Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Fundamental Difference...

I think I've discovered a rather pernicious democratic motive that is very present in our system today. There is a certain type of voter, I fear that it is the majority of voters actually, that votes because they think government exists as a means of legislating "right" and "wrong." I personally have huge issues with this. My main issue: This type of thinking destroys democracies.

What's more is the fact that the parties realize this and utilize it to motivate their base into voting. Issues like gay rights, abortion, and stem cell research come up as these flamingly important issues (when in reality they're on the periphery of importance, if on the radar at all) and they create enough excitement within the constituency to drive people to the polls. If you get to the polls, great, but don't don't DON'T vote for moral issues! Let me try and explain myself.

Democracy thrives on competition of ideas, on difference, on arbitration. My first fear is that legislating morality creates an environment where this type of arbitration is no longer able to exist. It becomes illegal. That's a worst-case scenario, but it's still a legitimate fear of mine. If worse comes to worse, the government shifts from a democracy to an oligarchy of sorts where those who have the "right" morality have authority and those with the "wrong" morality (my use of the word "morality" here refers to only specific controversial issues such as abortion and gay rights. Issues like murder and rape, which are almost universally and unanimously agreed to be immoral, are left out of this statement) are second-class citizens no longer allowed to have an opinion in our government because they're homosexual or have had an abortion.

There is of course a more practical side to this issue. People don't realize they're being used via morality issues. The middle class in particular is being hijacked by the Republican party who doesn't give a damn about them. Candidates like George Bush used moral issues to win over the middle class (who has been known to be morally conservative) and then destroyed them economically with his deregulated, winner-takes-all capitalism. Republicans use the middle class's moral issues to get into office and then grease it up and stick it in. It's terrible, but it's the fault of the voter. Voting in a democracy requires high levels of education on the issues not only to ensure you know exactly what you're voting for and how it will affect you, but also so you can hold candidates accountable and not let them get away with anything. Democracy requires intelligent, inquisitive, wary people or it will collapse.

I suppose at the ground floor of this is a fundamental difference in the idea of what a democracy is. Many people think government is the ultimate soap-box. It's the perfect place to spout your ideas and bash people over the head with them. After all, if you can legislate your opinions, doesn't that make you right?

Sadly, this is the kind of thinking that allows democracy to collapse. As stated above, democracy thrives only in a setting of intense debate, of struggle, of battling over issues. In order to keep that alive, we have to use our government to give a voice to those without voices. We have to seek out those who don't have the money to be in Washington speaking for themselves and protect their thoughts. We have to treat the minority as the royalty that they are; after all, they're what allows our amazing government to be so amazing. Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of peaceable assembly, etc. These aren't cutesy ideas. They're the framework of a successful democracy and when people vote on moral issues and in that way try to rid the country of the minority, they ironically vote away their much loved "freedom."


rob winger said...

marco--when you try to understand people, remember this quote from george carlin: "think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that."
whereas i believe most people are fairly intellegent, carlin has a very good point. half of us are below average.

Anonymous said...

Marco--Know your limits. Among other things, people become depressed when they fight for things they can not change. Don't try to change the world. All you can do is be positive and hope the "Pay it Forward" mentality catches.

Remember the idea that if we forget the past, we are condemned to relive it? That swings both ways. There is no such thing as the good old days. Memories in picture books are almost always good. Keep looking forward and you'll find yourself in the middle of "those good ol' days!"
Best Wishes!