Of Faux Democracy, Petty Tyrants,
And Painful Realities
By Jason Miller
11 October, 2006
“The ideal tyranny is that which is ignorantly self-administered
by its victims. The most perfect slaves are, therefore, those which
blissfully and unawaredly enslave themselves.”
caricature of a man who has wrought havoc in virtually every endeavor
throughout his miserable existence has found his calling. Exuding false
bravado and contrived machismo, he has swaggered his way into the deepest
recesses of America’s collective psyche, fulfilling the inculcated
need for a “manly” patriarch. Chest thumping, bullying,
and ultimately unleashing the Hell of the Pentagon’s death machine
upon those brazen enough to resist conversion to the American Way, King
George IV has succeeded the tyrant American Revolutionaries toppled
over 200 years ago.
While the tyrant may be intellectually
challenged, his court is filled with cunning Artful Dodgers like Karl
Rove and Dick Cheney. Conscienceless people for whom guile, deceit,
and exploitation are ways of being write his scripts and pull his strings.
But ultimately it is George Bush, a morally bankrupt cur of a man, who
gleefully issues proclamations and decrees that victimize the working
class and the poor of the world. Bullies take such delight in plying
their craft. Yet as vigorously as they have striven to realize the dream
of the US aristocracy and reestablish an overt tyranny, Bush and his
handlers have devoted equal volumes of sweat to maintaining the illusion
that America is a “democracy”.
Buoyed by a virtually omnipresent
corporate media equally dedicated to spiritually and intellectually
enslaving the poor and working class, sacrificing them as cogs in the
corporate machine and as cannon fodder, and relieving them of their
hard-earned dollars via irresistible lures of immediate gratification
and an increasingly regressive system of taxation, a privileged class
comprised of the wealthy, intellectual elites, and well-connected has
become the “power behind the throne” in an oligarchy disingenuously
portrayed as a democracy.
In November of 2003, George
Bush assured his constituency that:
It is no accident that the
rise of so many democracies took place in a time when the world's most
influential nation was itself a democracy.
Serving up an even bigger
"Whopper" to a nation of people conditioned to be addicted
to fast food and clever sound bites, Bush proudly proclaimed in September
Because we believe in human
dignity, peaceful nations must stand for the advance of democracy. No
other system of government has done more to protect minorities, to secure
the rights of labor, to raise the status of women, or to channel human
energy to the pursuits of peace.
As is true with most concepts,
there is no universally accepted or simple way to capture the meaning
of democracy. However, Wikipedia offers concise definitions of the four
fundamental types of democracy:
democracy is a political system where the citizens vote
on all major policy decisions. It is called direct because, in the classical
forms, there are no intermediaries or representatives.
democracy is so named because the people select representatives
to a governing body. Representatives may be chosen by the electorate
as a whole (as in many
proportional systems) or represent a particular district
with some systems using a combination of the two. Some representative
democracies also incorporate some elements of direct democracy, such
democracy is a representative democracy (with free and
fair elections) along with the protection of minorities, the
rule of law, a
separation of powers, and protection of liberties
(thus the name liberal) of speech, assembly, religion, and property.
Conversely, an illiberal
democracy is one where the protections that form a liberal
democracy are either nonexistent, or not enforced. The experience in
states drew attention to the phenomenon, although it is
not of recent origin. Napoleon
for example used plebiscites to ratify his imperial decisions.
At best, the United States
is an illiberal democracy. Which really is not too surprising. While
the Founding Fathers forged a Constitutional Republic that incorporated
many of the values of the Age of Enlightenment, the government they
crafted was largely representative of a patriarchal society dominated
by White male land-owners. Women had no right to vote, chattel slavery
remained legal, the indigenous population was excluded, and the Bill
of Rights was an afterthought that many of the Founders initially opposed.
George Bush and propagandists
who have been intellectually assaulting US Americans for years would
have us believe that the oligarchs masquerading as democratic leaders
have blessed “the masses” of humanity in the United States
and beyond with unprecedented advances for human rights and social justice.
Are their claims
grounded in reality?
Let’s put them to the test
We believe in human dignity.
