An agnostic's view of the democracy cult
Democracy is the greatest trick the elites ever played on the masses.
For instance, the president of the United States must, of course, listen to the people. But you can also rest assured that he answers to Wall Street bankers, oil merchants, the military industrial complex, powerful lobbyists and others who are, basically, the elites.
It's doesn't matter if the president's name is George W Bush or Barack Obama, or if he is Republican or Democrat, white or black. You'll find a similar scenario in any democracy, no matter how advanced or backward.
Once upon a time, a member of the elite asked the question: "How can we fool the masses into thinking they actually are in charge, but in reality afford them with as little relevant power as possible?"
After gulping down a pint of mead, someone answered: "Let them vote, this will give them the illusion of power and equality; we'll pick who they may vote for. Allow them vices and entertainment to satiate their material appetites, and we'll call these individual rights.
"Give them a platform to whine and cry, complain and protest from; we'll call it freedom of speech. Dangle riches in front of them to have them salivate with greed; we'll call it opportunity and social mobility." (Today the list has been updated to include reality TV, so even the most pathetic among the masses can feel special, and social media forums so that any fool can sprout eloquent malarkey and think himself smart.)
"But if any of this actually threatens our status and power," continued the second elitist, "we'll call it a threat to national security and smack them upside the head."
After much murmuring, a third man put in: "By golly, that's brilliant! We'll call it democracy!" And so the three tricksters, spinsters of man's absurd fate, laughed to themselves, drank mead and called in the belly dancers.
Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Occupy Wall Street _ these are just some of the better known examples of what happens when you threaten the position of the elites _ got smacked upside the head, figuratively and quite possibly literally. Wars, corporate bailouts, industrial pollution and sweatshops, these are examples of the elites in control.
Having said that, democracy is not only the greatest trick, it's also the best political system man has yet come up with. So we'll stick with it, until a better alternative comes along. But even so, one shouldn't adopt democracy as a new religion. All ideologies have wonderful notions to benefit mankind, but also have the seductive power to render us mindless, violent fools.
In the name of religion or democracy, a host of lives have been butchered. For the elites who launched those wars, power and wealth were the motives. The legions who died in those wars generally thought it was for God or freedom. A trick that worked a thousand years ago still works today.
How? Effective propaganda, the manipulation of the all-too-human emotions of love and hate, desire and fear, pride and prejudice. These emotions are the bait that lure the people to voluntarily feast on whatever the elites are selling, as long as it comes in a nice package with a beautiful ribbon and fashionable label. In modern times, the democracy brand is Chanel plus Mercedes, on steroids.
But don't hate the elites; they struggle for wealth and power, just as we all do. The difference is they are more successful, much more. We were all mere apes once; don't begrudge those who have learned to climb more quickly up the tree.
This doesn't mean one should be mindless worshippers of the fleet ape, and upon seeing any incident that might be considered anti-democratic exclaim, aghast: "That is like so totally anti-democratic! You so totally don't understand the concept, you Third World fascists!
"Come on, Heather and Helga, let's go pick on some Arabs and make fun of the Prophet, 'cos, like, you know, it's totally our democratic right and stuff. Yay democracy! Oops, I just dropped my Justin Bieber limited edition coffee mug! Like, OMG, I'm gonna totally sue somebody!"
Contrary to what is written in the US Declaration of Independence, nature holds this truth to be self-evident _ that all men are created unequal. Mankind has expanded on this truth by creating societies in which a social hierarchy is inherent. Idealists have tried to create equality in utopian societies, but all attempts have failed. This is because the utopian ideal of true equality is against nature itself.
Democracy works because it creates an illusion which people mistake for reality. This trick could not have been possible without savvy propaganda. Face it, in any self-respecting democracy, we learn history from the entertainment industry. Watch Hollywood movies from the past 100 years, and you will recognise that during certain periods in history a particular country or people have been considered the enemy of democracy, underlined by the theme that democracy is always wonderful.
For example, witness the recent fad-fed tale in which "freedom-loving democratic" ancient Greeks, bare-chested and six-packed-to-the-max _ whose population of slaves far outnumbered citizens in both Athens and Sparta _ smack down in the name of freedom and democracy on the "evil tyrannical, slave empire" of Achaemenid Persian empire, whose society generally banned slavery. (It was an awesome movie, by the way.)
Don't hate the players (the elites), and don't hate the game (democracy). But don't be a fool. If you make democracy the new religion, you may be paving the way for your fellow man to be labelled an infidel or heretic and be burned at the stake. Use democracy, don't let it use you.
Now, excuse me while I take Heather and Helga out for a drink or 10.
Contact Voranai Vanijaka via email at email@example.com.
Bangkok Post columnist
Voranai Vanijaka is a columnist, Bangkok Post.