The People

Monarchies have had rulers and subjects, as opposed to a society of an Enlightenment republic, which has citizens, formally equal before the law, who choose the governing ones from among themselves. The common education system cares for their knowledge and attitudes, which, through their votes, finds its reflection in the quality of the powers and of the state.

As the culture became mass and commercial, in the 20th century civic education started to become weaker or to disappear. The symbolism and content were lowered to the level which was most broadly represented, the lowest. The remains of the higher culture have been kept in school programmes, from which they are gradually being driven out by the mass-culture, which demands ennoblement.

The ideas of common good and civic virtues are disappearing. The ever-further-reaching etatism and the ever-wider offer of shallow entertainment make the social cultural resources, cultivated in the past by social, political, and religious doctrines, disappear. Atomisation and driving out of social bonds by television and other media leads to behaviours characteristic of a crowd rather than a society. In this way citizens gradually turn into a rabble.

The primitivism of thought causes primitivism of choice. Then, acting in the best of faith, the elites limit the possibility of unreasonable choices, limiting democracy itself. This way the citizenship of the people becomes more of a façade, and its serfdom real.

Common tolerance for nepotism, corruption, underworld mentality of the parties, and self-interest of the powers is growing. Nothing strange in that – say the people – if they are us, why should they be better than us? Today’s corruption of societies and powers resembles the situation described by de Montesquieu:

“The people fall into this misfortune when those in whom they confide, desirous of concealing their own corruption, endeavour to corrupt them. To disguise their own ambition, they speak to them only of the grandeur of the state; to conceal their own avarice, they incessantly flatter theirs.

The corruption will increase among the corruptors, and likewise among those who are already corrupted. The people will divide the public money among themselves, and, having added the administration of affairs to their indolence, will be for blending their poverty with the amusements of luxury. But with their indolence and luxury, nothing but the public treasure will be able to satisfy their demands.

We must not be surprised to see their suffrages given for money. It is impossible to make great largesses to the people without great extortion: and to compass this, the state must be subverted. The greater the advantages they seem to derive from their liberty, the nearer they approach towards the critical moment of losing it. Petty tyrants arise who have all the vices of a single tyrant. The small remains of liberty soon become insupportable; a single tyrant starts up, and the people are stripped of everything, even of the profits of their corruption.”

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I think that there are many new forms in which this higher culture is emerging, people are just not aware of it. Take South Park for instance. It seems rather hard to imagine that religious individuals or communities would like that show, but I think that the episode “Super Best Friends” can teach us one of the most important lessons on religion, and only few religions manage to successfully teach their followers that lesson by themselves. It’s also probably a bad idea to show such shows at school. However there’s much, much more that can be found in fantasy and science-fiction (and literature in general), and I think movies like The Hogfather have enormous potential.

I would disagree here, for semantic reasons only. The ideas of common good and civic virtues are only changing as a result of time, just like everything else. It can only be the old interpretation or common version of the idea that appears to disappear. However, these old versions have shown that they can lead to good results, so I don’t see them disappearing anytime soon.

The central idea here is corruption. From a personal perspective, I think that corruption in yourself corresponds to shame in many ways. It is up to each individual to decide for himself what to do with it. From an social perspective, when you see corruption in others it is always a bad thing. If you had the power to make that corruption go away, you would most likely be willing to put some effort in that, but you probably can’t think of a way to deal with it with only acceptable sacrifices. Another important aspect is that corruption can only be seen by human beings or groups of human beings, that are separate from others in a certain perspective. The nature of these individuals or groups depends on the type of corruption at hand.

Let me put your quote in a perspective of this time, that from a manager compared to the employees (and possibly other surroundings) that are influenced by the way in which the manager deals with his authority. He is the manager for a reason, most likely because he will either have been smart enough to work his way to the top, or because other people showed him the way simply because he has talent. One of the main responsibilities of the manager is to remove corruption from his employees and himself as much as possible. His capacities are limited and he also cannot foresee all the corruption that could possibly emerge. In the best case he will use his capacities for the good of those under his influence, in the worst case he will do the opposite. His employees can either oppose him or cooperate, and the productivity of the company reflects which of these they do.

There are two highly related things you seem to be talking about here:

  1. The loss of a common sense of the good as a society

  2. The replacement of a civic republic with a procedural republic.

1 is a result of increased freedom as well as an unfettering from the past. People can and do choose their own paths, many of which have entirely different languages. It isn’t just an embrace of pluralism and the abandonment of older social structures but also how new information technology plays into the situation. If I am reading Huffington Post and the DailyKos, I will have a very different concept both of what is newsworthy and how those newsworthy items relate to the world than if I listen to Limbaugh and watch Fox News. It has become hyper-individualized.

