(Me and my niece, Stella.)
Monday, December 28, 2009
(Me and my niece, Stella.)
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
(Final Three: Lesley, Paul, and Yours Truly!)
Thursday, December 17, 2009
LOGROLLING! That good, old-timed, ever-present political sport! Politicians cutting deals...trading votes and favors...killing each other's detractor's...etc, etc, etc. We all know that this sort of back-door dealing goes on in politics; in fact, it's known as "LOW" politics, an important part of American Democracy as it now stands. Without Low Politics, it would be difficult for politicians to remain in power in our current adversary system of democracy--making Low Politics a sort of necessary evil.
So where is the logrolling in the Health Care Bill? Granted, we aren't going to see much of the back-door dealing that goes on with such a disputed and important piece of legislation, but...it seems as though we aren't seeing the swift passage of the bill (despite announcements to the contrary) that perhaps Obama and the Democrats expected. Is it possible that Low Politics can't get everything done?
I hereby announced that I believe that most options for Low Politics have been exhausted for the Health Care Reform Bill. I think that by now, most deals have already been made and discussed--it looks like everyone has already, for the most part, chosen their side and are sticking to that side. Barring an epic power deal brokered behind the scenes, I believe that from here on out the Bill's existence depends upon "HIGH" Politics, or actual democratic representation and fair voting and debate. That's why the bill hasn't apparently been moving very much in recent days: The LOW Politics option has been exhausted, and legislators are now trying to sway each other's opinions through debate and dialogue (HIGH Politics).
So maybe Low Politics isn't the dominant force in American democracy! Perhaps High Politics does play an important role! Yay...I suppose!
----Blind 'Ol Prophety-boy
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Saturday, November 07, 2009
WARNING: NOT RELATED TO HEALTH CARE!
Yup, I done it again. In the interest of further exploring some thoughts about Tocqueville's Democracy in America, I'm going to set aside the current Health Care debate for the moment. I'm sure that if I tried hard enough I could tie this post to it, but....well, I'm just lazy, I guess.
Today I want to talk about "SOFT DESPOTISM," a condition Tocqueville acknowledged as being entirely possible in a democratic government. Most of this discussion will come from Democracy in America, Volume II, Book 4, Chapter 6. Soft despotism is a condition that, according to Tocqueville, occurs willingly as people give up rights and give powers to the state--hence the term "soft" despotism, as opposed to "hard" despotism, which would be achieved by other means (ie, military takeover). The danger of soft despotism is that it occurs slowly and willingly as citizens relinquish their authority, giving more and more power to the government in the interest of levelling conditions--and people begin to look to the government more and more for handouts and programs and help. Would it be fair, then, to say that according to this definition that any "socialized" democracy is soft despotism?
For instance, a country such as Norway or Denmark has a democracy (in appearance) and a mostly ritualized, non-involved monarchical system...yet according to Americans these countries are considered to be nearly Socialist-run due to their large number of programs aimed towards tending to the needs of the people. Many Americans feel that this type of an arrangement is Socialist, as the typical, traditional American dream (according to many) is to be left alone, left for the most part to fend and provide for one's self. So are these other countries despotic? Is America heading to the point of becoming run by "soft depotism?" Many Americans (across party lines) claim that by taking over Health Care, the government would be crossing a line, becoming more socialist---taking decisions away from the people, while giving the illusion of equality. (HAH! I knew I could tie it in somehow!)
Tocqueville says, "The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd." (Vol. II, Book 4, Ch. 6)...also, "they console themselves for being in tutelage by the reflection that they have chosen their own guardians. Every man allows himself to be put in leading-strings, because he sees that it is not a person or a class of persons, but the people at large who hold the end of his chain."
Basically this says that in a despotic democracy, we console ourselves with the fact that "at least we've CHOSEN our dictator." If we're going to be run by a powerful, all-involved, centralized government, at least we were the ones who elected it and gave it the power. I'm not sure what kind of compensation that is for giving up freedoms and rights...I'm not quite sure what to think about things. There does seem to be evidence that our democratic system has become despotic, as it shows some alarming tendencies towards socialistic values and absolute centralism. Yet I can't believe that our country has headed in such a direction.
So what do you think? Has America become a despotic democracy? Or is Tocqueville's carefully balanced democracy still operating after all these years? What do YOU think?
