Have we been well-served by Democracy? Or have the principles of Democracy been subverted/destabilised?
by  Jan Lindrum

Have we been well-served by Democracy? Or have the principles of Democracy been subverted/destabilised?

Democracy, from the Greek word “Dimokratia”

In Athens, Greek men served in the “polis” – the political arena

Greek women ruled the “oikos” – the home

Recommended reading “Lysistrata” by Aristophanes

In 1992 historian Francis Fukuyama published The End of History and the Last Man. In a 21st century world book titles like this one capture the imagination and market share by appealing to the reader’s fascination with the idea of the Last Man Standing. But Fukuyama’s book is not about Armageddon. Fukuyama’s book is about Democracy. He asserts that, since the French Revolution (1789-1799), democracy has repeatedly proven to be a fundamentally better system – ethically, politically, economically – and, therefore, man may have reached the end of his ideological evolution; which means that Democracy, in Fukuyama’s opinion, is the best system for regulating and ensuring civilized society.

Given the horrors associated with the global economic meltdown (2007-2008) – “considered by some economists to have been the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s” – (well-articulated in the motion picture The Big Short (2015) directed by Adam McKay and produced by Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Arnon Milchan) – and western society’s love affair with greed – (well-articulated by director Michael Moore in the motion picture Capitalism: A Love Story which places the spotlight on the rapidly growing divide between rich and poor) – and the ‘thoughts’ expressed by author Michael Hirsh in his book Capital Offense: How Washington’s Wise Men turned America’s future over to Wall Street (2010), I reflect on a question posed by Hirsh:

Is money the root of all evil? OR

The lifeblood of civilization and progress?

On 23 February 1903, pacifist, author and Nobel Prize winner Jane Addams gave the following speech at the Union League Club in Chicago. Ostensibly a celebration of George Washington’s birthday, the speech went beyond remembrance of “Washington the man” to outline the values and priorities necessary for Washington’s America in the 20th century.

“Let us take, for a moment, George Washington as a statesman. What was it he did, during those days when they were framing a constitution, when they were meeting together night after night, and trying to adjust the rights and privileges of every class in the community? What was it that sustained him during all those days, all those weeks, during all those months and years?

It was the belief that they were founding a nation on the axiom that all men are created free and equal.

What would George Washington say if he found that among us there were causes constantly operating against that equality? If he knew any child which is thrust prematurely into industry has no chance in life with children who are preserved from that pain and sorrow; if he knew that every insanitary street, and every insanitary house, cripples a man so that he has no health and no vigour with which to carry on his life labor; if he knew that all about us are forces making against skill, making against the best manhood and womanhood.

What would he say?

He would say if the spirit of equality means anything, it means like opportunity, and if we once lose like opportunity we lose the only chance we have toward equality throughout the nation.”[1]

The following articles and commentaries are offered as food for thought:

On Monday 6 June 2016 journalist George Morgan wrote:

“It’s 10.30pm and the rough sleepers are bunking down on the benches in Fitzroy Gardens near the El Alamein fountain on Macleay Street, which marks the border between Tanya Plibersek’s electorate of Sydney and the leafy streets of Malcolm Turnbull’s Wentworth. Swaddled in tatty blankets, their few possessions stuffed into laundry bags, these people are the collateral damage of Sydney’s real estate boom…”

Morgan concludes:

“Without vast public investment in social housing, the pressure of Sydney’s growing population will force more people to make their homes on the streets.”[2]

Letter submissions The Sydney Morning Herald 13 January, 2017

Celebrity mentality

“Everyone in Australia you want to see is there,” says Julie Bishop (Australia’s Foreign Minister) about the marquees at the Melbourne Cup. I guess that just about sums up the mentality of a certain type of politician and especially Julie Bishop. I think it’s time she consider a full-time career as a celebrity and leave her successor to think about mixing a bit more with the 99.99 per cent of their fellow citizens who don’t get to or want to be a marquee inhabitant.”

Tony Mitchell, Hillsdale

Towers will blight harbor landscape

“In the latest proposed redevelopment of Darling Harbour in the city’s best interest. There is no question the Harbourside and Cockle Bay Wharf are in need of redevelopment but to bookend Pyrmont Bridge with high-rise residential towers is too much. Apart from the destruction of the architectural and heritage history of Pyrmont Bridge, additional high-rise so close to the waters of Cockle Bay will severely affect the enjoyment of many tourists, workers and residents.”

Ian Bulluss, Pyrmont

“Sad to see Darling Harbour being blighted by greed. If the top end of town gets its way what was conceived as a sunny, public place for all to enjoy will soon be a shadowy backwater ringed by high-rise apartment blocks for overseas investors.”

