or simply a truce to the fight. The point of the compromise is to reach a consensus on the issue at hand. This general agreement comes about by the parties working together to find a solution to which they can all agree. Compromise in a democracy is not a hostile agreement, like that between warring parties, but a friendly agreement struck between partners. Compromise is cooperation in a democracy.
This naturally leads to the conclusion that those who are not participating in politics are possibly excluded in some way. Simply eliminating the explicit rules against participation like limits on the franchise are just a start. Until everyone participates fully, it is assumed something is excluding them. This is the source of things like “voter suppression efforts” and “exclusionary practices” in the workplace. If anyone is not fully engaged and represented, then something is preventing them.
This is the root of speech and behavior laws. Speech that mocks or minimizes some group makes them feel unwelcome. This could lead they to avoid participation or encourage others to block their way. Similarly, rules or customs that exclude people must only exist to exclude and are therefore anti-democratic. It’s why any humor based on observing human behavior is forbidden. It is why noticing difference in people is now the worse crime. To differentiate is to exclude.
Inevitably, it means the system does not just pick the low hanging fruit of exclusion like laws that discriminate or banning exclusionary speech. Unless and until everyone is participating and getting along with everyone else, the cause of discord and exclusion must be sought out by the system itself. What we see today is democracy has become an endless struggle session for society. We collectively hunt for anything that offends or discourages cooperation among citizens.
This leads to another strange paradox. Once the hunt for the cause of less than perfect social cohesion starts, it must invade every aspect of life. The speech laws lead to theories about the thoughts behind the forbidden speech. Private association must expose itself to endless examination in order to make sure it is not excluding anyone or creating tensions between groups. In short order, as we see in America since the Cold War, the citizen exists only as a thoroughly political animal.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but the spirit of democracy is why social media companies hunt down dissenters. These people posting mean things on-line cannot be ignored, because there very existence, according to the logic of democracy, is to crate conflict and undermine cooperation. In a way, the platform becomes a metaphor for society as a whole. The army of volunteer speech monitors are fully actualizing their freedom in the democratic system by driving out the anti-democratic elements.
This immersion of citizens in a political environment eliminates the private institutions and associations that were supposed to be the bedrock of democracy. If private association is exclusionary, then private institutions are as well. Since anything that obstructs perfect cooperation is anti-democratic, democracy means the elimination of the very institutions that are supposed to make it possible. Democracy now looks a lot like Soviet communism, where the party was everything.
Another paradox is that democracy is supposed to rely on the independent citizen being able to assess his own interests. By eliminating private associations and institutions, the citizen naturally becomes dependent on the state. If you cannot belong to a club or an organic group, your only option for social support is family, but that too is under endless assault by democracy. Feminism, after all, is the elimination of womanhood as an independent role. As feminism grows, family formation falls.
With communism, the goal upfront is a society without social conflict. The communist seeks to flatten the natural hierarchy of society. By destroying class and the distinctions among citizens, all citizens are equal. Equality of existence means an equality of purpose, so everyone naturally cooperates. The ideology itself is shot through with the understanding that the communist is a purely political animal, as he is defined by the fact that he is a communist man in a communist society.
In democracy, the declaration is the opposite. Democracy is supposed to make men free to enjoy their lives as they see fit, exercise their liberty and pursue the ends that bring them happiness. In theory, citizens are free to participate in the system or they can choose to opt out of the system. In reality, it is impossible to exist in a democratic system without also being a citizen. To be a citizen, you have to fully participate in the process and that means fully cooperate will all fellow citizens.
That’s the great paradox of democracy. A system advertised to offer maximum liberty turns out to be a system that offers no freedom. The logic of democracy requires all members to cooperate with one another. That inevitably requires constraints on speech, behavior and association. Every word and deed must foster cooperation or it is anti-democratic and therefore forbidden. The full range of action by citizens is constrained to the point where the democratic man is a prisoner.
Note: I’m still working on the comment system issue. It should be resolved shortly.
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