Thursday, October 22, 2009
(Good o'l Coop. Picture from www.brightlightsfilm.com/
Alrighty, so for most of this post I'm going to assume that everyone has seen the movie High Noon. If you haven't, you should, if only just because Jeff Bridges' daddy is in it. If you haven't seen it, click the link and at least waste two minutes reading a synopsis.
So here's the question: Would Americans truly sit back and let the bad guys come, refusing to help the hero? What does Tocqueville have to say about this?
Well, there is Tocqueville's assertation that a Tyranny of the Majority (mob rule of a sort) can occur when everyone looks out for their own well-being to the exclusion of the COMMON GOOD. This is seen in High Noon, as instead of helping the sheriff to oust the bad guys, every person in town simply gives their own personal reason for not helping. Wimps! John Wayne agrees. Tocqueville says most definitely that this is possible. Tocqueville probably would have said that the townspeople in this movie became a Tyranny of the Majority that DID NOT ACT as opposed to a Tyranny that does act. By not acting, this "mob-majority" chose the path for everyone, effectively overunning the minority voice (Cooper as sheriff).
Does Tocqueville belive that this situation would actually occur in America? Or would the people rise up against the bad guys in protection of what is right? Well, it depends. Tocqueville argued that churches and "voluntary associations" could help to stop a Tyranny of the Majority from ocurring, but in the movie the church didn't help one bit. No other voluntary associations were present in the movie, perhaps skewing the view of what may have happened otherwise.
One interesting thing protrayed in the movie is the fact that there ARE individuals who would help the sheriff, who chose to deny the help! Amidst the "mob," there are people who are ready to help defend the town----why would the sheriff not accept the help? One man was half-blind (and perhaps drunk) and another was little more than a child. Good enough reasons to deny their help?
I think that in real life the sheriff may have possibly taken all the help he could get, despite the helpers' "flaws". Even the kid. Forming such a group could have well formed a nucleus of resistance against the bad guys that would have been able to convince others to help. If some of the townspeople heard that there were three willing to fight the bad guys, then perhaps the three could have multiplied, becoming a voluntary association of protectors that would itself form a majority.
Following this view, I can safely say that I believe what is seen in HIGH NOON does in fact represent Tocqueville's America, GONE WRONG. The preventive measures against Tyranny of the Majority noted by Tocqueville in his book are missing, thus showing what could happen to America itself without those protections.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
What's happening with the Health Care Bill? Is much getting done with this? President Obama has focused on this issue, pushing for the bill, putting his considerable media talent into working to pass the bill...and yet nothing has occurred. Is it because Republicans are stubbornly blocking progress? Is it because Democrats have turned to nitpicking with each other, now that they fully control Congress? Or does Obama not understand that it's CONGRESS that he must appeal to, as opposed to the general public?
It could be a mixture of all of these, but the main question is: WHY HAS PROGRESS BEEN INHIBITED? One would think that with a Democratic President and a Democratic-ruled Congress, any bill should be able to be passed fairly easily! This has not been the case, thus far, and it's interesting to try and figure out why.
Why does Obama focus so much on PUBLIC APPROVAL for the bill? Bills have ben passed in history that have been widely unpopular, yet deemed necessary by the President for the good of the nation. This puch for public approval seems to be doing nothing for the progress of the bill, which is still floundering in Congress. It's very strange that seeking the approval of the people in a democratic manner would hinder the bill, but this is what seems to be happening.
I'll watch closely to see what else develops. I also promise to post more often now...to try and force myself to do so. Well, have a good day!
Monday, September 14, 2009
What I found interesting is the fact that this phrase has become something of a rallying point for those who oppose the current Health Care program being designed by the President's Administration and supporters. In the recent Tea Party in Washington, many of those in the march were yelling, "You Lie!", showing their frustration at being ignored by an Administration that they feel does not care about their best interests. This cry is in a way galvanizing and strengthening the resistance to Obama's Health Care program (as it stands, at least), bringing about a very adversarial attitude and approach to the debate. The question is: Will things get done if all sides of the debate are fighting one another instead of working together?
It's further interesting to note that after Senator Wilson's outburst, President Obama has now called for wording to be put into the Health Care bill that would require citizenship verification, the very thing that (missing from the bill) had Wilson in an uproar. So is this a case of a Republican Senator crying for freedom amidst a Democratic Administration's tyranny? Or is this a case of hardball partisan politics? Or is it a case of a president knowing and trying to do what is right for his people who are unwilling to go along with the plan?
