Democracy: New words needed; Apply within

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Today I had a disturbing thought: what if we no longer have a single word sufficient to describe our ideals of “for the people, by the people” government. Societies develop new words as certain concepts become relevant enough to require concise differentiation from others. That is why we have one-hundred different ways to describe our Waffle House hash browns, while (if my fourth grade teacher is to be believed) the Inuit have equally many words to describe snowfall.

Maybe I’m just too young to realize, but it seems that the word “democracy” used to be a pretty powerful one: it encompassed not just the voting process but the very ideals by which a society held themselves accountable. Today, the word too often seems a hollowed shell, used to describe the mechanism of electoral voting and nothing more.

The problem is, having a ballot box doesn’t guarantee representation, self determinism, or personal liberty, unless a lot of other factors come into play along with it. It is the casual failure to examine the death of these other factors that scares me. To get an idea about what I mean, here’s a relevant clip from a documentary about Fox News. For the politically minded, please remember that the finger I’m pointing is at everyone in the abstract – this Fox News example is simply one I found in a short period of time. I’m not talking about Right or Left here, I’m talking about self-determinism.


The problem is, the sheer mechanics of voting isn’t enough. The votes have to mean something. That means that the public has to be fairly informed. The voter registration process has to be easy and fair. The populace has to be free from fear of rebuke. The elections free from fixing. And the nation not a slave to debt.

For each one of those qualities, any number of nations could be found that are “democratic” in mechanism, but trapped under oppression of some means in reality. The American public, with consent manufactured via Hollywood style news that tells us what to think instead of showing us the world; the nations of South America and South-East Asia, trapped in World Bank debts crafted so deftly around them; Eastern Europe, where you know who you’re supposed to vote for, but who’s counting anyway?

A parting, that I’m pretty sure is fabricated, but nonetheless poingant:

I have the greatest admiration for your propaganda. Propaganda in the West is carried out by experts who have had the best training in the world – in the field of advertising – and have mastered the techniques with exceptional proficiency…Yours are subtle and persuasive; ours are crude and obvious…I think that the fundamental difference between our worlds, with respect to propaganda, is quite simple. You tend to believe yours…and we tend to disbelieve ours.