Friday, January 29, 2010

Democracy

In discussing the reading for today's class, the five of us at my table started talking about how the attitude towards children changes depending on the politics and social norms of the time, as well as where you are culturally. I commented how here in America, we are very into Democracy...and Capitalism. I trailed off thoughtfully.

"They're not really the same thing," J, the guy sitting next to me, agreed when he saw me struggling to make sense of what I was saying.

I struggled because it seems to me that Democracy has taken on new meanings lately. I don't know if this is really a new thing or if I only just now became aware of political and social trends (probably a mix of both), but it seems as though people throw around the word "Democracy" in order to prove their entitlement to...everything. Anything should be allowed. After all, we live in a free country. We believe in Democracy. It would be un-Democratic to suppress any way of living or state of being. In this country, all deserve to have money. All deserve to succeed. All deserve to live comfortable lives. All deserve to behave however they like so long as it does not harm anyone else. All deserve everything - in the name of Democracy. In the name of Democracy, there is a desire for automatic entitlement to things without earning it; people believe they ought to have things coming to them just because they live on American soil.

Similarly, Democracy suddenly seems to stand for an overabundance of Political Correctness. It is like there is a warped idea of what it means not to discriminate against others. We are so afraid of stepping on anyone's toes that we have made ourselves ridiculous. Our pride and common sense has disappeared and we have become a community of people-pleasers, no matter who those people are or what they stand for.

Is this what the founding fathers of America meant when they created a Democratic system of government?

"No," I told J. "I think Democracy and Capitalism can be related."

I explained what I meant. To me, Democracy does not mean everyone gets free reign. It does not mean people can have whatever they want because it's a free country. To me, Democracy means everyone has the opportunity to have such things. You still have to work for it. There is still a need for competition. That's where Capitalism comes in. No one is entitled to anything. Those who work hard will rise. Those who do not - well...sorry. I feel as though America: the Land of Opportunity has somehow morphed into America: The Land of Entitlement. Entitlement is not what this country is about. The freedom in this country is the freedom to compete, to be heard, to matter. Everyone in our society is allowed to compete. Everyone is given a voice and a say. Everyone's opinions and individual successes matter. In other societies, certain social and economic classes are suppressed, are never allowed the opportunity to rise, to succeed. In America, all can do so. All can rise. All can succeed. But they have to work for it. And the more we compete, the more we all succeed as a society. That's the relationship I see between Democracy and Capitalism. Democracy (among other things, like the right to vote) gives us the opportunity for all to partake in a Capitalist society.

Part of our reading for class talked about children developing a sense of self. This is true not only for children, but for adults as well. Before we can become effective members of society, we must have a certain self-awareness. We must understand what precisely makes each of us individuals.
Individuality is precisely that: a sense of self. Being an individual is not being not-others; it is not going against the norm. That is not having a sense of self, but rather wishing to be not whatever anyone else is. A true individual is one who is, not one who is not. The individual is one who is true to him/herself: who truly thinks, feels, and behaves according to what he/she believes is true and correct. This is not a reaction to others, but a reaction to yourself. This is a sense of self.

A society made up of those with a true sense of self is a society of individuals, and our nature as individuals leads us to healthy competition. If we are truly such a society, we will be one that is self-aware, and therefore critical, constantly growing and trying to better itself. We need to see our strengths, and we really need to see our flaws. We need to be aware of who we are, what we stand for, and why we stand for it. And we need to keep our rights as individuals faced with opportunities, we need to take those opportunities, and we need to work towards a better world.

8 comments:

harry-er than them all said...

I've used and had this argument before. WHile democracy is 'life liberty and the pursuit of happiness', capitalism is the individualized economic system. In order for a system to be completely capitalist, you do require the most liberties as possible. Although, no economic system is devoid of certain limiting government factors. There has to be laws in some areas to limit economics. To protect the environment for instance. The people could decide that as important as building a wal-mart in the general vicinity may be, they do not want it there because of noise, asthetics, etc.

Or lets say the AMA (American Medical Association) technically it is anti free market, if i want to go to a guy who never stepped foot inside a med school to operate on me, why can't I? free market dictates that i can, but i won't so he will be put out of business. However, to an extent we want to create standards that will stop people from going to such a person

Jughead's Hat said...

I completely agree with most of what you are saying, although I don't necessarily think that there are as many opportunities for mobility as one might think. It's still a big story if a person makes it out of the slums to "make it big" in the world.

Erachet said...

Harry-er - Of course! That's why I said Democracy is not a free for all. It's not about having no rules. It's about giving people a say and providing equal opportunity.

Jughead's Hat - True. Not everyone has equal opportunity, although I feel that is what true Democracy stands for and we should strive towards that goal. Of course it's still a big story if someone goes from "rags to riches." That takes an incredible amount of discipline, work, and putting yourself out there. It takes failure after failure until you finally get it right. Most people don't go that far. That's why it's an unusual story. But that doesn't mean it's not an available story for anyone who wishes to pursue it. America does not hold anyone back from playing the game.

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

I'm sorry, but I would say the opposite: a democratic society should gave it's voters the right to chose the economic system of their government, yet socialist movements have been repressed throughout the previous century (mostly during the Cold War).

Anyway, you make it seem that the opposite of Capitalism is the "entitlement" of Socialism, which is untrue. Communism and other forms of Socialism thrive on an equal level of contribution through labor of all people.

Also, while Democracy might have close ties to Capitalism, the Democratic party is obviously positive towards some types of entitlement.

Erachet said...

I never said the opposite of Capitalism is Socialism. All I said was that "entitlement" does not have a place within Capitalism. You interpreted that to mean Socialism.

Also...you know Communism doesn't work, right?

And when I talked about Democracy, I wasn't referring to the Democratic party but to Democracy as a concept.

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

But the opposite of Capitalism IS Communism (perhaps I should have exchanged that for Socialism).

My belief is that, although Communism has gone out of fashion, it could work as a viable economic system were it given a proper chance, and that all attempts at Communist government until now were sorely lacking in the true spirit of Communism (the initial attempts at ancient Democracy were also flawed and short-lived).

I understand that, but there is at least a bit of correlation between the democratic ideal and the current policies of the American Democratic party.

Erachet said...

I would say the opposite of Communism is a Dictatorship, not Capitalism.

And of course there is correlation between the Democratic ideal and the American Democratic party. :) The issue is how people use the Democratic ideal, how they interpret it, etc.

There are too many issues with Communism for it to work, in my opinion.

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