The truth, I think, is in some strange, twisted genetic defect-child of all three. This is what happens in a democracy where everyone fights for their own agendas, following their own wishes and needs; the chaos born of egalitarianism. This fast-paced, battlefield-fashion of legislating has unfortunately become the norm, begging one to ask the question: WHY CAN'T WE WORK TOGETHER? WHY CAN NO ONE COMPROMISE?
But I guess that's what I'm here to learn in my Democratic Theory class. Cheers.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Today we were talking about the PASSION involved in American politics, how Americans seem to be very aggressive in fighting for their personal political views, and how this is different from what one would find in, say, European democracies. One would think that equality of ideals would lessen fighting, bring more agreement and order, but such is not always the case.
AS A REVIEW OF SORTS: I think that Americans feel they must push their views because American culture says that all views are inherently equal, or at least that all VOICES are equal. Well, if everyone's voice is equal, how can we hear any one voice above another? How can we choose a direction to follow if everyone's voice recieves the same attention? It becomes NECESSARY for one to fight to be heard, to strive to become the LOUDEST, most NOISOME voice possible in order to gain attention and sway opinions. I think that we see this a lot, and in the worst cases, parties (both) use fear tactics and yellow journalism/muck-raking to scream their views and grab as much attention as possible.
In Europe, a person would be more willing to sit back and let the aristocracy (or those "in the know") to speak for them. So is this American tendency to fight over politics GOOD or BAD?
I think that Tocqueville would say the American passion is both good and bad. On the positive side, it ensures that many people will be interested and involved in the political process, which is the very definition of democracy. On the negative side, there is an astounding amount of confusion and chaos possible when everyone is involved in politics. As for Health Care, it's a serious issue. Both parties are fighting to present their views to as many people as possible (in as many ways as possible) and many really are becoming involved. There are those who have rational views on BOTH sides of the debate, but there are also on both sides those who have views on the issue that are based on fear-mongering, ignorance, or passion.
Most important, I believe Tocqueville would tell us, is finding the balance between RATIONALITY and PASSION. It's a fine edge, certainly...but I think that the American system of democracy has found a way to, for the most part, walk that edge using the idea of EGALITARIANISM, though the solution itself surely has its own problems...After all, no system of government is perfect as long as humans are involved.
Until next time,
(P.S., No outside resources this time...but the material I'm working with is found in our reading assignment for Tocqueville. So read (blame) the book!)
Sunday, September 06, 2009
After thinking about the whole view of Individualism vs. Conformity (and the irony therein), as seen by Toqueville when studying America, I couldn't help but think of BLOGGING. The Blog is a nigh-upon-perfect example of Americans' tendencies to wish to profess individuality and yet conform to a social standard.
After all, look at all of the people who are blogging (and let's include Facebook and Myspace while we're at it)! It's a huge, growing trend followed by more and more people every day. Millions of people are interacting and conforming to this societal activity. One can construct all sorts of interesting formats for a personalized blog, including music, photos, neat backgrounds, etc. In this way, a person can express their individuality while still being a part of the group, conforming to the BLOG culture.
AGAIN, this was totally unrelated to this blog's purpose, but I thought it was an interesting thought. Maybe you will find it less so. Enjoy. I promise I'll post something about HC next time, honest!
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
I will be focusing on talking about DEMOCRACY! Yup, you've got it! As a requirement for a class I'm taking in college, I have to start a blog to discuss democracy, how it works, good points and bad points, etc--in the context of the ongoing HEALTH CARE REFORM debate.
Luckily, I remembered that this blog still existed somewhere out in the nethers of the internet, and after drudging through lots of notes I found my old password and junk...and here we are! So for the next three or four months, the Blind Prophet will be discussing things that actually MATTER, such as the process of democracy. (Reading List: Tocqueville) I suppose that means that this blog will now be slightly more intelligent and serious than before. Get used to it.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Stay tuned for more, however, as I plan to seriously ponder the riddles and philosophies of life, as well as make stunning and accurate predictions that will literally melt your brain. Right now, however, I have to run to make it to a FINAL. Fun fun fun. Bye!
----THE BLIND PROPHET HAS SPOKEN!!