“Freedom and Democracy”
by John Stahl
What went wrong with America? I remember, when I was young, everyone looked up to America – the land of Freedom and Democracy, the land of Opportunity. The United States was founded with very high ideals, and for many years it represented the cutting edge of progressive political ideology.
And now it is mired in opprobrium, all over the world. There are very few places left in the world where an American can go freely and safely, unless he makes it very clear that he does not support his government. Wave an American flag almost anywhere in the world, and you risk becoming a target of hatred. Almost all of the “weapons of mass destruction” originate from the United States, and the United States is about the only country that doesn’t mind using them, unilaterally, in a first strike, in a war of aggression against helpless people who can resist, but cannot fight back effectively. I am disgusted that only America’s war dead are counted – ten or twenty Iraqis may be killed for every American, but no one really cares much about that. It is the same way in Israel — if three Israeli soldiers are killed, the Israelis feel justified in killing several hundred Palestinians, in retaliation.
What is going on, and why? I think the answer can be found by looking a bit more closely at some of the language being used to defend the war against the Iraqi people. All they talk about is “bringing Freedom and Democracy to the Iraqi people” as if that were what they are doing, or trying to do, or want to do.
Oh, no — any look at the recent history of the United States will indicate clearly enough that neither Freedom nor Democracy rate very high at all in the Halls of Power of the United States government. Any two-bit, tin-horn military dictator will do just nicely, and the United States government will be just happy to support the same, with military back-up if needed, and against the angry and rioting people of the dictator’s country, just so long as the said dictator will ensure a favorable environment for United States Business Interests. Oh. Now it becomes clear – there is really nothing going on at all about Democracy and/or Freedom – it is all about Money. Didn’t you know? And you thought it was Love that makes the world go round.
Thomas Jefferson had it all figured out over two hundred years ago – the longer a government or political system remains in power, the more the wealth and power become concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. In fact, the history of the United States is basically the history of that consolidation of wealth and power into ever fewer hands. Thomas Jefferson’s solution was to suggest that every law whatsoever, including the fundamental Constitution of a State (yes, that Constitution) should naturally expire at the end of 27 years, which was Jefferson’s calculation of the average age of a generation. His intention was to declare that no people had the authority to pass laws binding upon future generations. Every generation must have not only the right, but also the responsibility, to create their own laws and political institutions.
However, even this would not really change much. It takes really major upheavals in social and political systems to interrupt the process of consolidation of wealth and power into fewer and fewer hands. So all of this talk about “Democracy and Freedom” is all a sham – no one is the least bit interested in Democracy or Freedom, not any more. As for Democracy, both of George W. Bush’s elections have been fraudulently stolen with the connivance of institutions of wealth and power. And as for Freedom – well, the United States suffers the highest rate of incarceration in the world – no other nation even comes close. (“If we run out of space, we’ll build more prisons!” – Bush, with his simple solution to every problem.)
What annoys me is that no one really seems to notice this deception – people hear the claim that Bush’s wars are being fought for “Freedom and Democracy” and everyone seems to believe it. Oh, yes – Freedom and Democracy – what a wonderful idea! Who could possibly be against Freedom and Democracy? Bush seems to take it for granted that his idea of Freedom and Democracy are so ardently desired by everyone that there can not possibly be any other way of viewing the matter.
Never mind that the horrors unleashed upon the Iraqi people have so vastly overshadowed the remotest possibility of anything that Saddam Hussein might ever have done, or that the country of Iraq is so devastated that it can never recover (the use of depleted uranium alone makes the land uninhabitable for the next 10,000 years – the sickness and death caused by the use of this material, dating back to the first Gulf War, are overshadowed by the current much more visible death and destruction).
I want to make it clear that I am not an apologist for Saddam Hussein (never mind, again, that he was a creature supported by the United States in the first place) – but the high ground of international politics has always been held by Diplomacy, not Warfare. In politer centuries, where the political leaders had more of a grasp of history, Diplomacy was the way to maneuver on the world stage. Saddam Hussein could easily have been hemmed in diplomatically for as long as necessary – until the man dies of old age, if need be – to prevent any unleashing of weapons of mass destruction, real or imaginary. But, no, such a course of action does not appeal to the American Cowboy, who wants his results Now! If the Iraqis (or anyone else – take notice here!) do not knuckle under to the demands of the only Superpower left strutting the stage, then they will be blasted into the Stone Age by Shock and Awe, and don’t you forget it.
So what can we do about this horrible situation? Now that the greatest source of political instability in the world is coming from the country with the strongest military might – now what? What can the people of the rest of the world do against such an arrogant monster?
This is a very complex problem. It is very easy to look at the mistakes of the American government and shake our heads in dismay and disgust, but now what?
