How Democracy Is Not Good

Poster for the Korean film Oldboy.

Democracy is just a tool. It is no more inherently good or bad than a hammer. You can use a hammer to build a home or to claw someone’s face out. White Empire—ever since the Jesus juice ran out—has been using the claw-end of the hammer to go full Oldboy on the world (I am not recommending that film, oh God).

Iraqi democracy BAM! Afghanistan democracy BOOM! Whatever they couldn't squash down they hammered a lid over, isolating Iran, Syria, Cuba, from the world. They’ve been hammering pins around Russia, until Putin finally put his own hammer down.

Russia having the temerity to put its countrybetween NATO bases

Imperial expansion and invasion is all done under the guise of spreading democracy or defending democracy, but just substitute ‘democracy’ for ‘Christianity’ and see how it sounds. It’s the same shit different day. The zealots even sound the same.

As Christiane Amanpour said when Empire pulled the claw end out of Afghanistan, stealing all their money and leaving mass starvation:

Hearing Taliban entering Kabul takes me back to Nov 2001 watching them flee Kabul at the tip of America’s spear, bringing hope to women, children and all who want peace, education and freedom from fundamentalist terror. Now progress and hope die again.

How is this different from the nauseating Kipling poem, The White Man’s Burden? As Theodore Roosevelt said, it was “rather poor poetry, but good sense from the expansion point of view.”

Take up the White Man’s burden —
Send forth the best ye breed —
Go send your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need

To wait in heavy harness
On fluttered folk and wild —
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child

Take up the White Man’s burden —
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better
The hate of those ye guard

How is modern imperialism different from all the craven colonizing done before?

Empire is always better, and its enemies are always brutes. Empire’s always doing a favor by invading, whether they’re bringing churches or institutes. There’s always some good reason to do terrible things, and after ‘Christianity’, ‘spreading democracy’ is just the latest substitute.

How did democracy get turned around and clawed into the skull of humanity like this? What is democracy? That’s what we’ll try to explore.

The Korean film Oldboy. Trigger warning! Still traumatizing for me to even think about

Democracy Is What Now?

As mentioned, democracy is just a tool. Democracy is just a technology for in-group management. That’s all it is, and it has historically been very diverse. The first and most important point is one that Aristotle makes in his Politics.

In that, he says “some persons think that there is only one species both of democracy and oligarchy; but this is not true… All laws are, and ought to be, framed agreeable to the state that is to be governed by them, and not the state to the laws.”

Today we live in some woe begotten age where electoral democracy is the only species of democracy, a consumer product essentially, readily loaded into bombs. This is absurd as Aristotle’s quick survey of many West Asian and African democracies shows. Everybody used the tool differently depending on what they wanted to do.

If what you wanted was liberty and equality, well, Aris had some ideas on that. Again note that this is just him talking about one form, not the only one.

A couple of things are important here. As A.D. Lindsay says in the intro, “When we come to Aristotle’s analysis of existing constitutions, we find that while he regards them as imperfect approximations to the ideal, he also thinks of them as the result of the struggle between classes. Democracy, he explains, is the government not of the many but of the poor; oligarchy a government not of the few but of the rich. And each class is thought of, not as trying to express an ideal, but as struggling to acquire power or maintain its position.”

So again, democracy is not one thing, it is the site of struggle between classes. This struggle takes very different forms from city-state to city-state, as diverse as their amphitheaters and all the dramas within.

Ryan Gosling also using a hammer nefariously in Drive

Democracy Is A Hammer Within

As the saying goes, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The unit that democracy operates on is the citizen.


In his excellent book Citizenship, Dimitry Kochenov says, “citizenship is a very effective abstract legal tool to justify essentially random violence, humiliation, and exclusion.”

This was very obvious in places like ancient Athens. When local boys reached adulthood, they went before a citizenship council. If they were approved, they were citizens, they had the power to attend assembly, so they were essentially Members of Parliament. If you failed this birthright test, however, you could be sold into slavery. Lot of pressure when you turned 18.

