nutcroft

Manifesting democracy

We cannot presuppose a democratic society before its existence. We can only identify a democratic system in a society after such society has existed for a nontrivial amount of time; insofar as democracy means the existence of rule alteration processes in a way that updated rules take into consideration the opinion of society members previously not taken. We can set out to create a democratic society but we cannot know if we succeeded until after it has been created and decisions have been made and actions taken.

For this reason, there is no recipe of democracy. It is impossible to impose a set of rules atop a community of people and expect democratic success. Democracy can only grow from within a community of people in that it requires the consensual free expression of the desires of all societal members.

In different words: to implement democracy: we need to keep an eye that everyone who is affected by a decision is not being excluded from the process in which the decision was made. The ways such a thing can happen are countless and heavily dependent on the context and environment in which the decision was made. Hence, it is crucial for a society that aspires for democracy to overcome the inherent problems of the environment it lives within. These problems can frequently be communication problems. One fundamental reason that people’s opinions are not taken into consideration in a decision making process is the fact that these opinions never reach the eyes or ears of the decision makers.

The above assumes there is an interest in achieving democracy and taking all people’s desires and needs into consideration but this doesn’t have to be the case. On the contrary, it’s very common for decision makers to exclude other people’s desires on purpose. It’s also common for decision makers to assume a paternalistic attitude, i.e. taking up the role of someone with more knowledge and thus in a better position to make decisions for other people. We consider these approaches non-democratic.

For a society to be democratic there needs to be an active desire of all people to listen to all people and take them into consideration in their decision making and in their actions. In other words, we consider collective empathy to be a fundamental essence for the existence of democracy.

Does this mean a society cannot be democratic unless its members are empathetic? Yes. We cannot force one to be [more] empathetic and consequently: we cannot force a society to be democratic — with “we”, here, refering to either an individual member of the society or a different society outside ours.

An individual does not exist on its own but rather within the complex interaction network of their society. This network is crucial in what an individual believes about what’s worthy and what’s worth doing. In other words, the values and metaethics of an individual are directly influenced by the society they grow up in.

A society has a set of fundamental values and stories that people build their beliefs upon. Society members believe these fundamental ideas are not set by the society but come from somewhere else, outside society. It is these ideas that make society members empathetic or with any other quality. The first step towards conscious adjustment of a society’s fundamental ideas towards desirable states is to realise these ideas are set by the society members themselves — not by someone outside.

Therefore, democracy can be achieved in a society after such society has assumed control of its fundamental values and stories.

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