Friday Two Cents: America You Did This To Yourselves


twoCentsOldNew

 

It would seem that the entire world is looking to the United States to see the entertaining drama that is unfolding in their political arena. The media in America, Europe and in here in Canada is bringing the public endless coverage of the new president’s actions and his miss steps as they call it. I for one have also fallen for this spectacle and as a student of human behaviour and politics, a particular interest of mine; I could not but take in this phenomenon.

Wherever I look I see people arguing against the new US President Donald John Trump. There are those who do support him of course but for the most part the media has been showing protests against the polices of this new president. I have observed all this and I could not help make connections to other points in human history where something similar may have happened. The transformation of the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire, France in the 18th century, 20th century Italy and Germany and countless other examples. Therefore I began researching and came upon a news video by Andrew Sullivan that compares the writing of Plato’s Republic to the political and social activities of democracy and the current atmosphere in the US. The video is entitled ‘Viewpoint: What can Plato teach us about Donald Trump? – BBC Newsnight’ and I have provided a link for you to view it below. After viewing the video and doing my own research I have come up with an interesting conclusion. All of the people of the United States, whether for or against the New president’s polices or beliefs; have placed this individual into power and I have broken it down into three arguments.  

 

us_voteThe first argument comes from my research into the eligible voters and who cast a vote for whom. The total number of eligible voters was 231,732,000; the number that actually voted was 128,843,000. As you can see from the chart, 25.6% voted for Trump, 25.7% for Clinton, 4.2% for another candidate and 44.4% did not cast a vote. The quote ‘Democracy is not the will of the majority but the will of those who show up’, has never been more present. For even though he won the electoral vote, which is what counts in the end, there were 44.4% of the population that basically said “Whom ever wins I will accept it.” Therefore the argument can be made that Donald Trump won with 70% of the eligible voters, for the silent majority, by not casting a vote, silently supported Donald Trump. Hence he did win the popular vote.
plato_republic01The second argument comes from an examination of Plato’s Republic. In it Socrates is having a discussion with colleagues about the nature of politics and how the different politic systems can change into another. One such statement that he makes is ‘tyranny springs from democracy’ Socrates. Socrates argues that democracy is formed from the belief that everyone is equal and everyone has the freedom to do whatever he or she wishes. Additionally, the longer a democracy exists the greater the equality and freedoms. Then with all this freedom you thereby become a slave to the system of democracy. For within the system, can there be a limit to liberty?
For with a democracy of this level, private becomes public where anyone seen as an aristocratic is therefore vilified for having more than being equal to the rest and accused of being oligarchs. Slaves will be equal to citizens or foreigners will work as equals to citizens. Animals will also have rights as people. Parents will fear their children for they will be on the same level as their children and the children will have no respect for their parents. Teachers will fear their students. Finally, men and women will be equal with their differences removed from them so that there will be no trace to differentiate them. Sound familiar?
socrates-painting01Then within this unlimited amount of liberty ‘will spring a tyrant’ says Socrates. He will arise from the democracy, from this excess of liberty as a member of the ruling class, the traders or the richest of the classes. He comes out as a protector, a champion of the masses. The protector of the people will have ‘the mob at his disposal’ says Socrates. He is driven out of his class but then brought back in. For then the fears of the people are for him and not for themselves. Then when he ascends he will overthrow the many standing up to him. He then grows his power be disposing of the foreign enemies and for anyone who resists he will call them enemies until they are destroyed.   For this reason then the protector must always be at war. Then the more the masses flock to him the more the people will give up their liberties and thereby democracy reverses. Then the protector becomes a tyrant.
consumerism01With this look into Socrates’ transformation of democracy into a tyranny, laid out in Plato’s Republic, we see that the system of democracy has laid out the groundwork for the arrival of the tyrant. Yet there is one aspect Socrates had not for seen and it is the third part of my argument; Consumerism. Consumerism is defined as ‘the protection or promotion of the interests of consumers; is often derogatory the preoccupation of society with the acquisition of consumer goods.’ When a society that values equality and freedom is merged with the acquisition of consumer goods the product is what we see in the United States. If everyone is equal than everyone should be paid equally, live in a beautiful home, have wonderful things that they enjoy. Yet consumerism is also associated with greed. The more we have the more we want. And from this atmosphere breeds the resentment of mistrust in the lower and middle classes of society for the upper class or in their eyes aristocrats.
Therefore when I see the media and citizens arguing on how this could have happened and saying it is not their fault, the evidence is very plain to see. This entire situation is a product of their-own making. “Made in America’ as it were. With the belief in democracy (everyone is equal and freedom for all), yet with the reality of the inequality in the society has created voter empathy that has translated into what we have seen in the United States. Americans only have themselves to blame for this situation. The equation of freedom and equality can be met within a democratic society, yet when you add excessive consumerism into the mix, human nature comes into play and competition for recourses and personal greed muddies the water.
democracy-word-cloud-10093433Therefore what can we take from this lesson. Yes the situation is bleak, but as long as the belief in democracy is still alive, the power will always remain in the hands of the people. Speaking as a Canadian who has lived through a time when the political leaders constantly waged war with everything and everyone, where the leader ruled as a tyrant, the power remained in the hands of the people. Then came the time for the people to make a stand and say what kind of country they wanted. More of the tyrannical regime or hope for the future; the people made their choice for hope. The spirit of democracy will always endure, one simply needs to have the courage to stand and cast their vote for hope.
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