Archives for posts with tag: Democracy

In a somewhat bizarre turn of events, Bernie Sanders recently went on Fox News to discuss his vision for America. I say “recently” in the sense that Blog for Chumps is updated only ever infrequently, so this is about as Breaking News as you’re going to get. I’m only going to focus on the one section that I’ve set up in the hyperlink there, when Sanders is asked, if he likes high taxes so much, why doesn’t he take the initiative and pay more? Be the Leninist vanguard of the Keynesian welfare state!

Sanders, despite the positive reaction from the crowd, actually answers this question rather poorly. He states that he pays what he is obligated to pay, and then turns to whataboutism to ask for Donald Trump to release his tax returns to see if the President is following those same obligations. Of course, the question was not about meeting obligations, but exceeding expectations in order to conform with the ideology that Sanders allegedly espouses. Namely, higher taxes on the wealthy.

There is a much better response to this question: ignore it entirely and respond to the underlying ideology that drives it instead.

Social change is not an individualistic concept. Slavery was not abolished because one slave owner decided he didn’t think it was such a great idea anymore, and then everyone else fell in line like plantation-owning dominoes. Democracy didn’t come about because some monarch took it upon himself to diffuse his absolute power. Democracy is by definition a collective concept; imagining an individual shifting the gears of government, on their own, toward a government that literally requires the will of demos, is patently nonsensical.


I live under a monarchy. I’m going to cast a ballot, and just hope that everyone else follows my shining example. NO OTHER EFFORT REQUIRED! YAY FREEDOM!

There is a prevailing myth about Rosa Parks that she was just some random woman who had had enough, and her stubbornness ultimately lead to the dissolution of the segregated seating on Montgomery transit. Yet Parks was already an active activist and member of the NAACP before her refusal, and then she engaged with the activist community in a lengthy bus boycott to overcome the racist practice. Her decision and the consequences that followed were heavily steeped in collective action.

It’s neither individuals nor their actions that change the world. It is when individuals organize into groups that they become effective. The Civil Rights movement overturned segregated buses, just as revolution brought about democracy. Bernie Sanders paying more in taxes would do absolutely nothing to implement his goals. The question is attempting to twist hypocrisy into a situation where the very premise it is pushing is meaningless. However, there is an even darker side to the way this question (and those like it) is framed.

What this question is suggesting, beyond twisted hypocrisy, is that individual action is the solution to social problems. Billionaires just need to start changing their minds about a system that privileges them indiscriminately, and income inequality will become a thing of the past. The peasants can just wait for the king to give them rights. The slaves can wait for their masters to have a change of heart.

slave master

I tire of owning people. I guess you can have your freedom…

Immanuel Kant famously wrote that ought implies can. You are only morally obligated to make change in situations where you are actually capable of doing so. If individuals can’t change the world, then it’s not their fault. Poor people certainly can’t impact policy on their own, so they just shouldn’t worry about it. The moral duty to change the world falls entirely on the corporation, I suppose, since corporations are the only entities with the means to do so.

Individually, maybe, we bear no responsibility for the world, but we are useless as individuals. Collectively, however, we are capable of much, and that is where the responsibility lies. Here’s what Sanders should have said:

“I assume you’re asking this question because you want to frame me as a hypocrite. However, you’re assuming that anything I do makes a difference. The reason I’m sitting here talking to you at all is because I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of a grassroots campaign, years in the making, that has relied almost entirely on a collection of regular people who believe this kind of policy is needed. My taking of any action on my own means nothing; it’s what we’re doing as a group that’s making a difference. In fact, in even asking this question, you’re asking the American people to look to me, or people like me, to improve their lives by, in this case, individually paying more than is legally required in taxes. Don’t do anything else, just wait for ol’ Bernie to pay more in taxes. That will start the revolution! That’s not what they should be doing, and shame on you for suggesting it! What they should be doing is joining this movement, join a union or an activist group, and push forward change that doesn’t rely on any one person to make a statement. ”


No idea if I’ve captured his cadence or speaking style, but who gives a shit. I think I just want Bernie Sanders to refer to himself as “Ol’ Bernie”


As someone on the left wing, communism tends to come up every now and then, often as more of an accusation than anything else. Now, people don’t generally understand what communism is, and whatever, but when people describe what they think it is, what they inevitably end up describing is the basic structure of a multinational corporation: a small, unelected group of elites holding tyrannical power over all those under their jurisdiction, dictating from on high the direction the collective will follow, and also everyone at the bottom is impoverished and starving.


Communism: Because believing in propaganda is easier than reading books!

If the Soviet Union failed because Joe Comrade was starving rather than living in utopian abundance, then why isn’t Apple considered a failure when it has enduring criticisms of sweatshop labour conditions? Poisonous work environments and suicide epidemics? And of course, child labour, because why not? I mean sure, Apple has made a few people very, very rich to the point where movies get made about them, and now we have a whole new kind of addiction that drug addicts of the past could never even conceive of, which, I guess, kudos for changing the world, but if Stalin invented the iPhone instead of Steve Jobs, would that really change our opinion of the USSR as a country? I mean, for the sake of argument, if a company that had fruit in its name were to indirectly hire a mercenary army to overthrow a democratic government, we’d rage with equal fury to Russian interference in an election, right?