Ian Ferrier, Paddington

City of Sydney council questions “the appropriateness of a very tall tower on the foreshore at Cockle Bay. If only it would apply the same reasoning when increasing the planning and height of the tower on the site of Goldfields House at 1 Alfred Street from 110m to 194m (57 storeys) next to First Fleet Park on the edge of Circular Quay. It will cause overshadowing and block the harbor views of all behind with no tangible public benefit.

Penelope Seidler, Milsons Point

Theatre Glory recalled

Thank you Greg Vale for your mention of the magnificent Prince Edward Theatre, which was built by my grandfather, E J Carroll, who also produced many of the early Australian silent films.  I spent a lot of my childhood in that beautiful theatre, happily transported to some magical and musical world by the variety of films and shows that were staged there.

It was demolished in 1966 and replaced by – yes – an extremely boring office block. Unfortunately, Sydney has always had its eye on the dollar value of everything and fails to see the value in anything else. Beauty has its own value, as does charm, style and elegance.

Jan Carroll, Potts Point

We ignore causes of revolution at our peril. “The outcome of the US election shows there is burning need to rethink the way our society operates. In recent years, the unwritten pact which saw the privileged look after the less fortunate has been broken. Too much wealth and power has been appropriated by too few members of the community. Over the course of history, this has been the root cause of many revolutions.  We ignore this history at our own peril.”

Mark Ronsisvalle, Cremorne

Welfare pays more than work[3]

Journalist Sarah Martin

“Thousands of parents claiming benefits are financially better off not getting a job with new figures showing they receive at least $45,000 a year tax-free, more than the take home pay of most Australians….The amount is boosted when families have multiple children and claim a range of government benefits, such as family tax payments and childcare rebates…Social Services Minister Christian Porter said ‘The new data showed that taxpayer-funded benefits could be providing a disincentive to work – a systemic flaw that required government attention.’

…Parents younger than 18 are deemed to be particularly vulnerable to the risk of long-term welfare dependency.”

New World Order

The coming collapse of America by Francis Fukuyama

“Inequality and self-interest are changing American public life. The consequences could be as big as the collapse of the Soviet Union, writes Francis Fukuyama. In the worst case, the effects could lead to the US giving up entirely on global leadership and the unravelling of the liberal world order.

Political power has been captured by groups that bend the system to their own interests, at the expense of broader public interests.”[4]

Armstrong from ‘dark ages’

Kiwi road cycling great Biddle says disgraced rider a victim of rotten era when everyone was taking EPO

But people forget the lives he ruined Article by Michael Burgess and Phil Taylor, photograph by Greg Bowker\Lance Armstrong signing an autograph!

“One of New Zealand’s foremost authorities on doping in sport has criticized Lance Armstrong’s visit to New Zealand, and questioned Lion Breweries’ motivations for using the disgraced athlete in their commercials.

Former Olympian Dave Garrard who is the chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) therapeutic use exception committee and has had a distinguished career in sports medicine over more than four decades, told Radio Sport that Armstrong is the worst possible role model.

‘Lance Armstrong epitomizes all that is bad about drug use in sport. He is clearly not the example and the role model that we want our kids to admire and emulate.”[5]

Absolutely diabolical

ED doctors fed up with alcohol related incidents

Nikki Preston

“They are resource intensive. Completely sober health professionals at emergency departments are just over dealing with drunk people. It’s just not fun when you are looking after these obnoxious drunk people who often have slightly obnoxious hangers-on as well. They put an undue strain on our emergency departments and can be rude, aggressive or – in the worst-case scenario, violent.”[6]

Teachings of the Industrial Revolution

Ross Gittins

“We owe today’s economy to the two centuries of economic development precipitated by the Industrial Revolution, a period of radical technological innovation beginning in the 1760s.  It involved the replacement of hand tools with power-driven machines, and the shift of production from artisans’ homes to factories.  The newly ubiquitous form of energy was coal – the start of our ill-fated love affair with fossil fuels.” [7]

Questions:       Did the Industrial Revolution serve humanity?

Are we in a better place today because of the Industrial Revolution?

Have the principles of Democracy been destabilized?

Should the principles of Industry operate on a philosophy of need or greed?

Are we progressing humanity? Or are we experiencing regress? If the latter, how do we slow the decay?

Recommended reading:           Family, Nation & Sport free download at www.lindrum.com

The word ‘democracy’ has its origin in the Greek language. ‘Demos’ meaning whole citizen living within a particular city-state (nation-state) and ‘kratos’ meaning power or rule.

