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jimservo
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27 Jan 2007, 11:57 am

and The Definition of Democracy

From Natan's Sharasky's The Case for Democracy (Amazon.com link)

A Free Society and a Fear Society

Quote:
Although an enormous diversity of opinion was behind bars in the Gulag, dissidents shared belief in common: We all wanted to live in a free society. And despite our sometimes contradictory visions of the future, the dissident experience enabled all of us to agree on what freedom meant:[i]A society is free if the people have a right to express their views without fear of arrest, imprisonment or physical harm...A simple way to determine whether the right of dissent in a particular society is being upheld is to apply the town square test: Can a person walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment or physical harm? If he can, then that person is living in a free society. If not, it's a fear society.

Some people who live in fear societies may consider this test too expansive since, in addition to liberal democracies, it includes many countries not always considered free. According to the town square test, societies where women are not allowed to vote, where discrimination is rampant, or where the economy is rigidly controlled can still be free. This valid criticism demonstrates that every society that meets the definition of "free" is not necessarily just. Rather, this test shows only that every society that passes it has crossed the threshold of freedom. In contrast, fear societies never cross this threshold and are always unjust.


The Definition of Democracy
Quote:
Though there are a number of features commonly associated with modern democratic societies...democracies are closely linked in most people's minds with elections. Surely, no one would consider would consider a country democratic if its government were not elected.

But elections are not a true test of democracy. They are an instrument, one that can be applied well or badly. The same is true of a constitution: The Soviet Union had an impeccable constitution on paper, but it was not applied to the benefit of the Soviet citizens in practice. It became a meaningless symbol. Elections can be just as meaningless in the hands of tyrants...Under Saddam's rule, for example, Iraqis were presented every few years with a ballot of voting "yes" or "no" to Saddam. Heads of state in Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere are "elected" from time to time in similar manner...

Elections that do not unfairly restrict the choice of candidates are not necessarily any more democratic. Suppose that many name appear on the ballot but that voters are warned unless they vote for a particular candidate, they will be killed or their land will be taken from them...

Given this muddle, can elections ever be used to meaningfully differentiate democratic from non-democratic societies? They can, provided we remember that for elections to be free, the voting booth must satisfy the same test as the town square: Free elections are held in an environment where people are free to express their views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm./ Put simply, free elections are elections in a free society.

This is why elections are never the beginning of the democratic process. Only when the basic institutions that protect a free society are firmly in place--such as a free press, the rule of law, independent courts, political parties, can free elections be held.

After defeating Hitler, the United States and other allied occupation forces wisely decided not to hold federal elections in Germany for four years. Had elections been held in 1945, or 1946, the results would have probably undermined the efforts to build German democracy, something those who hope to build democratic societies in Afghanistan and Iraq would be wise to keep in mind.



Last edited by jimservo on 27 Jan 2007, 2:04 pm, edited 3 times in total.

ascan
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27 Jan 2007, 1:31 pm

That's interesting, jimservo. Clearly, the UK is a "fear" society, going on the test you've posted. Unfortunately, I don't have the time to expand on that opinion at present.



peebo
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27 Jan 2007, 4:51 pm

of course the vast majority of modern societies are based on fear. it has been this way since at least before the dark ages and the hegemony of the abrahamic religions as the dominant archetype for social relations.


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jimservo
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27 Jan 2007, 7:03 pm

peebo wrote:
of course the vast majority of modern societies are based on fear. it has been this way since at least before the dark ages and the hegemony of the abrahamic religions as the dominant archetype for social relations.


You are making claims without evidence. Please provide more information. The dark ages (more properly referred to, considering the reality of the times, as "The Middle Ages") was a wildly different time to today. The influence of religion was significantly stronger then now (this was before the "Age of Reason").

In terms of the "hegemony of abrahamic religions" to try to connect them (I am assuming you are referring to Islam as well, although Islam is rather different from Judaism and Christianity) to "modern societies based on fear" is a stretch to say the least. Did Judeo-Christianity/Islam create the climate for the rise of the devoutly atheist Mao-Tse Tung in China? Or what about the ancient Egyptians Pharaohs (who were tyrants)? Did the pagan Roman Emperor Claudius (who I admire) actually crush the Christians because of influence of the Abrahamic religions?

Forget that Pope John Paul II revolutionized the way the Catholic Church dealt with freedom of thought by ruling that "every man must find his own way to God." (essentially a Lutheran principle).

