The Rule of Quantity Over Quality - The Myth of Democracy
This post contains three author's observations on the subject of democracy: the Swedish philosopher Tage Lindbom, the Italian unique mind Julius Evola and Henry Louis Mencken, who's writing I don't know enough about to agree 100% with. Lindbom and Evola on the other hand I wholeheartedly recommend.
My reason for posting this topic is to get a discussion going about the intrinsic fundamental problems of the idea of democracy, being the rule of quantity over quality.
"The exterior chaos and this exterior menace of dictatorship are nevertheless not the essential. They are but the projection of something incomparably more serious and more dangerous--interior chaos, the confusion that reigns in the hearts of men. It is now an affair of a generation which, in its ensemble, is incapable of discerning truth from lies, the true from the false, the good from the bad. The time of harvest is come for the Kingdom of Man."
<a href="http://www.geocities.com/integral_tradition/lindbom.html">Tage Lindbom</a> was born in Sweden in 1909. Having completed a doctorate in History at the University of Stockholm in 1938, he was for many years director of the Library of the Socialdemocratic party, housed in the headquarters of the Swedish Labor Movement in Stockholm. Close to the very center of decision-making, Lindbom helped conceive and implement “the Swedish model.” Thus, he became one of the intellectual architects of the famous Swedish Welfare State.
He was the friend of prime ministers, cabinet ministers, and labor leaders. He served on public boards and commissions dealing with cultural questions, including the executive board of the Royal Opera.
Later in his life Lindbom adopted more conservative political views. After World War II, Lindbom started to have serious doubts about the cause he promoted. He underwent a slow, but profound intellectual and spiritual change. In 1962 he published The Windmills of Sancho Panza. In this work he rejected the assumptions behind Social Democracy and related movements. Not surprisingly, he found himself suddenly isolated. Since breaking with his past, Lindbom has published many books in Sweden, most of which explore the tension between religion and modern secular ideology. Lindbom became a sufi and follower of Schuon in 1962, has written over 20 books in Swedish, his works have been also translated to German, Spanish, Turkish and English.
The two book which appeared in English were The Tares and the Good Grain (1983) and The Myth of Democracy (Cambridge, Eerdmans Publishing 1996).
The Myth of Democracy
The Cold War has ended and Democracy now reigns virtually uncontested world-wide. Western Constitutional thought has aggressively spread to all corners of the globe. Indeed, it would seem that Democracy is superior to all other political systems that have ever existed. Frenzied praise for democratic ideals and institutions overflow from Western politicians and intellectuals. Yet, beneath the rhetoric there lies festering problems of immense proportion which periodically break through the cloak of flattery. Growing moral unrest and disillusion frequently scar the presumably 'flawless' modern democratic society. The exquisite problem is summed up by Tage Lindbom's first line in his new book The Myth of Democracy. He inquires, "Who will rule, God or man?".
Lindbom argues that the entire secular world is suffering from a severe lack of divine leadership and consequently, all democratic nations are spiraling towards self-annihilation. He specifically cites deteriorating educational standards, the break-up of the traditional family, and rising crime rates as varied indications of secular collapse. Lindbom tends to focus on existential philosophy as one of the main factors in the grand failure of Western society. He communicates the egotistical nature of man through several historical examples which follow the evolution of Western politics up to the present day. Lindbom's extensive education at the University of Stockholm and his deep involvement in Swedish politics are both evident in his fascinating book.
The advent of governmental systems based on social contracts is one way humans confirm their worldly supremacy. Lindbom claims that man rejects the divine power of God by instilling himself with the ability to govern and vote. Unfortunately, man lacks identity by separating himself from God, and so he must define in a universal fashion what existence means. This is where a constitution comes into play for Lindbom's intricate explanation- it gives human beings a purpose and place "...in profane existence when the divine presence is forgotten..."(28). Through historical reference, Lindbom tracks how the City of God and the secular City of Man have torn away from each other. Beyond constitutional governing systems, Lindbom sees the industrial revolution as another major factor in man's modern fall from grace. Lindbom writes, "The mechanization of labor is not only a degradation of man; much worse than that, it is a tragedy" (45). Development is a manifestation of the forgetting process for humans in the secular world. The meaninglessness of our existence without God's presence causes man to preoccupy himself in progressing and bettering the secular world around him. However, instead of moving forward, Lindbom claims we are falling further away from the ultimate goal which is the City of God.
