Monday, August 08, 2005

R.I.P.

Goodbye Mr. Jennings.

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A Few Thoughts On Democracy

All men yearn to be free, thus we hold democracy to be the highest form of government. It is the governance of a nation with the will of the people being its foremost concern. However freedom is not merely the absence of restraints; it also entails the acceptance of responsibility for one's own self, as well as an obligation to respect the views of others. This means, not simply that one allows those one disagrees with to speak freely, but that one accepts their decisions, namely, when the majority vote into office a candidate that one finds disagreeable, it is incumbent upon one, if in the minority, to abide by that decision. It means that while one may speak out against those policies chosen by the majority of citizens of one's country, one must not obstruct or attempt to subvert the will of the people.

Ironically, freedom requires that one voluntarily restrain one self to a greater degree than would be asked in a dictatorship. Many a times, self discipline is far more challenging than the obeying of externally imposed rules, as it requires self-awareness, self-knowledge & a brutally honest assessment of one's own strengths & weaknesses. This is not an easy thing to do.

Perhaps the most dangerous enemy of democracy is hubris. As humans, we are by our nature egocentric. Were we to allow this base impulse to run amuck & hold our own opinion in a higher regard than that of others, it would be very easy to delude one-self into believing that subversion of the democratic process via overthrow of an elected government is justifiable as "I-know-better-than-those-idiots-who-voted-for- (fill in the blank)". In many ways the democratic political system & egalitarian social system hand-in-hand, perhaps this is one explanation for the difficulty in establishing democracy in some places.

One of the most challenging aspects of democracy is accepting the fact that one is bound to accept the choices of others, no matter how much one disagrees with them. As in a democracy, a government of the people, for the people by the people, the people are for the most part the majority, it can be argued that democracy is the tyranny of the majority. It is not easy to accept that a minority, no matter how large, is not justified in overthrowing a majority with whom they vehemently disagree. It means having faith in & respecting all voters of the country: at this time, that even includes Jane Fonda.

In way, being the "losers" in a democracy is a lot like being part of the "loser" crowd in high school. We all want to popular, we all want to be liked, we all like it when everyone agrees with us, & to realize that it isn't so, hurts. The democratic process means that we must all agree to disagree, a concept that is much easier said than done. The practice of democracy, as in any good thing, is challenging.

Yes, democracy is flawed & democracy is difficult, however, it is the best form of government on this earth. It is the only form of government which views all of its citizens as equals, no matter the accidents of birth such race & gender or attained status such as social class. Indeed, it is only in the ballot box of a democracy does the utopian fantasy of eradication of all social distinctions does come true, even momentarily. In there, it is one person, one vote & the vote of a truck driver carries the same weight as that of a Harvard professor. The democratic process serves as a correction for the persistent & inevitable social inequalities. The core ideals of democracy are equality & individual liberty, the noblest of ambitions. It is incumbent upon those of us who enjoy its privileges to defend it & share it with others.

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Delayed Reaction...

Two Jackson Jurors Regret Acquittal

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