The Origins of Citizenship in Ancient Athens, Philip Brook Manville

This slavery thing is why people often brush Aristotle or the ancients off because they obviously got that shit wrong, but are we so much better? Today entire classes of people are ‘illegal’ across the world, put in concentration camps, exploited for labor, and certainly denied franchise. The Greeks would look and see that slavery by another name still works a treat.

Ancient slaves at least occasionally got freedom with jubilees. Their children were not inevitably born into it. When’s the relief for ‘illegal’ immigrants and refugees? We live in a world of birthright citizenship where, as Kochenov says, “citizenships emerge as a key force behind the preservation of the status quo where the poor are poor (the Congolese) and the rich are rich (the Swiss).”

Does this really look so different than slavery with bigger cages, writ large across the world? Certainly it is just a matter of degree, not kind. This system is still irredeemably cruel. Indeed, it is in this crucible of exclusion that the iron bond of citizenship is formed.

As Kochenov says, “The story of citizenship [is] a tale not of liberation, dignity, and nationhood but of complacency, hypocrisy, and domination.”

So once people are forged into nails (citizens) and the non-citizens are thrown out as exploitable waste, what do we have in place?

With these nails, a city can build an amphitheatre, in which to enact the most enthralling drama of the day. The constant class struggle called democracy. This is of course only possible after deciding who can ‘enroll’ in a protected class in the first place.

Class Struggle

Among citizens then, who gets to rule? The regular Athenian model was actually much more elegant and simple than the hoops we jump through today. If you were a citizen, you could rule. Self rule literally meant self rule.

Every citizen was a ‘Parliamentarian’. Anyone could go. Almost all citizens would serve as a ‘Minister’ at some point. Most major offices were selected by lot (called sortition). As Philip Brook Manville writes, “in the fourth century; almost all citizens above thirty must have served a year at least once in their lives.”

Once you were a citizen, you were assumed to have liberty, equality, and direct power, even if the slaves, women, and ‘foreigners’ around you did not. In many ways, you had power because they did not. And thus you can see the perversion of liberty and equality within the game of democracy itself. It all depends on who’s allowed to play.

Here we also return to the diversity of democracies that Aristotle talked about. As he said, “all laws are, and ought to be, framed agreeable to the state that is to be governed by them, and not the state to the laws.”

In Politics Aris travels around Africa and West Asia, surveying different democracies. Some have a king and want to preserve that aristocratic power, so they ‘rig’ the game that way. Some have rich people that want to preserve that oligarchic power, and so they ‘rig’ the game that way.

I put ‘rig’ in quotes because aristocracy and oligarchy were not value judgements like they are today. They were just different. As Aristotle said, different strokes for different folks. Today we still have the same diversity of democracy in practice (just as we have practical slavery), we’re just in denial about it.

And this is the fundamental state of democracy today. A state of denial. We act like democracy is one thing (it’s many), like citizenship is holy (it’s full of holes), and we call this whole misperception ‘democracy’. The common belief in liberal democracy is essentially a religious belief at this point, as far removed from goodness as the Crusades were from Christ.

People within ‘liberal democracies’ really think they’re doing God’s work. In truth, they’re just the nails hammered into Them.

Josh Brolin about to hammer in the crappy American remake of Oldboy

Democracy Is A Claw Without

As we went through, democracy is just the in-group management of a bunch of citizens. When it comes to the out-groups, you can do whatever the fuck you want.

Just as it is towards internal slaves or ‘illegals’, there are few limitations on what you can do to people outside the club. As Henry Hill said about the Mafia:

It means that nobody can fuck around with you. It also means you could fuck around with anybody just as long as they aren’t also a member. It’s like a license to steal. It’s a license to do anything.

There is literally nothing within a democracy to stop it from going to war. The people getting attacked aren’t citizens. They literally don’t count.

There’s this idea that a bunch of well-meaning citizens wouldn’t do that, but what if someone is threatening them? What if someone is threatening democracy itself? Then war!

Who gets to decide what a real threat is? Well, the citizens, or the oligarchs, or aristocrats. In this way wars are inherently undemocratic for the people being attacked, even if the country invading is democratic. They don’t get to decide at all.