The argument presented in The Myth of Democracy assumes something that can not be substantiated; the existence of God. Although Lindbom makes some very interesting points about the nature of liberty and majority rule in democracies, overall his claims fall short of their initial, lofty goal. The final chapter of Lindbom's work entitled "Lucifer", compares the biblical fall of man with our present situation in the secular world. Lindbom makes the elegant association between the urges of biblical man and the ego driven temptations of modern humans towards greater political power.
Lindbom's considerable work and reflection come shining through in his most recent book, The Myth of Democracy. Those who persistently cling to Christian doctrines in this modern era of diverse beliefs will find Lindbom's conclusions logical. And those who are non-believers will certainly find Lindbom's distinct style of writing and arguing highly engaging. The sinful problems of the modern secular society may find their salvation in a divine solution. Lindbom presents our difficult choice quite clearly; the heavenly City of God or Lucifer's secular City of man. For Lindbom the answer to this eternal quandary is elementary, "When the divine is totally denied, the ineluctable consequence is that there is nothing else to take its place but the spirit of negation, the satanic" (122). "We [must] seek God, the very Source of our being" (130).
Excerpt from the article <a href="http://www.geocities.com/integral_tradition/regress.html">REGRESSION OF THE CASTES by Julius Evola</a>
As my intent was to offer a bird's-eye view of history, in the previous pages I have presented all the elements necessary to formulate an objective law at work in the various stages of the process of decadence, that is, the law of the regression of castes (1). A progressive shift of power and type of civilization has ocurred from one caste to the next since prehistoric times (from sacred leaders, to a warrior aristocracy, to the merchants, and finally to the serfs); these castes in traditional civilizations corresponded to the qualitative differentiation of the main human possibilities. In the face of this general movement anything concerning the various conflicts among peoples, the life of nations, or other historical accidents plays only a secondary and contingent role.
I have alredy discussed the dawn of the age of the first caste. In the West, the representatives of the divine royalty and the leaders who embody the two powers (spiritual and temporal), in what I have called "spiritual virility" and "Olympian sovereignity," belong to a very distant and almost mythical past. We have seen how, through the gradual deterioration of the Light of the North, the process of decadence has unfolded; in the Ghibelline ideal of the Holy Roman Empire I have identified the last echo of the highest tradition.
Once the appex dissapeared, authority descended to the level inmediately below, that is, to the caste of the warriors. The stage was then set for monarchs who were mere military leaders, lords of temporal justice and, in more recent times, politically absolute sovereigns. In other words, regality of blood replaced regality of the spirit. In a few instances it is still posible to find the idea of "divine right," but only as a formula lacking a real content. We find such rulers in antiquity behind institutions that retained the traits of the ancient sacred regime only in a formal way. In any event in the West, with the dissolution of the medieval ecumene, the passage into the second phase became all-enbracing and definitive. During this stage, the fides cementing the state no longer had a religious character, but only a warrior one; it meant loyalty, faithfulness, honor. This was essentially the age and the cycle of the Great European monarchies.
Then a second collapse ocurred as the aristocracies began to fall into decay and the monarchies to shake at the foundations; through revolutions and constitutions they became useless institutions subject to the "will of the nation," and sometimes they were even ousted by different regimes. The principle characterizyng this state of affairs was: "The king reigns but he does not rule." Together with parliamentary republics the formation of the capitalist oligarchies revealed the shift of power from the second caste (the warrior) to the modern equivalent of the third caste (the mercantile class). The kings of the coal, oil, and iron industries replace the previous kings of blood and of spirit. Antiquity, too, sometimes knew this phenomenon in sporadics forms; in Rome and in Greece the "aristocracy of welth" repatedly forced the han of the hierarchical structure by pursuing aristocratic positions, undermining sacred laws and traditional institutions, and inflitrating the militia, priesthood, or consulship. In later times what ocurred was the rebelion of the communes and the rise of the various madieval formations of mercantile power. The solemn proclamation of the "rights of the Third Estate" in France represented the decisive stage, followed by the varieties of "bourgeois revolution" of the third caste, which employed liberal and democratic ideologies for its own purposes. Correspondingly, this era was characterized by the theory of the social contract. At this time the social bond was no longer a fides of a warrior type based on relationships of faithfulness and honor. Instead, it took on a utilitarian and economic character; it consisted of an agreement based on personal convenience and on material