21st century democracy

von Jason Koonce

The 'gun fight on Capitol Hill' in America is a sign of the times it seems. On the one hand practically the whole world serves evidence that guns are not the answer. Of course, Americans have never been very receptive to what the world is doing outside of food and fashion, Middle East oil, and German engineering so it's really no surprise. Also, I'm not talking about the fact that any part of the world is free of gun violence either. Just that, rational folks can see that while people are the problem, guns also make it too easy to kill.

I dont want to talk about gun violence as the main point though. My point here is much deeper and has more to do with many of the problems in the world. Nowadays the conversations in America have to do with 'inalienable rights', self-determination and government. Not at all different from whats happening in places like Syria, many parts of Africa, and even in pockets of Asia people want to make certain decisions, yet governments aren't too keen on granting that particular wish. Happens all the time, in every era throughout history.

So where are we going here? It has been written on before, but perhaps we need to be reminded. Democracy, or government by the people for the people doesn't work. Of course the ideal that 'all men are created equal' is an admirable mantra and who wouldn't want to live in world governed by the prospect that everyone is treated the same. There are some serious issues with that however.

For one, if everyone is equal in the American democracy, what about the minority? I dont exclusively mean racial minorities or political minorities but minorities of every shape, type and color. A democracy is based on the principle that there must be 'losers', for if the majority decides than the minority is not equal in that their wishes were not granted. Now this presents a number of issues that we are seeing in vivid color on the world stage, and the solutions are being worked out in the blood of children everywhere.

At the same time, I dont want to demonize the American people because this happens everywhere frankly. The equality of all men is a noble proclamation, however it has some serious issues fundamentally. For one, if everyone is equal than first of all a Democracy is not possible because while the minority can participate in the process equally, they do not have the numbers (as counted in votes) to make things happen as they please. Rarely do we see a majority acquiese to the needs of a minority from altruistic intentions. In other words, the minority loses and they are inherently NOT equal because the power to make the decision lies exclusively with what most people want.

What has become abundantly clear in America because of the 'gun fight', as well as in Europe (and the rise of xenophobia) is that those who would fight in years past for 'the rights of people to make their own choices in life' are becoming the minority. When you read about western support of the Arab Spring uprisings, and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the reports always include something about 'bringing democracy to the people'. Helping little girls and women go to school and removing dictatorships and the like. The cynic will say it's all about oil, but that is immaterial to this conversation. 

Western governments are keen to appeal to popular opinion because it can be easily manipulated via media and other means, and they essentially attempt to undermine governments where a minority of any kind rules. While you woun´t see any armed and western supported insurrection in places like Russia or China, those countries are not held in high regard by the west aside from their potential for generating profits. Rest assured that someone is working on how best to go about bringing about change to the forms of government in these places.

Not to go too far off on a tangent though, the majorities in western countries as of now are faced with the prospect of being in the role of 'minority' and even worse...losers. The significance of this situation is not at all lost on those in positions of power obviously. Whereas democracy is supposed to be a check on tyranny and abuse of the majority, it has become a chariot for the wealthy.

As far as the 'gun debate' in America is concerned, who can deny that the 'high availability' of guns presents a major obstacle to the prevention of mass murder? Who can deny that 'fighting fire with fire' will leave a charred and destroyed landscape? Of course, there are rational reasons for having guns like the fact that criminals already have access to guns and some criminals wont give them up under any circumstances. Some would rather take things into their own hands and have the ability to defend themselves. There are lots of reasons frankly, and it is clear an easy solution is not to be had.

So we return to the democratic model of majority rule. What we have is a system that contradicts itself. Those who belonged to the minority are gaining numbers, and the majority is dwindling. Whereas in past generations the minority could plead 'but all men are created equal' as their moral right, the current majority has no such designs to use that plea. As it stands those truly in power understand that 'if you can't beat them, join them', but first you have to try to beat them. This means things like firing up the flames of intolerance and hatred, stereotypes and all manner of dirty tricks to maintain that power. 

It isn't coincidence in the least that we are seeing depictions of the Mohammad, something that is detestable to Muslims, and other provocations in order to enrage minorities. Other things like racial profiling, the stirring up of right-wing extremists (in the east and western worlds) are media controlled. Now we know that elites (that is, those with wealth and influence) control primarily what comes across our television screens and what we see on advertisements. Their aims are to convince the majority that feels entitled to having things as they always were, to get upset with a losing future. The appeal is not to the 'coming' majority, but rather to incite the current one to seek to maintain power at the expense of the democratic ideal.

We see this also in government at it's highest levels in every democratic nation. This is where lobbyists come in to play promising campaign contributions that will give a particular candidate the best chance to win an election. A particular organization like the NRA for example has nothing to profit from in ANY restrictions on firearms sales. Insurance providers have very little to profit from in any universal healthcare package. So they lobby, and politicians are adept at crafting a message to seem as though tort reform is more noble and a higher priority than the estimated 40,000 Americans that die per year because of a lack of health insurance. Most Americans are aware that lobbying efforts undermine democratic principles, however the numbers (and resolve) do not outweight the influence of the resources required to get elected in the first place: and that my friends is money.

The fact that the majority of people understand that 'cash rules everything around me' yet are essentially powerless change that fact in a democracy signifies the failure of this system of government. The fact that there are those in America who are faced with becoming a minority are advocating and forwarding the use of violent means to prevent that, as opposed to the democratic process, signifies failure. The fact that those who are yet still at a disadvantage in a democracy are being disenfranchised as an attempt to prevent them from having power is yet another indicator.

Ultimately the question is not about guns, or respect for Islam but rather a failed system whose most ardent supporters are not even satisfied with it anymore. That says more about the state of 21st century democracy than anything else I've written here.

Jason Koonce, Baujahr 197x aus Cleveland/Ohio (USA). Kam vor über zehn Jahren nach Deutschland und lebt jenseits der Demarkationsline zwischen Armut und weniger großer Armut. 
Er schreibt, singt und rappt u.a. auf seinem eigenen Label.


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