Wednesday, April 24, 2024

#115 / Just Stop Trying!

I really like it when professional pundits are found saying the exact same thing that I am saying in my daily blog. For instance, in a column in the San Francisco Chronicle, published on Sunday, March 10, 2024, Joe Mathews told his readers, "Please stop trying to 'save democracy.'"

"Just stop trying," he said. "If you're a politician," he added, "stop promising to save it." 

Let me give you a little excerpt from Mathews' column, and urge you to join me in a round of applause:

Democracy isn’t something you save. The sooner we stop talking about saving democracy, the better off democracy will be. 
Our mindless recitation of “saving democracy” — everyone from President Joe Biden to Sascha Baron Cohen has pledged its rescue — demonstrates how little we understand about the governing systems that organize our lives. 
To start, the words “democracy” and “save” don’t fit together. 
Democracy is not a penalty shot saved by a goalkeeper. Democracy is not a dollar saved by putting it in the bank. Democracy is not a file saved in Microsoft Word. 
Democracy is not even the migrant saved from drowning in the Rio Grande. 
It’s easy to get confused about democracy’s meaning because we use the word “democracy” promiscuously. We use it to refer to things in politics or government with which we agree. We use it to describe the status quo in countries that think of themselves as democracies. 
We also use “democracy” to refer to our post-World War II liberal order, supposedly superior to all other systems, even though that order often protects military and corporate powers that undermine democracy. We use “democracy” to mean elections, even though many countries with autocracies stage elections. 
After 18 years of convening conversations about democracy around the world, I have found a more useful definition of democracy. Democracy is best understood as four words:  
Everyday people governing themselves (emphasis added).

Besides that line about democracy being best understood as "everyday people governing themselves," I particularly liked Mathews' statement that "democracy isn't something you save." 

Exactly! Democracy isn't a "thing." Democracy is something you DO! A better name for what people typically call "democracy" is "self-government," and you can't "save" self-government - you can't even "have" self-government - at least you can't "have" self-government unless you get directly involved in government, yourself. 

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