interest that only a merchant could have conceived. Gold became a means ad powerful tool; those who knew how to acquire it and to multiply it (capitalism, high finance, industrial trusts), behind the appereances of democracy, virtually controlled political power and the instruments employed in the art of opinionmaking. Aristocracy gave way to plutocracy, the warrior, to the banker and industrialist. The economy triumphed on all fronts. Trafficking with money and charging interest, activities previouly confined to the ghettos, invaded the new civilisation. According to the expression of W. Sombart, in the promised land of Protestant puritanism, Americanism, capitalism, and the "destilled Jewish spirit" coexist. It is natural that given these congenial premises, the modern representatives of secularized Judaism saw the ways to achieve world domination open up before them. In this regard, Karl Marx wrote:
What are the mundane principles of Judaism? Practical necessity and the pursuit of one's own advantage. What is its earthly god? Money. The Jew has emancipated himself in a typically Jewish fashion not only in that he has taken control of the power of money, but also in that through him, money has become a world power and the practical Jewish spirit of the Christian people. The Jews have emancipated themselves insofar as the Christians have become Jews. The god of the Jews has become secularized and has become the god of the earth. The exchange is the true god of the Jews. (2)
In reality, the codification of the traffic with gold as a loan charged with interest, to which the Jews had been previously devoted since they had no other means through which they could affirm themselves, may be said to be the very foundation of the acceptance of the aberrant development of all that is banking, high finance, and pure economy, which are spreading like a cancer in the modern world. This is the fundamental time in the "age of the merchants".
Finally the crisis of bourgeois society, classs truggle, the proletarian revolt against capitalism, the manifest promulgated at the "Third International" in 1919, and the correlative organization of the groups and the masses in the cadres proper to a "socialist civilization of labor" -all these bear witness to the third collapse, in which power tends to pass into the hands of the lowest of the traditional castes, the caste of the beasts of burden and the standardized individuals. The result of this transfer of power was a reduction of horizon and value to the plane of matter, the machine, and the reign of quantity. The prelude to this was the Russian Revolution. Thus, the new ideal became the "proletarian" ideal of a universal and communist civilization. (3)
We may compare the above mentioned phaenomenon of the awakening and gushing forth of elemental subhuman forces within the structures of the modern world to a person who can no longer endure the tension of the spirit (first caste), and eventually not even the tension of the will as afree force that animates the body (warrior caste), and who thus gives in to the subpersonal forces of the organic system and all of a sudden reacts almost magnetically under the impulse of another life taht replaces his own. The ideas and the passions of the demos soon escape men´s control and they begin to act as if they had acquired an autonomous and dreadful life of their own. These passions pit nations and collectivities against each other and result in unprecedented conflicts and crises. At the end of the process, once the total collapse has ocurred, the awaits an international system under the brutal symbols of the hammer and the sickle.
<a href="http://www.geocities.com/integral_tradition/short.html">A SHORT ESSAY ON DEMOCRACY
Henry Louis Mencken</a>
I have alluded somewhat vaguely to the merits of democracy. One of them is quite obvious: it is, perhaps, the most charming form of government ever devised by man. The reason is not far to seek. It is based upon propositions that are palpably not true and what is not true, as everyone knows, is always immensely more fascinating and satisfying to the vast majority of men than what is true. Truth has a harshness that alarms them, and an air of finality that collides with their incurable romanticism. They turn, in all the great emergencies of life, to the ancient promises, transparently false but immensely comforting, and of all those ancient promises there is none more comforting than the one to the effect that the lowly shall inherit the earth. It is at the bottom of the dominant religious system of the modern world, and it is at the bottom of the dominant political system. The latter, which is democracy, gives it an even higher credit and authority than the former, which is Christianity. More, democracy gives it a certain appearance of objective and demonstrable truth. The mob man, functioning as citizen, gets a feeling that he is really important to the world - that he is genuinely running things. Out of his maudlin herding after rogues and mountebanks there comes to him a sense of vast and mysterious power—which is what makes archbishops, police sergeants, the grand goblins of the Ku Klux and other such magnificoes happy. And out of it there comes, too, a conviction that he is somehow wise, that his views are taken seriously by his betters - which is what makes United States Senators, fortune tellers and Young Intellectuals happy. Finally, there comes out of it a glowing consciousness of a high duty triumphantly done which is what makes hangmen and husbands happy.
