Onthe road from Athens, democracy fell off the oxcart. What we have left is just a pile of bullshit.
In Athenian democracy, if you were a rich dude from the right family, you could walk over to ‘Parliament’ and just sit there and rule. When it came time to fill important jobs, you usually put your own name in the box, a process called sortition. Citizenship was certainly a violently restricted category, but once you were in the club, you had real power.
Today citizenship is still violently restricted but almost completely powerless. Citizens get teargassed if we try to enter Parliament. We get ‘indirect’ democracy, which is a fancy way of saying not at all. Instead of actually ruling ourselves, we anoint ruling elites in regular bribery festivals called ‘elections’.
Instead of choosing policies ourselves, instead of holding actual power, ordinary people literally just pick colors. Red or blue. Green or maroon. And we call this democracy. The Greeks would laugh at our pompous delusions. It’s just choose-your-own-oligarch.
We justify representative democracy by saying we need to select the best, most educated, and most experienced people to lead us, but please just look at who’s leading us, and where we’re going. As Donald Trump said, we’re not sending our best. Electoral democracy is a system that seems to empower the worst. We’ve reproduced an often hereditary caste of rich assholes.
At least the Greeks were honest about who they considered citizens. Today we call more people citizens, but are still ruled by a few.
To succeed in electoral politics you need to go to the same expensive schools and hang out with the same rich people. Ideally, you should come from a political family too. While the names change more often than in a hereditary aristocracy, the same class always rules. Electoral democracy just added 2% spandex to class privilege (look, Obama made it!) and marketed it as something new.
What we actually have is what Aristotle would call an oligarchy. Americans reserve the term for Russians and pretend that ‘liberal democracies’ are somehow above such things. They’re just called ‘sparkling rich people’ in the West, not oligarchs. But just look at what Aristotle said about the term, and then ask yourself if it applies outside Russian or African terroirs.
Old Aris said oligarchy is ‘when government is in the hands of the rich’ and democracy is ‘when it is in the hands of the poor.’ Now look at whose hands actually control the liberal democracies. Just look at the wealth of those politicians and the even greater wealth of the elites that bribe them quite openly.These governments are firmly in the hands of the rich, whatever party is in power. What we call democracy is just the paint job on a luxury vehicle for oligarchs. The rest of us are just kids on the sidewalk, yelling out ‘that’s my car!’
We live in democracies as much as Disney’s Space Mountain is in space. We live in oligarchies branded and marketed as Democracy™, and we buy this bullshit every election like a bunch of suckers. They literally buy TV ads with money they got bribed with, and we eat it up.
The truth is that democracy fell off the oxcart long ago, especially when a few rich dudes decided to ‘invent’ the modern version in America. While the Greeks were at least honest about slavery and oppressing non-citizens, Americans just lied about it, and this delusional democracy is what has spread across the world.It is this violent delusion that is loaded into bombs, which backs genocidal sanctions, and which crushes actual people power wherever it goes.
If you take the road back to Athens you see that liberal democracies are not real democracies at all. Modern democracies are not ruled by citizens, we give up our power to elites every election. Modern democracies are not ruled by the many, the same few fuckers die in their seats and pass power onto their wives and children. Modern democracies are certainly not ruled by the poor, the rich openly bribe everyone and corporations write legislation.
While ancient democracies were transparently oppressive slave states to most people, modern democracies are doing the same thing with more bullshit. Which is why it’s time to upset the whole oxcart. These fuckers are driving us merrily into pandemics and climate collapse as long as their portfolios go up.
I don’t know what comes next, but it’s obviously the end of the road for ‘liberal democracy’ as we know it. Wake up and smell the bullshit. It’s not what we’ve been sold.
I’ve written more about democracy here. You can track my increasing disillusion with it, or at least with what we call democracy.