2 is a little trickier, but because people are allowed to be different the right has to come before the good. That means that the only thing holding society together is a bunch of ‘laws’ whose authority is suspect. At that point, there is no need to adhere to those laws, since people have such fractured conceptions of them. Throw on top of that various common narratives (like ‘greed is good’ and other wealth-worshiping as well as 'government can’t do anything right, by default) and you’ve got a hotbed for corruption and alienation.

Although I’m not really sure about how I should describe this in general philosophical terms, but I think that what you mention eventually boils down to how chaos seems to emerge and disappear. The combination of this chaos on our fundamental desires cause us to do strange things, and from that problems can emerge. It is how we raise our children, how we develop technology, how we manage our self and how we are managed by our surroundings. People that prefer the daylight over the night light don’t want the sun to go down, and people that prefer the sight of the stars in the sky will not want the sun to rise. Personally I prefer the twilight, and just watch them arguing.


how very unrefreshingly post modern

Finding answers can sometimes seem unrefreshingly indeed, it’s all about when you can be satisfied. I just do my best not to ask too many questions, because I’ve got some tough ones to work on already.

just incase

op = original poster

I don’t know if putting it into a Manichean division between order and chaos really helps much. What do you think it adds to the description? Tension between the individual and the group, sure. Even between Apollonian and Dionysian aspects, sure. But order and chaos? Mind fleshing that out a bit?

I don’t know what Manichean means to you, and to me it doesn’t mean anything yet. I just tried to analyze the problem in my own words, that is all I can do here.

I didn’t mean it in a bad way, just a curious way. I tend not to use the order/chaos axis when constructing models of things, so I was wondering why you were applying it in this case. As for Manichean, it takes its name from an ancient Persian religion which emphasized a strong dichotomy between good and evil. It has become a byword for any strong distinction but especially those with moral overtones.

No offense taken. From a scientific point of view, chaos can be seen as one of the root causes of our universe. Imagine a slight random imperfection just after the Big Bang to see chaotic creativity in action. However, from an opposite perspective this appears to be nothing but order, which can only be observed as chaotic from certain scientific perspectives. Absolute chaos and absolute order are just two opposites that are always working together in some way, whether you can see it or not.

It is natural that politicians, whose mandate comes from elections, have to love the people. A demonstration is given by political campaigns, during which politicians show their honest adoration of the plebs, which gives them authority, wealth, privilege, and other pleasures. But the commoners are not only a source of power, they are its victim and provider at the same time; the elected are full of gratitude and show it at every official occasion.

Usually the commoners do not fully understand that they are being robbed, oppressed, or cheated by the same people whom they chose, because they chose those people to improve their own lives and not to be oppressed. The love of authorities is easy to notice, on the other hand. The plebs are praised, enchanted, cared for, imitated, politicians participate in a race to guess the wishes of the commoners. Generally speaking: the plebs are great!

Who could stay normal for long, experiencing unconditional and common acceptance of any rubbish he says, of his infallibility and power, of his central role in the system of power and world order? Surrounded by flunkeys, flatterers, and worshippers, the commoners suffer from psychic damage, and, as democracy evolves, they become more and more stupid and rotten.

Sacrifice, self-restraint, the primacy of the common good are civic virtues seen only in young democracies; in the mature phase, they are pushed out even from mythology as naive and useless. As said, both the ruling and the ruled become demoralised. Both the former and the latter are responsible for the decline of democracy, even though they suffer different punishments.

The stupefied people entrust more and more of their affairs in those, who can promise more. Since the promises usually exceed the capabilities of the people, personal activity becomes ineffective, and the plebs become more and more inactive. More and more affairs require the involvement of the authorities, and their powers take more and more of them upon themselves, regardless of their sensibility or feasibility. As democracy evolves, the people become more atomised and apathised, and their childishness becomes a great fuel for various demagogues, miracle-makers, and, in time, dictators. The natural consequence of democracy is autocracy, and it also sets in from the will of the almighty commoners.

How we do know it was “good” as a society in the first place?

The freedom is not divided up very well. What do you think of its development thus far? And, not everybody, still nowadays, can choose their own paths, for example, as you stated, in different languages etc. But why is this? Why are some societies more developed than others; and thus have more freedom than others? WIll this development stay as it is?