The Founding Fathers created a new kind of democracy, one that has impacted regimes all around the world since the US Constitution became law. But since then the very word “democracy” has acquired both a positive connotation and multiple definitions. The standard definition is rule by the people, whether direct as in a town hall-style government or the representative republic the Founding Fathers espoused. But George Orwell makes provocative statements about the further meaning of that word in his essay “Politics and the English Language”:
In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning.
The dictionary at answers.com has some surprising definitions, in addition to “rule by the people”:
• The common people, considered as the primary source of political power.
• Majority rule.
• The principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community.
These meanings go a bit beyond “rule by the people” and explore what that rule theoretically leads to: social equality, respect, majority rule…hence the word’s positive connotation. But perhaps Orwell’s most provocative statement is that the defenders of all regimes take advantage of democracy’s meaning.
The question now is: when is a regime truly a democracy? Or in the case of the United States, how much of the actions of elected representatives are truly representative of the majority’s interest? Is South Carolina a democratic state if its governor uses taxpayer money to go to Argentina? Certainly that was more in his personal interest than in that of South Carolina’s majority.
Changes come from the bottom, not the top. As everyone knows, Obama championed the vague concept of “change” to the American people throughout his campaign. And of course everyone ate it up because eight years of a right wing war criminal in office will do serious brain damage to you. So, people wanted a Democrat to fuck things up once again. Anyway, as history demonstrates major societal changes, such as severely kicking racism square in the pills (though it’s alive and well and still needs ass whooping)come through the struggles of everyday people and then the elites react to it. Your history and government textbooks want you to believe the opposite: the elitists, like the Supreme Court randomly decided to battle racism and end legal segregation in the South. Yes, it’s true that that wasn’t the top priority for the majority of America, but as Abbie Hoffman once stated, “You measure a democracy by the freedom it gives its dissidents, not the freedom it gives its assimilated conformists.” Well, the black rights and civil rights activists, such as Richard Wright and Rosa Parks, and countless others were the “dissidents” and the American people were the “assimilated conformists.” In simple terms, democracy is everyone’s opportunity to participate and have a major influence in the political process. Not mob rule as school an TV have led you to believe. So, the very idea that Obama will clean up the mess of the Bush Administration and previous administrations through health care reform, abortion reform, etc. is absurd. The social ills affecting everyone, particularly the poverty stricken people he doesn’t care that much about, cannot be obliterated through reforms because reforms imply that the system is well intentioned and good, but needs some tidying up. WRONG! you never hear a politician say “we’re doing our best to reform rape” or “With our new program we plan to seriously reform child abuse.” Of course not! because we want to ABOLISH the evils of rape and child abuse. In short, we don’t need reforms, we need changes…. but don’t look to your pal Barry for that, look to one another and create some real dialogue.