by Philip Greenspan
(Swans - February 14, 2005) Democracy, democracy, democracy. Politicians in the U.S. are consistently peppering their communications with that word. No matter what dubious policy they are out to sell they will wrap it up with a copious supply of democracy.
Well, what is this democracy that is being bandied about so much? The word is derived from the Greek word dēmokratiā consisting of dēmos meaning people and -kratiā, to rule.
I think Lincoln's definition -- government of the people, by the people and for the people -- sums it up quite well. But I doubt that the folks who keep yapping about democracy have Lincoln's definition in mind when they use that term.
And while Lincoln's rhetoric was great, he, like other presidents before and after him, did not follow through on what he preached. His actions were closer to Bush's than to his own words.
Had Lincoln pursued democracy he would have permitted the citizens of the southern states to select their own government. Instead he forced them to remain in a government they hated at a cost of over 600,000 people killed and nearly 1,000,000 wounded. And all the baloney about his freeing the slaves is just more falsification of reality. The Emancipation Proclamation states ever so clearly that any state remaining loyal to the Union could keep their slaves. Besides, he had no authority to free the slaves. Slavery was enshrined in the Constitution. To free the slaves an amendment was required. That task was accomplished after his death.
And if Bush is the recipient of stolen elections, Lincoln got the job with only 40 percent of the votes. Less than half the voters wanted the guy.
That word "democracy" does not appear in the Constitution -- the supreme law of the land. As a matter of fact the architects of that document feared democracy and in designing the Constitution they did their best to keep it at bay. Whatever elements of democracy were added to the Constitution or were enacted into law were forced upon the government by the demands and protests of, by and for the people.
Unfortunately even when laws favored by the people are enacted, those laws are not adhered to by the people's representatives. The police, the military, the courts will clandestinely violate laws whenever they feel it's necessary.
Laws or no laws, the wishes of the country's real rulers will be accommodated by the government.
Who are the real rulers? The men and institutions (mega-corporations) of wealth. Their allies in government and the media are amply rewarded for exerting influence to achieve their objectives.
Over and over throughout the history of the U.S. the rights of the people have been trampled in violation of the Bill of Rights itself. The executive branch, without authority, commits gross violations; the legislature sits by passively and/or ratifies those illegal actions; and the Supreme Court proclaims that it is all constitutional -- even when a simple reading of the relevant laws show how obviously wrong they all are.
Fixing the system is not the answer. Micro changes over the years have not brought about democracy. If democracy is what is wanted the entire system must be junked.
Until such time more pertinent descriptive terms, based upon context, should displace the misnamed "democracy." The created or existing replacement would consist of a prefix -- a designated ruling group or condition -- combined with the suffix -ocracy.
In many instances aristocracy, plutocracy, corpocracy and even greedocracy will fill the bill.
Theocracy captures the increasing influence of the religious right.
What word would describe a government that responds to the covert demands of its contributors? Pornocracy! According to Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, it's a "government by prostitutes."
The kidnapped Africans who created so much wealth for their masters and the country lived in a slavocracy.
From the earliest days of the republic until the end of the nineteenth century, Manifest Destiny destroyed the civilization of the indigenous population. The proper term for the government during those years should be genocidocracy.
Shortly thereafter the U.S. stretched beyond its borders. It learned that the Filipinos had the ridiculous notion that they could govern themselves. The US military convinced them by means of a stratocracy -- government by the military -- that they were not yet capable of such a complex task. The Iraqis are learning a similar lesson today.
Over the years, the people in several countries where America had interests legitimately chose their rulers and government. The election of one of them, Salvador Allende of Chile, prompted Henry Kissinger to express the attitude of American leaders when he stated: "I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people."
Wherever the U.S. went by hook or crook it installed new rulers. US presidents loved those rulers; extolled their virtues; and claimed they had brought democracy to their countries Their names are well known. Among the list are the Shah of Iran, Somoza, Suharto, Papa and Baby Doc, Batista, and Pinochet. In spite of their repressive regimes and the generous support they received from the U.S. they were ousted by popular uprisings of their people. But during their heyday they were well rewarded for complying with US demands. Each of those governments were puppetocracies.
The Bush administration has been able to bamboozle the public into accepting so many dubious activities by lying, lying, lying, and then lying some more. What else but "hyprocracy" could convey the proper meaning?
It is apparent that there are ample terms to specify in a somewhat limited scope the rulers of various forms of government. However, the word I was most anxious to create had me stymied initially.
Then I recalled how H. L. Mencken masterfully created a most descriptive term by changing a couple of syllables in one word and, voila, one class of individuals became a new and different class. Bourgeoisie became booboisie.
By similar magic we could change democracy to dumbocracy to describe those poor souls who actually believe the U.S. is a government of, by and for the people...
Oh, no. You don't expect someone to read the entire essay and come to a conclusion with a weasel word like dumbocracy -- a stupid word, a dumb word -- do you? How can Swans attract and hold readers with drivel like that?
Hmmm . . . Ocracy, shmocracy. The idea is not too bad. But you should have goosed it up more. Bushocracy -- a government that robs benefits from the poor to subsidize the rich. Neoconocracy -- a resurrection of the Third Reich; a government of lies determined to conquer and enslave those deemed inferior. A collapsocracy or blowbackocracy -- the chaos that will ensue when the war against the terrorists is lost.
You could have created some clever riddles with your ocracies. What is a viagrocracy? A government of played out old geezers who have high hopes!
Why don't we have readers send in their ideas of the best ocracy to replace democracy. The best will appear in the letters section of an upcoming issue.