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24.9.10

The Death of a Thousand Cuts

“Democracy destroys itself because it abuses its right to freedom and equality. Because it teaches its citizens to consider audacity as a right, lawlessness as a freedom, abrasive speech as equality, and anarchy as progress.” -Isocrates, c.300 B.C.

Throughout history, intellectuals have followed democracy to its logical conclusions and warned us of the impending demise that it brings. As the joke goes, democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner, but I would add that we are purposely kept ignorant of the wolves' where-abouts or agendas. The wolves become masters of deception, leading the sheep to the sheering while making them think they are on the road to Salvation.

We are, ostensibly, reaching the end of an age. It seems that the entire underpinnings of culture, both in the West and globally, is reaching it natural limits. All that we know is not enough and we are faced with the choice to grow or die. Now we will find out if humans truly are adaptable, or if we've just had a lucky streak.

A few years back, there was an excellent and underrated film called, "No Way Out," with Kevin Costner and Gene Hackman. The premise was that a Russian spy had been planted in the US as a child and had been groomed to rise meteorically through the ranks to subvert the nation from the inside out. Even more poignant was Peter Sellers' "Being There," whose Chauncy Gardner was haunting in his ability to attract the projections of others' desires. Democracy has brought us both characters in a single package.

Increasingly, the gold is supplanted with paper, the rhetoric with slogan and the the mass mind with group-think. Having been hollowed out, a democracy's leadership becomes vacuous and ephemeral while maintaining the illusion of substance, because the sheep no longer look at the contents, but are satisfied to traipse after symbols.

Ultimately, the sheep arrive at the sheering, happily jostling for the front row, ready to throw themselves at the sheers because they now think they have chosen this path for themselves. As Alexander Fraser Tytler noted,
"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy."

Americans, thoroughly deluded by the empty promises of democratic Nirvana, have exported their folly to the world, and set up for themselves phantom leaders who are completely manufactured out of whole cloth. We know more about leaders who lived a thousand years ago than we know about Barrack Obama, yet how many blissfully followed him, basking in the light of "hope" and "change?" Simple sloganeering deluded millions who failed to look beyond the icons and into the meanings.

The result has been a gutted economy, raging deathtraps (with the promise of more), and a moral decay of every public institution. An American can not point to a single public trusthold that isn't rife with corruption and fascism. There is not a single movement or group that they can turn to that isn't co-opted by agents of wolves.

Without wholesale replacement of the entire system from top to bottom, there is no way out. Yet, there is no way to do that because, in an Orwellian twist, the language itself has been modified to the point that even one's thoughts are suspect. The money is debased, ethics are but shadows and even discourse has been stolen by those who define the words.

As an English teacher, I often deal with the fact that most people hear and respond to what they expect and not what is actually said. Formulaic responses to formulaic constructs are the vast majority of language. This fact is further exacerbated by a lifestyle that is so hectic that we don't have time to respond to deeper implications, but only to the superficial appearances of things.

As anyone who has ever raced cars knows, the faster you go, the less you can focus on anything but what is directly ahead and moving at the same relative speed. All the little details flying by at break-neck speed are insignificant and out of focus. Until one of those details torpedoes you from out of nowhere. As life, by design, rushes past us at furious speeds, we no longer focus on the minutae, but have only time to notice the things coming directly in our path.

We not only fail to stop and smell the flowers, we don't even see the bushes on which they are growing.

The ancient Chinese devised a truly horrific torture called The Death of a Thousand Cuts. The victim received hundreds of superficial cuts, that bled profusely, and salt was rubbed into them. As the victim slowly bled to death over weeks, they were in agonizing pain from a non-consuming fire.

Look into your neighbor's eyes. Do they look truly happy? Do those windows reveal inner contentment? Now look at your leaders. What do you really know about them as human beings? Outside of a few well-chosen slogans, what ideas do they actually offer? More to the point, how much of your life is taken from the public treasury, and how much did you actually generate?

To use another iconographic image, have you robbed Peter to pay Paul lately?

One last question: What have you done to really fix things?

I don't mean what you have delegated by vote. I don't mean, letting the pit crew service the car on the road of Life. I mean, what have you personally done to change the world? Not just lately, but ever? And how often have you stopped to consider those questions? If the world is our victim, how many cuts have you applied?

Are you a Magritte?

Jesus is famously quoted as saying, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's." The thing I have never heard a preacher address is, if you have nothing of Caesar's, you owe him nothing.

In other words, are you a democrat or are you free?

Think about it...

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