Thursday, April 15, 2010

Politics, What is it good for?

What is Politics For?


By John Taylor; 2010 April 15, Jalal 07, 167 BE

Peace is the Subject and Object of All Politics

We are discussing a proposal for world government and world peace made in 1670 by John Amos Comenius in his Panorthosia (Chapter 25, pp. 140-143) Here he writes that,

"The world has never yet seen jurisprudence and politics in their rightful state, that is, in the fulness of peace. Therefore we must now try to establish this."

Comenius believed that the "fullness of peace" is the purpose of politics. If a politician is not totally dedicated to laying the groundwork of peace, he betrays the entire reason for being of his calling. Comenius would have been shocked to see how democracy was implemented during the century after his death.

The new American model, though closer to democracy than anywhere outside Switzerland and certain tribes in Africa and America, was born in conflict and entirely based on struggle among partisans for victory among themselves. This allowed all sides to have a say, and had undeniable advantages over the paradigm of royal and aristocratic privilege prevalent in Europe. In spite of its conflict, contradiction and wasteful excess, the new party system suited the wealthy and powerful colonists, who soon learned to manipulate the system to their own ends. The American Revolutionary War ensconced this model, and for centuries the wealth and bounty of a nation straddling an entire continent allowed the virtues of the new democracy to outweigh its drawbacks.

Election Campaigns as Battles

Today we routinely use military language to describe the activity leading up to an election. We think nothing of calling it a "campaign" that is fought or contested.

Does an election necessarily have to be a zero sum game? Surely the main advantage of an election is the "wisdom of the crowd," the uncanny ability of large numbers of people to average out their errors and hit upon the best person for the job at a certain juncture of history. If an election is "won" or "lost" after opposing parties have waged an elaborate, expensive war-like "campaign" against one another, then what is gained, what is lost? Are not we the people the spoils? And what about the goal of politics, peace? Is that served by a contested election? Is that anything close to what Comenius called the "rightful state" of politics and jurisprudence?

When the struggle is over, nobody imagines that the people have won out. Or even that they have made a rational decision. Nor that the people ever get away scot-free from this simulated war. It is for good reason that we use language of pillage and rape to describe elections, as if the people were a vanquished land overrun by a victorious army.

Polyarchy as GTMH Democracy

Elections are expensive, and the expenses are increasing. Inevitably both the losers and the winning party are in debt afterwards. It is expected that the incumbent leaders will steer policy the way of their friends, and dole out grants and appointments as favours to all who aided their election campaign. This we call openly, if euphemistically, "patronage."

I call it "gun-to-my-head (GTMH) democracy." The people in effect are holding an auction of their own interests, holding a gun to their own head and inviting the highest bidder to come forward and pull the trigger.

As a matter of fact, GTMH is only nominally a democratic process. The American model of contested representative democracy has not been referred to as such by specialists since the 1950's; instead of calling it "democracy" the term now being used is "polyarchy," meaning the rule of many as opposed to rule by all, the "demos" or people. Strictly speaking, democracy is rule of the people, by the people and for the people. This means that they must be involved as possible in governance, every step of the way. Polyarchy is very different; it is rule by specialists for special interests, and its main preoccupation is stifling the will of the people. Although they undeniably have more say than in other systems, GTMH democracy always sees to it that the interests of the people must stand at the end of a very long breadline.

The proposal of Comenius avoids the vices of polyarchy and, in what it stipulates, comes closer to the highest ideals of democracy than anything I have encountered. For one thing, the American paradigm of democracy, insofar as it aims at peace, does so in a consciously narrow and reductionist way. It specifically excludes religion from participating in governance, relegating it to a periphery as if it were permanently doomed to be nothing but a self-interested, warring faction. Although a product of an age that called itself enlightened, it all but ignores science, philosophy and education. As mentioned, we think of elections as military campaigns, not as lessons or sacraments, as we might if science and religion were allowed full rights to participate in the public forum.

Comenius, instead, set an opposite purpose for democratic governance: reintegration. The goal of each of these three major expressions of the human condition, science, religion and politics, is to integrate with one another for the good of all, and for the greater truth of what each stands for in the human spirit.


"... the whole aim of the council is the reintegration of world affairs or mankind with
I. GOD, by means of a universal return to Him,
II. THEMSELVES, by abolishing all kinds of dissension and warfare.
III. the NATURAL WORLD, or everything in God's creation,
"The first of these will be achieved through one true religion, the second through one true political system, and the third by one true philosophy, common to all men.


When such a reintegration happens, when I cast a vote in an election I will be expressing my whole being, not just the part of me that is a citizen, or the part of me that is a believer, or the part of me that is a learner and teacher. My vote will be a whole vote, and any struggle that takes place will be in my own heart and mind as I seek out the true, common reality perceived by all women and men.

Next time I will discuss this proposal and its implications further.


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