In this way, you can see the poison of exclusionary citizenship, weaponized and pointed out. Just as there’s different rules for non-citizens within, there’s no rules for non-citizens without. Like someone who’s not ‘made’, you can fuck with them as much as you want.

It’s like a license to steal. It’s a license to do anything.

I often think of this idea in relation to White Empire’s wars. What if they were serious about spreading democracy? What if they waged an actually democratic war? What if instead of being an expensive oligarchy, they were an expansive democracy?

Let’s say they had to invade first, because the people were trapped. Then what?

Well then, logically, America would make all Iraqis citizens. Iraqi governates would get 40 Senators and Iraqi people would vote in all American elections. The country was invaded to spread democracy, so spread it, right? If Iraqis are going to be occupied by a democracy, they should have a voice in that democracy of course. Lol right? It doesn’t happen that way at all.

All that happens is that one people who are internally democratic impose their will on another group of people without. Those people are fair game. They’re not citizens. They’re not in the club. While liberal democracy is a hammer building a society within, outside it’s just a claw, ripping societies and human bodies apart.

Via Pink Floyd’s The Wall

Hammering It In

And so here we are. Back in modernity, after a detour through ancient Athens, after questioning the assumptions of democracy, citizenship, and what constitutes a democratic war.

In our day-to-day lives we don’t look at these assumptions. We just go around proudly defending democracy, despite it raising quite an offensive stink around the world. But we can’t ignore the bodies anymore.

People within Empire often say ‘they hate us for our freedom.’ I think this actually makes some sense. If you have freedom, if you have democracy, why did you choose this? Why did you choose to kill millions of people and displace tens of millions of people? You’re proud of your democracy? Fine. Then take some responsibility.

Americans expect Russians to overthrow their government or face poverty, all for invading a country. What fate do Americans deserve, for invading so many more?

As Osama Bin Laden said in his 2002 Letter To The Americans, explaining why he fired the shot that marks the fall:

Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden. Important read for understanding the world

Bin Laden was a bigoted asshole, certainly, but even the worst person you know can make a good point. And in case you’re like ‘how dare you quote that Bin Laden!’, here’s the former US Ambassador to Russia (under Obama!) making the same point.

Where’s the daylight between these two dipshits? It’s all dark. McFaul goes even further than Bin Laden. With Bin Laden’s message you could say that America actually isn’t a democracy at all, it’s not the peoples fault. But McFaul is saying even people in an oligarchy are responsible. And that you should overthrow your government by force.

Bin Laden called the Americans Crusaders and he was right; Bush the Younger even said it himself. You can still see that level of messianic zeal, from people who are obviously not following neither philosophers or God. Empire has perverted democratic values like they perverted the message of Christ, and it’s an abomination to behold.

The sad thing is that I love Christianity, and I like democracy. It’s a very interesting idea, lots of good stuff in there. But like the Crusades, White Empire has taken something good and weaponized it, using it as cover to kill and take what they want. And that is where we are.

Like every religion taken over by a state, the ideals of democracy have been completely corrupted. Loaded into bombs, painted on flags, using for whatever vulgar purpose Empire wanted to do. And so we have to deconstruct it. We have to look at it. We can’t just believe in it anymore.

To all those mindlessly defending democracy, examine that. If you’re defending something peaceful, why do you keep attacking other people so much? If democracy is about human freedom, why aren’t you listening when people say stop, this hurts?

Yes. Truly understanding democracy means not believing in it anymore. Not as an article of faith. Certainly not as some abstract good. I’ll say it quite plainly. Democracy is not good.

It’s just a tool, like a hammer. You can hammer nails with it, or use it to claw peoples eyes out. You can build houses, or tear them down. Nothing in the tool will tell you this is right or wrong. It’s just a tool. If you don’t understand the nature of this tool, if you don’t even think about it, then guess what? Someone else is wielding it, and the tool is using you.

You’re the nails on the cross, you’re the slave to the boss, you’re the rust on the claw end of the hammer, smashed into the quivering eyeball of the world. As Pink Floyd said in their hammer-heavy film, all in all, you’re just another brick in the wall.