Democracies are based on four main principles:

  1. Belief in the Individual; i.e. the potential of the individual to progress and achieve his/her potential in order to improve self and, through improvement of the self, contribute to the health and wellbeing of fellow citizens and nation;
  2. Belief in reason and progress which is based on the belief that growth and development is the natural condition of mankind. For growth and development to occur we must acknowledge that we cannot progress ourselves without the Other and the Other cannot progress himself/herself without a helping hand from us.

Words of Wisdom

“If there can be love and closeness among all people how wide the world and universe would be!” Venerable Master Hsing Yun

  1. Belief in a society that is consensual and based on the art of compromise, respect for the dignity of personhood and ‘Fair Go’ principles, respect for difference and differing perspectives, a desire for order and co-operation and rejection of disorder and conflict;
  2. Belief in shared power through a spirit of co-operation.

A Liberal Democracy is one that is said to champion the development and wellbeing of the individual and the community in which the individual resides.

A Liberal Democracy is organized in such a way as to define and limit power so as to promote legitimate government; i.e. government that adopts a healthy respect for the dignity of personhood and ‘Fair go” principles; a government with integrity that works within proper legal frameworks and within a framework of justice and freedom for all citizens and a government whose office bearers serve honestly and faithfully for the good (health and well-being) of the state/nation as a whole.

Example:         Oath of Office

“I do solemnly and sincerely promise that I will truly and faithfully and to the best of my skill and knowledge execute the powers and trust reposed in me.”

Example:         Oath on Admission

Lawyer to Supreme Court

“I do sincerely promise and swear that I will truly and honestly conduct myself, in the practice of a Lawyer, and I shall faithfully serve as such in the administration of the laws and the usages of that State according to the best of my knowledge and ability.”

Leadership

Writing on leadership, authors John O Whitney and Tina Packer say:

“Good leaders are true to themselves. They are creative and innovative, and, in many cases, they march to a ‘different drummer’. Leadership traits like these nearly always evoke criticism from some quarter whether employees, investors, bankers, or the press, but effective leaders know that if they try to please everyone all the time they are doomed to fail…

But here is the paradox! The essential requirement of leadership is followers. Although some people might be coerced to follow for a time, sooner or later the effective leader must strike a responsive chord in the hearts and minds of enough capable people to accomplish the tasks at hand. Otherwise, his [her] steadfastness, his [her] innovations, even his [her] good intentions are to no avail. Like the leader who marches only to his/her own drummer, he [she] too will be doomed to “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”[8]

Returning to Fukuyama:

Fukuyama’s book The End of History and the Last Man attracted a barrage of criticism which Fukuyama fought off by asserting he had not intended to infer Democracy was perfect. Democracy had its flaws but any flaws that it had were simply attributable to the failure to implement the twin principles of liberty and equality which took root 2640 years ago in Athens, flourished during the Renaissance and underpinned revolutions in science and politics. These revolutions triggered the struggle between two parallel universes, the religious and the secular, over how the universe was to be seen and where the limit of legitimate enquiry were to lie. This monumental struggle was followed by the Enlightenment (1680-1800), an age of greater knowledge, understanding and spiritual insight.

But, even during the Enlightenment, the ideals of liberty, fraternity and equality were beset by ignorance, superstition, slavery, colonization and genocide.

In his book The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845) author and activist Friedrich Engels stated:

In capitalist societies – the lust for power is such that men regard their fellows not as human beings, but as pawns in the struggle for existence. Everyone ‘not only’ exploits his neighbour, ‘but finds it acceptable to do so’ with the result that the stronger tramples the weaker under foot. The strongest of all, a tiny group of capitalists, monopolise everything, while the weakest who are the vast majority, succumb to the most abject poverty.[9]

In A Short History of Progress (2004), award-winning author Ronald Wright says:

Our civilization which subsumes most of its predecessors is a great ship steaming at a speed into the future. It travels faster, further and more laden than ever before. We may not be able to foresee every reef and hazard, but by reading her compass, bearing and headway, by understanding her design, her safety record, and the abilities of her crew, we can, I think, plot a wise course between the narrows and bergs looming ahead.

And I believe we must do this without delay because there are too many shipwrecks behind us. The vessel we are now aboard is not merely the biggest of all times, it is also the only one left…

Like all creatures, humans have made their way in the world so far by trial and error. Unlike other creatures we have a presence so colossal that error is a luxury we can no longer afford. The world has grown too small to forgive us big mistakes.[10]

In The Uncrowned King and Family, Nation & Sport I make the point that, “the HERE and NOW might be my generation’s last chance to leave a lasting legacy.”

