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The Power to Be
Power flows from the fountain of property. If seventeen families own one third of Canada, then it is preposterous to state that Canada is a perfect democracy. And, if Canada, one of the most advanced and democratic Western nations is not a true democracy, then I would hate to be looking hard at the countries that make up the Arab World.
It is essential that people recognize that democracy is not simply a ballot box, and that a ballot box, no matter how beautifully decorated, does not guarantee democracy. It is important that Arabs, particularly, recognize that, so that they do not equate democracy, and its failures, with the failures of those countries that hold elections, and elect their generals. It is crucial that people identify the true essence of democracy, and democratic empowerment, before they can seek it. For otherwise, those leading the demonstrations will be like the blind leading the blind towards an unknown, if not a disastrous and remarkably familiar future.
Democracy is about the equality of human beings. Democracy is about the ideal of allowing every child, regardless of his/her attributes, an equal opportunity to every other child, of fulfilling his/her potential, of being him/herself. And, that equality of opportunity can only be fulfilled, concretely, if power is also equally distributed. If all power was political, and all political things were decided by a one-person one-vote ballot, then power would indeed be distributed, and opportunity would abound. However, as every other person knows, that is not the case. Hence, what should be done? Should property be abolished, or alternatively shared equally? And, how can that ever be reconciled with Man's attachment to property, and the many beneficial effects of ownership? Also, how can that be reconciled with the 1001 traditions and systems that make protection of property the most important aspect of their laws next to protecting life?
Equality Vs Property, this is the question. And, for my many years of struggling with this question, I have not been able to come up with a clear solution, or even a well defined set of principles to start from, in constructing some solution. However, I have come to some guidelines, all provisional, concerning power and progress:
First, inequality and generally negative social phenomena are easier to emerge and take hold in society than equality and positive social phenomena. In short: Good is harder to achieve than Evil. (This probably is a social parallel to the second law of thermodynamics, and the fact that life itself is an oddity in a universe of increasing entropy.) - The supremacy of evil.
Second, an ideal society will probably never happen. But, a better society will only emerge as a result of a continuous struggle by ever-changing coalitions of forces cooperating for the sake of progress. Not only that, but whatever progress is achieved will tend to desolve, if people do not continually maintain it, and push for more of it. - The necessity of struggle
Third, any so-called 'progress' not constituting or leading to a reduction of property and power differentials in a society is illusionary and futile. That does not mean that intellectual debates or books are useless, but thought that does not lead to focused consistent action is as good, if not worse, than no-action. Trivia abound, and people find all kinds of reasons for getting involved in them, but that is not progress. - Action speaks louder than words
Fourth, opposition to change (progressive or otherwise) is always great. Hence, only small popularly supported measures can normally be proposed. The reason for that is simple: those who have, actually own a lot, which they could (use &) loose, and those who stand to benefit from the change, can only look towards an imaginary, still to be materialized benefit. And, concrete things are always more enticing than promises, no matter how well founded those promises might be. - Money walks and ...
So, in conclusion, I would say that true democracy is a genuinely good thing- that is unless one favors inequality and the injustices that flow from it. Also, a perfectly egalitarian society is not likely to happen, for that would involve the abolition of property, a virtual impossibility. But that that should not stop us from aiming for a more equal society. Progress towards that can only happen through an eternal struggle of cooperative coalitions of social forces. And finally, opposition to progress will undoubtedly be both capable and fearsome.