What Does Too Much Democracy Look Like?
By Sita Rama dasa
Today, most people in the Western world equate democracy with fairness and justice; these words are interchangeable in common speech. A modern progressive would consider it odd to question if something is “too democratic.” However, if one reads Richard Hofstadter’s classic book, “The American Political Tradition” they will learn that the U.S. Constitutional Assembly was dominated by fear of too much democracy. Devotees should also understand that too much democracy is dangerous and counteract the influence of intellectuals who are determined to create a totally democratic world.
If one googles: Richard Hofstadter – “The founding Fathers: An Age of Realism” they will find a downloadable pdf of the first chapter of the book mentioned above; it shows the attitude of the founding Fathers. Here are a few quotes from the constitutional assembly:
[ Edmund Randolph, saying to the Convention that the evils from which the country suffered originated in “the turbulence and follies of democracy,” and that the great danger lay in the “democratic parts of our constitutions”; Elbridge Gerry, speaking of democracy as “the worst of all political evils”; William Livingston, saying that “the people have ever been and ever will be unfit to retain the exercise of power in their own hands”; George Washington, the presiding officer, urging the delegates not to produce a document of which they themselves could not approve simply in order to “please the people”; Hamilton, charging that the “turbulent and changing” masses “seldom judge or determine right” and advising a permanent governmental body to “check the imprudence of democracy”; —-all these were quite representative of the spirit in which the problems of government were treated.]
However Hofstadter explains the Founding Fathers also feared taking all power away from the people:[If they feared the advance of democracy, they also had misgivings about turning to the extreme right.” Mason admitted “that we had been too democratic,” but feared that “we should incautiously run into the opposite extreme.” Washington, who had already repudiated a suggestion that he become a military dictator, agreed, remarking that “we are apt to run from one extreme to the other.” Hamilton cited a clergyman: “Let it stand as a principle that government originates from the people; but let the people be taught…….that they are not able to govern themselves.]
In a Democracy each issue is voted on by all the people. The U.S. was not designed in this way. We vote for representatives, who then make the decisions, we are therefore a Republic. But people consider democracy sacrosanct and want to increase it as much as possible. They are blind to the fact that it is dangerous if taken to an extreme. I will present one of many examples of this.
I just began a MA in negotiation and conflict resolution (NCR). I plan to use what I learn to serve ISKCON. NCR implicitly and explicitly increases democratic processes; it allows people in general to have more power over decisions that affect them. I do not think democratic procedures are bad per se if the limits are recognized. But, as in most schools of thought, the leaders in the NCR field consider it a panacea. I was just reading an assignment which described global mediation as a process of Democratization. It described the goal of a world where “mediation is the core of good governance.” In essence, it envisions a world where the center of control is the mediator/ facilitator and power issues are resolved, not by laws enforced by governments, but by agreements made between conflicting parties. In other words, the facilitators/intellectuals will be in control of the world.
How far the world proceeds toward this ideal remains to be seen but it shows that intellectuals have explicit plans to increase their control over the world and it is likely, as time goes on, that people’s values will simply be ideals imposed upon them by the intellectual powers that be. Frankly this has already taken place to such a degree that even some devotees, after decades in the movement, still consider secular values and “scientific” truths more valid then the teachings of the Vedas.
Of course the intellectuals are the natural heads of society. But in Brahminical culture the intellectuals surrendered to the higher power of the Vedic teachings and they did not consider themselves fit to put forward their own secular mental concoctions as absolute values. They taught the ruling class how to govern as just servants of all the citizens. Although the rulers were servants of the people, and people had inherent rights, the rulers were not dominated by the people. The system that secular intellectuals want is one where their misguided values dominate ethical ideals. They want to use the force of the masses to overrun and obscure governmental control. And then they will essentially have complete control by persuading people that the values they have imposed on them have actually sprung from the convictions of the masses. The control is invisible so it will be hard to counteract when it become tyrannical.
It is hard for me to envision ISKCON mitigating this by converting mass numbers of College professors to Krishna Consciousness. And I object to the strategy of some devotees who try to water the philosophy down to make it more acceptable to the “highly educated” At the same time I cannot see ISKCON changing the world when ideals are so strongly dictated to them by secular educators. The solution is that devotees must become the educators. I do not mean devotees who live in Temples need to increase their influence by moving out and getting PhD’s. But what about the growing number of highly educated people who continue with their external occupations? What if parents could encourage their devotee children to become physics professors instead of a software engineer? What if instead of becoming a lawyer one becomes a professor of history, or political science, philosophy, etc? The number of devotee professors would increase exponentially if ISKCON adopted an overall conviction that this is a valuable service and the sons and daughters of devotee professors began to see being a professor as a higher goal then being a professional. After several centuries or even say a thousand years of this, devotees may become the dominant force in secondary education throughout the world. This would curb the influence of Kali Yuga, whereas if the secular intellectuals continue to increase their power, Kali Yuga will advance proportionality.
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