Consider Saudi Arabia. What you might not know about the Saudi kingdom is that it is technically a “socialist” state, similar to the “socialism” of the Soviet Union… Not, you know, real socialism, but the fake propaganda socialism we’ve been talking about that is interchangeable with communism. The Saudi state owns the oil production within Saudi Arabia. And wouldn’t you know it, people go nuts for that shit. People love oil, maybe even more than their iPhones. And much like the Soviet Union, the human rights record in Saudi Arabia isn’t all that great either. And, for added serendipity, it recently endured what could quite easily be compared to a Stalinistic purge. Comparisons for days!

The Saud family is hella rich. Richer than Steve Jobs. Does that mean that we have finally found that successful communist state that those on the Right routinely demand of their progressive interlocutors? I suppose that depends on a long series of ever-changing definitions. Unfortunately, nobody ever calls Saudi Arabia communist, mostly because that would lead to conflicting propagandas.


MbS: The revolutionary new face of the definitely-not-communist Wahhabi regime

The differences between a privately-owned company and a privately-owned country are slim. The only objective measure of success seems to be economic (Apple would never change its working conditions if it thought it wouldn’t lose any money from the blowback; I mean, they’re still doing it, and still making money, so). Subjectively, all you have to do is play ball with the Western powers, and people will literally define words differently to suit you.

What made the Soviet Union a failure was that the people were oppressed by a tyrannical government. The solution, according to even the propaganda, is having the people direct their own future by collectively agreeing which direction they wish to go: you know, democracy. Well, the same applies to any company: the workers should direct their own future and collectively agree which direction they wish to go: you know, socialism (not communism… it’s different. Learn what words mean).

Regardless of whether you think he’s the only legitimate use of Godwin’s law, Donald Trump’s success has turned politics into the real-life circus that newspaper cartoonists have been prophetically satirizing for decades. I won’t bother explaining why Donald Trump is terrible. I figure if you’re a supporter of Trump and you’ve miraculously stumbled across this blog, your literacy levels would have prevented you from progressing past the word “legitimate”, and you have already given up reading. Thus it’s a safe bet we’re all in political agreement so far.

Where we might differ is that I don’t believe that Donald Trump is the failure of democracy, but the culmination of it. Plato in his Republic decries democracy as pandering to the masses, where the success of a leader is determined not by their ability to lead or their wisdom, but by their ability to appeal to the bulk of the people. Considering the Greeks invented the damn thing, it seems that even in its infancy democracy has borne the seed of the pupating Trump.

Donald Trump is unique among politicians in that he isn’t one. Trump is heralded as a man who brazenly speaks his mind among sleazy, lying politicians. Except Trump makes just as many false promises as those sleazy politicians and flip-flops on controversial topics depending on who he is speaking to. He is more overtly racist and misogynistic than his peers, but surely that can’t be his method of success.

Donald Trump is not a politician, but a salesman, and in a political system that inherently relies on image over substance, we see how his popularity is not an anomaly but is almost predestined by our adherence to it. And Trump is an amazing salesman. A linguist analyzed Trump’s response to a simple question, and found that he uses repetition, punchy, simplistic language, and a speaking style that subconsciously elicits agreement. Again, there is little of substance in what he says, but the way he says it manipulatively charms those who aren’t paying attention.

We live in an age where advertising has the finest tools of psychology behind it. I mean, ads directed to kids have so much psychological juju that they can sell cereal that is just a few grams away from being bowls of actual sugar under the guise of being a nutritionally healthy choice. Trump knows all these tricks; how else could it be explained that several bankruptcies, a grocery list of failed business plans, and pending lawsuits don’t dissuade people from associating the name Trump with success? John Oliver dedicated an entire segment to showcasing this phenomenon, and he concluded that the brand is so well marketed that disassociating Donald from the name Trump is the optimal solution since convincing people to rebel against their advertorial mind-control is a depressingly futile endeavour.

One might argue that the stupidification of the American public is more to blame than the problems inherent to the democratic system, and this is a fair point. A nation full of well-educated, critical thinking individuals would more than likely vote for someone better qualified than Trump. Though, a nation full of baboons would vote for someone better qualified than Trump, so maybe it’s a moot point. In any case, America exists in political and economic systems that profit from the pliability of its populace, and so dedicates its efforts to enforcing that attribute. As Plato predicts, any system existing under a democracy will eventually develop into one where someone like Trump will flourish.

In a bid to overthrow the democratic system, Republicans are actually contemplating blocking Trump’s nomination if he wins. Thwarting the will of the populace may become the last resort of a political party desperately clinging to shreds of sanity. And they are not alone. Isaac Asimov is floating around the internet as a bonafide meme, declaring that “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” This notion that intelligence or sanity supersedes another’s right to vote is thoroughly undemocratic, and suggests some kind of neo-aristocracy to rule over the vulgar masses.

Winston Churchill once said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” In the West, we started with democracy, and after a few affairs with some monarchies, theocracies, and the odd dictatorial despot, we decided to stick with it. Now we seem to be reaping what we’ve sewn. Trump would never be able to attain power in any other form of government outside of a democracy.

So now we are faced with a question: do we continue with Churchill’s worst form of government and just desperately hope that when the inevitable Trumps appear on the ballot that our nations have not reach Idiocratic levels of docility, or do we dream up a better way?