Abu Ghraib certainly reflects the commitment of the United States government
to human dignity. What could be more dignified than abject humiliation
and torture? And to further reinforce the United States’ resolve
to preserve human dignity, the Bush Regime and the “representatives
of the people” in Congress recently negated Article Three of the
Third Geneva Convention, Article VI of the US Constitution, and the
Eighth Amendment of the Bill of Rights by legalizing torture.
And let’s not forget
the “dignity” of state-sanctioned murder. The United States
is one of the very few “democracies” that has not abolished
the death penalty. In 2003, China, Vietnam, Iran and the United States
accounted for 84% of the world’s executions.(1) If one accepts
the corporate media spin on China, Iran and Vietnam, the “leading
democracy” is hanging out with the wrong crowd. Or is there just
the tiniest of possibilities that the United States government engages
in oppressive policies too?
Would the US “democracy’s”
government’s protection of minorities include the perpetuation
of slavery, the execution of abolitionist John Brown, Jim Crow laws
facilitated by Plessy vs. Ferguson, the Native American genocide, the
Japanese Internment, racist drug laws, and lack of response to Katrina?
What would best exemplify
the US government’s efforts to secure the rights of labor? The
state-sanctioned murders of Albert Parsons, August Spies, Adolph Fischer,
and George Engel? How about the 26 workers killed (and 172 arrested)
by the National Guard at the Ludlow mining colony? Or the government’s
rush to enforce George Pullman “right” to exploit his workforce?
Would the Taft-Hartley Act be a shining example? Perhaps the pompadoured
darling of the US aristocracy and his firing of striking PATCO workers?
Maybe it would be the sub poverty level minimum wage stagnated since
1997? Or the 46 million Americans without health insurance? Perchance
could it be the NLRB’s recent decision which will prevent 8 million
workers from unionizing? With such a dizzying array of choices, one
can hardly settle on just one.
And how has the world’s
“shining beacon of democracy” acted to raise the status
of women? Women Suffragists battled long and hard to amend the Constitution
so that women could vote. It only took 130 years of tireless effort
by the people to overcome government obstructions (i.e. the Supreme
Court’s Minor vs. Happersett ruling that enabled states to limit
suffrage to men in spite of the Fourteenth Amendment). The Equal Rights
Amendment was conceived in 1923 and is still not incorporated into the
US Constitution. Hiding behind the claim that it would threaten national
sovereignty, the US “democracy” has refused to ratify the
international women’s bill of rights called CEDAW (since 1980).
In 2002, the nation which has done so much to “raise the status
of women” accounted for 70% of women murder victims amongst industrialized
countries.(2) While women have outnumbered men throughout most of its
history, the United States is one of the few developed nations where
a woman has not served as head of state and currently only 15.1% of
the US Congress is female.(3)
According to Bush and his
script-writers, the nation from which democracy bubbles forth like pure
water from the mouth of a spring has done more to channel human energy
to the pursuits of peace than any other system of government. Given
the magnitude of that deception, Orwell would probably have identified
it as Quadruplespeak. With 5% of the Earth’s human population,
the United States accounts for half of the world’s war expenditures.
Over 100 countries are subjected to the “benign” presence
of US military bases. The US is home to the world’s largest stockpile
of WMD’s and is the only nation to have unleashed nuclear weapons
on civilian populations. American military intervention led to the slaughter
of anywhere from 250,000 to one million Filipino civilians(4) and an
estimated four million Vietnamese.(5) 200,000 Central Americans died
thanks to the “pursuit of peace” by the Reagan Regime.(6)
Over one hundred thousand Iraqi civilians are dead thanks to the Bush
Doctrine of preemptive war. Positing the United States as a champion
of peace is akin to praising Jeff Skilling’s selfless concern
for Enron employees and shareholders.
No abundance here
Obviously, democracy is in
very short supply in the United States. And it has been from the nation’s
birth. Even the Constitutional Republic which the Founding Fathers intended
has steadily frayed over time. But why stop with these examples of the
rapidly approaching extinction of the populist visions of the more enlightened
Founding Fathers when there are so many more?