All these forms of happiness, of course, are illusory. They don't last. The democrat, leaping into the air to flap his wings and praise God, is for ever coming down with a thump. The seeds of his disaster, as I have shown, lie in his own stupidity: he can never get rid of the naive delusion - so beautifully Christian - that happiness is something to be got by taking it away from the other fellow. But there are seeds, too, in the very nature of things: a promise, after all, is only a promise, even when it is supported by divine revelation, and the chances against its fulfillment may be put into a depressing mathematical formula. Here the irony that lies under all human aspiration shows itself: the quest for happiness, as always, brings only unhappiness in the end. But saying that is merely saying that the true charm of democracy is not for the democrat but for the spectator. That spectator, it seems to me, is favoured with a show of the first cut and calibre. Try to imagine anything more heroically absurd! What grotesque false pretenses! What a parade of obvious imbecilities! What a welter of fraud! But is fraud unamusing? Then I retire forthwith as a psychologist. The fraud of democracy, I contend, is more amusing than any other, more amusing even, and by miles, than the fraud of religion. Go into your praying-chamber and give sober thought to any of the more characteristic democratic inventions: say, Law Enforcement. Or to any of the typical democratic prophets: say, the late Archangel Bryan. If you don't come out paled and palsied by mirth then you will not laugh on the Last Day itself, when Presbyterians step out of the grave like chicks from the egg, and wings blossom from their scapulae, and they leap into interstellar space with roars of joy.
I have spoken hitherto of the possibility that democracy may be a self-limiting disease, like measles. It is, perhaps, something more: it is self-devouring. One cannot observe it objectively without being impressed by its curious distrust of itself—its apparently ineradicable tendency to abandon its whole philosophy at the first sign of strain. I need not point to what happens invariably in democratic states when the national safety is menaced. All the great tribunes of democracy, on such occasions, convert themselves, by a process as simple as taking a deep breath, into despots of an almost fabulous ferocity. Lincoln, Roosevelt and Wilson come instantly to mind: Jackson and Cleveland are in the background, waiting to be recalled. Nor is this process confined to times of alarm and terror: it is going on day in and day out. Democracy always seems bent upon killing the thing it theoretically loves. I have rehearsed some of its operations against liberty, the very cornerstone of its political metaphysic. It not only wars upon the thing itself; it even wars upon mere academic advocacy of it. I offer the spectacle of Americans jailed for reading the Bill of Rights as perhaps the most gaudily humorous ever witnessed in the modern world. Try to imagine monarchy jailing subjects for maintaining the divine right of Kings! Or Christianity damning a believer for arguing that Jesus Christ was the Son of God! This last, perhaps, has been done: anything is possible in that direction. But under democracy the remotest and most fantastic possibility is a common-place of every day. All the axioms resolve themselves into thundering paradoxes, many amounting to downright contradictions in terms. The mob is competent to rule the rest of us—but it must be rigorously policed itself. There is a government, not of men, but of laws - but men are set upon benches to decide finally what the law is and may be. The highest function of the citizen is to serve the state - but the first assumption that meets him, when he essays to discharge it, is an assumption of his disingenuousness and dishonour. Is that assumption commonly sound? Then the farce only grows the more glorious.
I confess, for my part, that it greatly delights me. I enjoy democracy immensely. It is incomparably idiotic, and hence incomparably amusing. Does it exalt dunderheads, cowards, trimmers, frauds, cads? Then the pain of seeing them go up is balanced and obliterated by the joy of seeing them come down. Is it inordinately wasteful, extravagant, dishonest? Then so is every other form of government: all alike are enemies to laborious and virtuous men. Is rascality at the very heart of it? Well, we have borne that rascality since 1776, and continue to survive. In the long run, it may turn out that rascality is necessary to human government, and even to civilization itself - that civilization, at bottom, is nothing but a colossal swindle. I do not know: I report only that when the suckers are running well the spectacle is infinitely exhilarating. But I am, it may be, a somewhat malicious man: my sympathies, when it comes to suckers, tend to be coy. What I can't make out is how any man can believe in democracy who feels for and with them, and is pained when they are debauched and made a show of. How can any man be a democrat who is sincerely a democrat?
Three things are sacred to me: first Truth, and then, in its tracks, primordial prayer; Then virtue–nobility of soul which, in God walks on the path of beauty. Frithjof Schuon