Of course you said social relations! Well, there are so many different branches of religions. You can pick and choose as you like. The Anglican and Episcopalian Church and left wing social beliefs (which is why it's breaking apart), why the Roman Catholics have right-wing social beliefs. I used to be a Catholic, now I'm a agnostic. The only really dangerous religion, or rather religious sect are the Islamists of Islam who want to force you to belong to their religion on possible penalty of death. No other major religion is doing that. That's why it is better to have religions around that support freedom of thought even if you are an atheist. I am not going to worry about something that gives people comfort in their lives.

ADDENDUM: Is the United States or Great Britain the same as, say aa principality in the dark ages? Can you be burned for being a witch today? Or can you be executed for stealing something or insulting the ruling monarch?



Jeckel
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30 Jan 2007, 4:06 pm

Regardless of alot of complaining by people, that test shows just how free we americans are. Freedom is the right and ability to have and express opinions and ideas, not the right to do and say what you want.

To many people take for granted the simple fact that they can hate their government of absurd reasons and no one throws them in jail for it. Alot of places in the world they wouldn't be so lucky.


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Zed90230
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14 Jan 2017, 2:47 pm

I am not a lawyer, but another angle to the issue is the Offense Principle versus the Harm Principle.

Say someone goes naked in public. If I see them and say "there ought to be a law against that", then that's the Offense Principle. If the person did no harm to me, and I don't have a problem with them being naked in public as long as they didn't cause actual injury to me, then that's the Harm Principle. If I see them naked and go into coronary arrest right then and there... well, that's when things get blurry.

Most countries (including the US) make and enforce their laws according to the Offense Principle.

There now, did that make it any clearer?



redrobin62
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14 Jan 2017, 4:07 pm

The majority of people in the world, maybe 95% or more, are relatively stupid, believing in sky fairies and such. These easily-duped folks ride religion like a chariot towards a destiny they hope will include a fantastic world where there's a big man on a throne, perhaps handing out 72 virgins to those who kill in his name.

As a ruler, you'd HAVE to make sure your kingdom is, indeed, a fear society. Without it, you'd continually have rebellions and non-payment of taxes. Oh, no. This must not be! keep the subservient controlled, if not by a sky fairy, then by the unkind hands of your strongest, armed servants - those who are sworn to uphold your ridiculous laws.

If I lived in a kingdom during the olden days, I would've been beheaded as a heretic by the time I was 12 years old. Kowtow to a king? For what reason? They're better than me because of their birth place? How is the Queen of England great? Is she faster than Usain Bolt? Stronger than Schwarzenneger? Better film maker than Spielberg? Smarter in science than Einstein? Better artist than Michelangelo and Da Vinci combined? She just HAPPENED to be born to the so-called royal family.

(Boy, I've digressed before, but this post takes the cake!)



devilSpawn
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15 Feb 2017, 4:47 pm

jimservo wrote:
... The only really dangerous religion, or rather religious sect are the Islamists of Islam who want to force you to belong to their religion on possible penalty of death. No other major religion is doing that...


you forgot the 2 most dangerous of modern religions dominating the globe today...

stateism - worship of the government, state, etc; worship of "ruling class"

and

satanism - worship of self/human ego

you will find if you look real close to all of the mentioned religions so far, pretty much all can be comfortably nested within these 2.

no matter what your "path to god" is, you better get 1 thing for certain, the heirarchy, even if you can't wrap your head around it, better be recognized as valid (and your place in it, too) or your "religion" isn't. That is to say, if your religion doesn't include the instruction to bow to the (assumed) authority of humans who are higher than you in the (imagined and propagandized) hierarchy then your "religion" isn't valid.

All goes back to the fundamental flaw in human "design"... the high tendency for self-worship; to exalt ones own being as greater than the beings around it.

our society is riddled with this satanic bullshit, everything about modern human civilization is designed to cater to it. To the point where we are causing ecological collapse to snowball in many regions of the planet...

doesn't matter your personal ideology or your bickering atheist, religious, agnostic, whatever... you better get one thing straight for sure, when it comes to life on earth, human will stop at no atrocity to reign supreme, even to its dying breath.

all these other imaginative concepts are their to keep you entertained. when it's time to "obey", you will obey human over all things, even conscience, if only for "economics" reasons. (puke)