How democratic is the United
States’ income tax system? Using the oppressive threat of the
nearly omnipotent IRS, the federal government extorts money and spends
it according to the whims of a president placed in office by the Electoral
College (or Katherine Harris and Diebold) and a Congress rife with members
so beholden to corporations that they don’t dare cross their patrons
by truly representing voters’ interests. Riddled with loopholes,
tax laws too complex for a Cray supercomputer to decipher enable corporations
and the wealthy to shelter their income from taxation in a multitude
of ways. And the federal tax burden is increasingly shifting onto the
backs of working class people. Between 1977 and 2003, the percentage
of tax revenues collected from corporations fell from 14.4% to 7.7%
while the percentage derived from payroll taxes rose from 29.9% to 40%.(7)
Ironically, the world’s
“leading democracy” has the highest rate of incarceration.
As of April of 2005, there were 2.1 million US Americans under the supervision
of the penal system, an increase of 2.3% from the previous year.(8)
China, a nation with four times the population of the United States
and a frequent target of critics of human rights violators, jails fewer
people than the “paragon of democracy”.
Sixty percent of US Americans
now oppose the war in Iraq.(9) As of October 8, 2006, George Bush had
a 41% job approval rating(10), an April Washington Post poll showed
that 33% of Americans wanted George Bush impeached and removed from
office(11), and the shocking violations of domestic and international
law by the Bush Regime leave Nixon and Clinton looking like little leaguers.(12)
Yet in the “great democracy”, Bush and company continue
to commit mass murder and grand larceny with impunity as they implement
an agenda which favors their aristocratic “base” and exploits
most of those they “represent”.
Oppressive legislation advanced
by the Bush Cabal and timorously rubber-stamped by Congress has finally
relieved the US plutocracy of the onerous burden of the Bill of Rights.
The Patriot Act and Military Commissions Act of 2006 effectively torpedo
most of the US citizenry’s Constitutional protections from the
tyranny of its “democratic government”.
Certainly the United States
ruling elite can truthfully credit themselves for allowing a high degree
of free speech. In fact, when their democratic nature is attacked, their
tolerance of free expression by dissidents is usually their first line
of defense. Yet in a nation in which 90% of the media market is controlled
by just six major corporations(13) and where a majority of the inhabitants
are bribed and conditioned to reflexively reject challenges to the “American
Way” as products of irrational minds, godless Communists, spoiled
whiners, or terrorists, how much does “free speech” actually
contribute to true democracy? While dissenting messages do win some
hearts and minds, they are usually drowned out by a blaring chorus of
mind-numbing corporate media reassurances that the United States is
God’s gift to humanity that is incapable of wrong-doing.
Yes, democracy in the United
States is but a pleasant fiction that never existed. And with the passage
of time, it has become more of an unattainable fantasy than a dream
to be realized.
What to do?
It is unlikely that a significant
number of people in the United States will find the motivation to pierce
the simulacrum until they have experienced severe hardship or pain.
Many US Americans are not even aware that their enslaved psyches condemn
them to an existential hell of spiritual vacuousness, blind loyalty
to a ruthless empire, and obsessive devotion to a predatory economic
system. And many of those who do become aware don’t care as long
as they can continue to relish heaping portions of fat-laden addictive
repasts from the ubiquitous Golden Arches, to intellectually gorge themselves
with the brain candy eagerly proffered by the corporate media as propagandistic
seeds sown into the rich soil of otherwise fallow minds, to make Faustian
bargains with Visa to adorn their walls with plasma televisions of elephantine
proportions , and to drive urban assault vehicles capable of transporting
small armies and ensuring that they will dominate the road.
Given humankind’s United
States-led pursuit of self-destruction, an economic, ecological, or
humanitarian cataclysm is virtually inevitable at some point. However,
there is a silver lining. The survivors who rise from the ashes like
the mythical Phoenix will be blessed with a second chance. And let’s
hope those Founding Parents will have the wisdom to remake civilization
according to truly democratic, just, and humane principles.
Jason Miller is a wage slave of the American Empire
who has freed himself intellectually and spiritually. He writes prolifically,
his essays have appeared widely on the Internet, and he volunteers at
a homeless shelter. He welcomes constructive correspondence at firstname.lastname@example.org
or via his blog, Thomas Paine's Corner, at http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com/.
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