THE FUTURE is not ahead of us.

THE FUTURE is not even on our doorstep.

THE FUTURE is a guest at our table.

Hereunder a passage from author George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four:

A bare hungry, dilapidated place compared with the world that existed before 1914, and still more so if compared with the imaginary future to which the people of that period looked forward to. In the early twentieth century, the vision of a future society – unbelievably rich, leisured, orderly and efficient – a glittering antiseptic world of glass and steel and snow white concrete – was part of the consciousness of nearly every person.

Science and technology were developing at a prodigious speed, and it seemed natural to assume that they would go on developing.

This failed to happen, part because of the impoverishment caused by a long series of wars and revolutions, partly because scientific and technical progress depended on the empirical habit of thought, which could not survive in a strictly regimented society.

As a whole the world is more primitive today that it was fifty years ago…

From the moment the machine first made its appearance it was clear to all thinking people that the need for human drudgery, and therefore to a great extent for human inequality, had disappeared. If the machine were used deliberately for that end, hunger, overwork, dirt, illiteracy and disease could be eliminated within a few generations.[11]

Question:

Do we have our priorities right?

Are we using technology for good ends; to eradicate hunger, homelessness, illiteracy and disease and create harmony within society? Or are we spending huge amounts of money on war and weaponry? Should that investment be made in education, health, artistic enterprise, care of our pensioners, the environment, creating employment opportunities and visionary town and city planning?

Why Integrity is critical to our wellbeing as a nation

“Integrity is perhaps one of the most difficult concepts to define. At an individual level, integrity is more than ethics: it is more about the characteristics embedded in individuals; the moral compass; knowing the distinction between right and wrong.

‘Integrity’ is be best described as ‘doing the right thing even when nobody is watching’.

A considerable amount of money is invested into integrity and good governance training, however integrity itself has come to mean different things to different people which is problematic because lack of integrity can corrupt a family, a society, a nation, a world.

Wide-scale corruption can destroy civilization.

English philosopher Francis Bacon once said, “it is not what we eat but what we digest that makes us strong; not what we gain but what we save [preserve] that makes us rich; not what we read but what we remember that makes us learned; and not what we profess but what we practice that gives us integrity.”

Two reasons for societal collapse – Corrupt and immoral conduct – Intellectual ineptitude

In Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, Mark Antony speaks of men losing their reason. It is critical that we do not lose our bearings. Government of the people, by the people and for the people must be the operating principle if we are to “complete the unfinished work of our forebears” (President Abraham Lincoln) and completing that work to the very best of our ability is our absolute duty.

A great task now stands before us and we must pray that we are have the mettle needed to tackle and solve the many problems that currently present.

Many questions will flow from this treatise. Let’s take some time to reflect on them together. Only then will we find the answers. The human brain is extraordinary and unmatched. When it is working to optimum efficiency, great things happen.

Jan Lindrum

[1] Jane Addams Praises George Washington in Lend me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History, Selected and Introduced by William Safire, Revised and Expanded Edition, (New York and London: W. W. Norton & Co.), 193.

[2] George Morgan, “Restless problem of nowhere to sleep”, The Sydney Morning Herald, Comment, 6 June, 2016, 16 and 17.

[3] Sarah Martin, “Handouts to Parents top $45,000 a year: Welfare pays more than work”, The Australian, 28 October 2016, 1 and 4.

[4] The Australian Financial Review, 22-27 December 2016

[5] Michael Burgess and Phil Taylor, “People forget lives he ruined”, The New Zealand Herald, 21 December, 2016, 10.

[6] Nikki Preston, “Absolutely diabolical”, The New Zealand Herald, 21 December, 2016, 1 and 5.

[7] Ross Gittins, “Teachings of the Industrial Revolution”, The Sydney Morning Herald, 31 December, 2016

[8] John O. Whitney and Tina Packer, Power Plays: Shakespeare’s Lessons in Leadership and Management with illustrations by Steve Noble (New York, London, Toronto, Sydney, Singapore: Simon & Schuster, 2000), 189-190. Quote from Hamlet, Act 111 Scene 1. Hamlet’s Soliloquy.

[9] Friedrich Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England, in Marvin Peden et al (eds.), Sources of the Western Tradition – Volume II, From the Renaissance to the Present, (New York and Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 6th edition, 2016), 138

[10] Ronald Wright, A Short History of Progress (Melbourne: The Text Publishing Company), 2004, 3

[11] George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, (Australia: Penguin), 218-219

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