Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Impatient Democracy

One of the main drawbacks towards our system of Democratic governance and ideals is the speed with which crucial changes occur. Because Democracy is dependent on the will of the majority, moral and ethical development is restrained by the evolving sensibilities of the populace. Although these changes can often be slow and rumbling, we have to accept the system as it provides us with the same democratic principles that help protect our interests. We may not always be happy with the will of the majority, but that is the system in which we operate. To help usher in progressive thinking, we must emphasize education over retaliation and the overuse of the judicial system.

When we look at the last two centuries of history, we're shocked at the antiquated moral and ethical beliefs the majority of the population held. Slavery for example was widely accepted and quotes from the Bible were used to justify the need to treat certain people as non-human property. There were many moral progressives, ranging from Quakers to enlightened Northerners who continued arguing for emancipation, even with the majority of people supporting enslavement. As time wore on and our sensibilities evolved, the majority came to realize that slavery was unjust. It still took a civil war, and a hundred subsequent years before the laws were changed to allow for universal equality between the races. As we progressed towards greater racial tolerance, we rightfully pressured those who still maintained archaic beliefs. When the South African government mandated Apartheid, the West was vehemently opposed, and through decades of sanctions and diplomatic pressure, we succeeded in ushering democratic changes. Still, it took many years before the sentiment had changed for the majority of Americans to suspend their racial divisiveness and elect the first black president. Yet, moral victory for the majority cannot be overwhelmingly claimed unless the climate of fear, and racial intolerance becomes even further diluted. To this day, there are a large number of seemingly enlightened and progressive people who still believe in racial inferiority, often missing the underlying socioeconomic factors, among other things. They refuse do acknowledge the vast non-biological cultural differences among peoples of the worlds, and use their preconceived notions of superiority to render peoples of different races as inferior. Lately, with greater genetic tools at our disposal, we're able to probe into the various genetic differences among human beings, and ultimately uncover the inherent bias in our thoughts of race. As it turns out, genetically, there is no indicator of human race. In other words, by looking at one's DNA, there are no categories that are shared across the board by what we consider a race. Beyond just modern racial superiority, many still hold quiet reservations regarding potential presidential candidates. Would the outcome have been different if both of Barack Obama's parents were black? Would it have changed things if Barack Obama had attended a few Friday prayers at a mosque? These inherent fears are still open sores even among the majority who elected him.

Moving beyond racial intolerance, there are other civil rights issues that are similarly moving at an uncomfortable snail's pace. As the recent California gay marriage ban initiative indicated, there is still enough traditional marriage sentiment in California to override the progressive laws there were passed by the legislature. The anger, hatred, and injustise that the supporters of gay marriage felt in California boiled over to public demonstrations, lawsuits, and violent threats against those perceived as limiting the civil liberties of certain groups. The irony of course is that the majority of African-Americans chose to support the ban. With all this said, we have to come to terms with the system that we have. Regardless of the ethical and moral views that one takes on this issue, the fact is that the majority, no matter how small, chose to maintain traditional heterosexual marriage. One can argue the lack of moral decency, and ethical responsibilities, but because we rely on our system of government to maintain certain democratically held beliefs which protect us, we must also accept that it may cause discontent in other ways. Again, it must be emphasized that education is the only way to garner support for controversial progressive issues. Timing is key, and there will come a time and place (such as Conneticut at the moment), when society at large is ready to accept marriage regardless of sexual orientation.

The drawbacks to Democracy becomes most realized when the population's level of education drops. As voters become ignorant and less savvy about the world, their voices become harmful to the direction of national progress. Democracy works best when the majority are educated, and truly understand the issues at large. When George W. Bush was elected for a second term, the disbelief among the enlightened should have been unfounded. Many people, through fear, and a lack of global understanding, had let themselves become influenced by misinformation, outright lies, and, clever propaganda. Few could differentiate between Al-Qaida and Iraq, or Iraq and Iran, or the differences between these groups. Further, because the mass media, with its conflicting information had shaped the global opinions of so many spoon-fed people, the movement towards restrictions on inidividual liberties was extended. Congress, even under Democratic control was cowering in a corner, the president was stubborn as ever, and we watched as nations like China, and Brazil expnaded their research and development, surpassing us in many sectors. We allowed ourselves to become pariahs because of our lack of global understanding. We have led ourselves to become isolationists, and we are fed with filtered information without a moment's thought or reflection. If the government implies that we must protect Israel at all costs, well, then why think twice about it? If we're told that the Mulsim world hates America because of our freedom, then why question that? If the President states that we need to prostrate ourselves on the ground next to the soiled constitution and allow the government to trample us under foot, then it must be for our own good. Worst of all, when atheist "elitists" tell us to embrace rational thinking, strengthen the secular nature of our government, reduce religions role in politics, and ultimately accept that all human beings have inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, well execute them. The rights of a dying patient to die with dignity to not matter because religion says so. The rights of a woman who knows she can't afford a child, and doesn't want to burdon society doesn't matter because religion says a clump of cells inside her is a person. These are the moral and ethical failings of a poor educational system. With that in mind, how much progress can we expect out of society when there is so much fear of rational thinking? No wonder we have such an impatient Democracy.

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