We have always believed that even in a democracy, the social group must be more powerful than the individual human. “For law and order”, and to secure cooperation, is the usual explanation. The basic assumption of this implied assertion is that individuals are prone to lawlessness without police authority exercised over them by the State.
There’s a lot of history behind, and in support of this belief. If we look at what we humans have actually done for the last ten or twenty thousand years, well over 90% of our actions have been violent and destructive-the rape, pillage and murder of each other, let alone what we’ve done to the environment.
Having freed ourselves of the authority of kings and their nobles, and very proud of it too, we usually forget that law and order was perhaps the primary reason for our giving fealty to so few by so many, indeed the vast majority of us. And we continue to do so in our democracy, in spite of the fact that we have always been badly abused and starved by our protectors most of the time. But it was far better than being murdered without any warning, a very possible and likely outcome for most people until very recently in human history. Even in obligatory military service, as ancient as the hills, and not entirely a thing of the past, we had a chance to survive, however small the odds. Though we glorify it, historically it’s been a miserable and often terrifying life for the vast majority of us.
But such mistreatment of the majority has drastically changed within the last 100 years, most particularly in capitalist technological societies. Prosperity has come to us, and we are madly in love with it. It’s the first time that most of us have had an opportunity to have-a-decent-life. We have been binging on it voraciously with the appetite of starved, parched creatures-until very recently without the slightest regard for the future, depleting the resources of this planet. Hedonism flourishes in sex, food and object-wealth.
Though simultaneously becoming aware of the sensitive limitations of the balancing forces that comprise this planet-alerted via the multiple dangers of global warming, asteroid collision, super-volcanoes, landslides, earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, etc.-we become even more hedonistic. Television has morphed into a 24/7 perpetual humping orgy, in which sex and aggression are indistinguishable. As if the “freedom” to behave this way is the essence of democracy, and pleasure is the ultimate reward of being alive.
Perhaps we act this way because we think so little of ourselves. Not just personally, though we all have our moments of depression and disappointment in self. But we also think this way socially, publically, and politically-in other words, archetypically. Remember our basic assumption, seldom mentioned or discussed, but implied in our view of humans needing to be constantly policed? Have we unwittingly built our democracy on the same prejudiced premise that the king and his nobles ruled, that we aren’t to be trusted? The most obvious conclusion from this belief is that if we treat people as untrustworthy, they usually behave that way.
This doesn’t mean that police can be given up anytime soon. But why can’t we at least reconsider our assumption that, as individuals we’re a weak, not-to-be-trusted, potentially criminal species? We celebrate this prejudiced view most eloquently in the violent sadistic movies we produce by the dozens. In building a society and its governance upon this premise, have we not permanently arranged to relate to each other in terms of our worst, instead of our best traits, encouraging mistrust, prejudice and hostility-making our deprecating self-assumption a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Is it possible that the individual should, in a much better democracy … in the vast majority of ways … have more power than the social group? This would build upon the premise that the individual human is far trustworthier than society, the mob. Of course we would have to grow up into this freer, far more opportunistic human world, learning along the way to discard both physical and emotional violence, or risk permanently losing our freedom. We might need to learn how to be that tough in order to free humanity from all forms of abuse, inequality and oppression, most particularly violence. By flattening the hierarchy, eliminating the excessive, corrupting and completely unnecessary power of great personal wealth, freeing individuals to pursue their own life, free from public subjugation other than the natural inclination of those who have been blessed by life wanting to share their bounty and talents with others. Such a world would indeed be built upon the very best of human traits.
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