I want to divide my answer into two parts – the immediate problem and the long term solution. As for the immediate problem, it cannot be solved by any action from outside the country. Suicide bombers in New York and Chicago will not make any changes for the better. In fact, war always makes things worse than they were before. If I may make a brief digression here, let me explain why the island of Crete enjoyed such a high level of civilization so long ago – quite simply, it was an island of just the right size – small enough to be governed by a single government, yet large enough to enjoy sufficient diversity of production, education, artistic development, and so on, and, most importantly, as an island it was safe from the ravages of foreign attack. It enjoyed over a thousand years of uninterrupted peace and prosperity, which very directly led to the flowering of civilization in all its forms. It was only with the development of large ships of war (from other lands) that the island became vulnerable to attack by foreign conquerors, and the island and its civilization were quickly reduced to rubble.
So the lesson is that Peace and Prosperity bring civilization, and War brings desolation, death, and destruction. During times of war, people lose everything they have – their land, their wealth, their food, their families – and all they have left is anger and desperation, and the determination to bring down as many of the enemy with them as they die. Not good.
No, the only hope for the survival of life on earth is to effect a gradual uplifting of spiritual consciousness, world-wide. An “uplifting of spiritual consciousness,” in case you didn’t realize it, is not brought about by conditions of constant warfare. War just depresses the spiritual consciousness more and more, in a cycle that spirals downward deeper and deeper into the morass, like the situation in the Middle East, which has been deteriorating for over a thousand years, ever since the Crusades, and with no end in sight. In this connection, George Bush’s usage of the term “Crusade” with regard to his war in Iraq was a particularly unfortunate choice of words, reminding the Moslems of the last time the Christians came a-conquering. And, by the way, it may be instructive to notice that the first Crusades had as little to do with rescuing the Holy Land from the Infidel as Bush’s war has to do with bringing Democracy and Freedom to the Iraqi people – all of the “Christian” barons and knights were attracted to the Crusade by the hope of plunder – so what else is new?
So there is only one hope for the survival of life on earth (I do not think I overstate the case) – and that is that the American people must pull the wool back from over their eyes and reverse the last fifty years of American foreign policy (I go all the way back to Vietnam). I remember just after 9/11 when Bush was making his pitch for a war in Iraq – (Iraq? I thought 9/11 was all about Afghanistan? Do you know why they never found Osama bin Laden? He has been hiding out in the East Wing of the White House.) – he was riding high on the indignation over the 9/11 attacks, and everyone felt it a patriotic duty (remember the “Patriot Act”?) to support the President (self appointed) in his mindless war against the people of Iraq.
Finally (July of 2006), his ratings are finally down into the 20’s and plunging fast. That is the most hopeful sign – perhaps the American people can be forgiven their slowness off the mark – at least finally the whole fiasco in Iraq, in which the folly of an American “President,” having fraudulently stolen his election in the first place, is being seen for what it is, the most appalling mistake in the history of the United States. Nothing short of an immediate withdrawal of all American troops, accompanied by a profound apology and reconstruction funds (“war reparations”) can possibly reverse the slide of the American government into the status of a total renegade, unfit to stand with the honorable nations of the world. By the way, I heard the most sensible plan for ending American involvement in the war in Iraq from Noam Chomsky — “Put the troops on trucks, and head for the border.”
The American political process seems to be way too turgid and ponderous, moving much too slowly, yet it finally appears that the elections of 2008 should provide the beginning of a new direction, while George W. is rudely hustled out of town, riding on a rail, tarred and feathered. However, if the political process is disappointing, please take another look at the Declaration of Independence, or, click here for an even tighter edit of that famous document.
Now as to the somewhat more difficult problem of long term solutions, I hardly know how to begin. It is so much easier to pull something down that it is to build something up. While any moron can see the folly of Bush’s actions (except, of course, Bush – he is not up to the level of a moron; he is an idiot), it is not at all so easy to figure out how to prevent the “Thomas Jefferson syndrome” – whereby the longer a government remains in place, the more the wealth and power become concentrated in ever fewer hands. The problem, of course, is that the agenda of the wealthy and powerful is not necessarily in the best interests of the survival of life on earth.
There is no great mystery about the agenda of the wealthy and powerful – it is very simple. It is to maintain the wealth and power in the hands of the wealthy and powerful. Thus, as long as big corporations are able to make profits in Iraq, it is all good. Even while this war is going on, huge profits are being made by corporations funded by the government – a corporation thinks nothing of vaporizing $900 million out of every billion dollars funded to them by the government, as long as there is that last $100 million that can go into their own pockets – in case you didn’t know, this is the way the world works, and if you have to ask who pays the bill for the losses, you are not paying attention.
So, what is needed is some sort of institution that can rise above and counter-balance that inevitably rising tide of Wealth and Power. Unfortunately, “democracy” as it is known and practiced by the Americans just does not measure up. The government is inevitably run by the wealthy and powerful. If anyone ever does rise up into those ranks from the “other half,” they either quickly sponge up the ideals of the wealthy and powerful, so happy to have made the climb into their exalted ranks, or they are just squelched and rendered powerless and ineffective by those lofty powers, and life goes on untroubled.
So the original notion of “checks and balances” was a good one, but it needs a bit of touching up, since there is neither check nor balance to the impact of Big Money. True, the electorate can always (in theory; in principle) vote the villains out of office (too little, too late. Look what devastation can be caused by a couple of terms with an imbecile at the helm of the Ship of State — a “loose cannon” fits in nicely with this metaphor), but, in the advanced stages of the reign of Wealth and Power, the Wealthy and Powerful simply sweep aside any such obstacles – witness George W. Bush’s dual theft of his “elections.” (“More Trees! Less Bush!”)
If I didn’t know that George W. Bush is illiterate, I might have thought he had been reading The Republic, by Plato. Plato’s Republic is a very remarkable work. Among other recommendations for how to run a State, it blandly avers that “by all means, a government should surely hold elections, since the people like to believe that they are participating in their government. However, after everyone has voted, the agents of the government should simply discard the votes and announce who won.” That is exactly what happened in the last two elections – the votes were discarded, and the government simply announced who won. Plato then goes on to say, “Then if any one at all is to have the privilege of lying, the rulers of the State should be the persons; and they, in their dealings either with enemies or with their own citizens, may be allowed to lie for the public good.”
I am trying to clarify the problem here, and then to recommend some solutions. There may be a variety of ways to overcome the problem, but I will start out with a very general overview of a kind of solution that is not too radical for contemporary consideration, at least in its general outlines – I think, in general, there is a distinct advantage in a Parliamentary system that is common in Europe in which there is some Head of State that is separate from the Government. Governments come and go and are usually as corrupt as they can manage to be, while it is the function of the Head of State to exercise some limiting and/or moderating influence over the government. That is, instead of an all-powerful President, you have a Prime Minister who is, at least in theory, subordinate to the Head of State.
I am aware that I have not advanced the argument very far yet – the problem is similar to the question, “Who made God?” How are we going to select a Head of State who will be above the power-and-money-grubbing level of the typical politician? A constitutional monarchy can sometimes be a workable solution, at least when it has a historical background that has proven adequate to offer some useful counter-weight to the untrammeled power of the President or Prime Minister. However, there are so many problems with this form – where it may be successful in Thailand, it is a disaster in Nepal. No, when looking for a new solution, we have to look further.
My own proposal seems to cause elevated eyebrows whenever I suggest it, because it seems to sound like I am trying to set up yet another tyranny, when, in fact, my object is totally the reverse – the successful institution of a Head of State would function to limit the otherwise out-of-control power of whoever has seized control of the government at the moment.
My solution, admittedly a bit arcane, rests on the assumption that political authority must come ultimately from God. Great – so now all we need is some reliable way to discover an incarnation of God on earth who may be able to provide the guidance so sorely needed in today’s world. Actually, I believe this can be done. My original model was the Dalai Lama of Tibet, in which the incarnation of a lama is discovered as a very young child, who is then raised for his position from his early years. In fact, this method achieves its objective – it establishes a spiritual leader who very clearly derives his inspiration from God.
All I want to do is to modify the concept from a single choice to a whole Seminary – I propose the establishment of a Seminary composed of carefully selected young people, male and female, who will themselves select one of their number to fill the role of spiritual leader, or Head of State. Careful readers of this site will recognize this idea from the organizational structure of the Church of the Living Tree (see The Church of the Living Tree – Articles of Organization, and New Solutions – The Seminary). (By the way, the problem of who makes the selection for this Seminary is not critical – I have faith in any group of young people to understand their mandate and become self-regulating, regardless of the original intentions that went into their selections.)
For some reason, most people seem to react with alarm to this idea, perhaps because it is a bit too radical to be washed down with either the after dinner coffee or even a glass of Port. As for me, I have every confidence not only that anyone raised for the purpose would be a vast (incalculable!) improvement over the political victors of the American political process, but that a school of perhaps thirty such persons, carefully selected and raised with every advantage, would easily select a suitable candidate who would have no other motivation than to fulfill his or her obligations with the most appropriate actions. Remember, I am not so much trying to put forward yet another all powerful tyrant as I am trying to create an institution that will provide some counter-weight to the excesses of the American political system.
If George W. Bush were only Prime Minister, and the Dalai Lama were the Head of State, we would never have gotten involved in that folly and madness in Iraq.
Don’t like my idea? Don’t bother to offer criticism unless you have some better way to deal with loose cannons like Bush, rattling around on the world’s deck! I don’t want to hear why my plan is no good – I want to hear why your plan is better.
The Evanescent Press