Thursday, July 11, 2024

#193 / Elite Invidividuals (Terminal Decline)


As the United States barrels towards another presidential election pitting Joe Biden against Donald Trump, a somber reality is setting in for many observers: despite the stark differences between the two men and their visions for America, their rematch represents a broader shift in how democracy functions in the 21st century. Increasingly, elections have become competitions between the ambitions and personalities of individual "great men" rather than contests of ideas or visions for society. 
This phenomenon reflects a contemporary belief in the outsized power of elite individuals—whether CEOs, celebrities, or political leaders—to drive change and shape the world around them (emphasis added).

I don't think that any paywall will prevent interested readers from getting the full story from Bloom, if any readers would like to do that. Reading the entire Bloom article would probably be worthwhile, if what I have already presented, above, doesn't "ring any bells." 

When one presidential candidate says that, "I, alone, can fix it," and the other presidental candidate explains a dismal debate performance by pleading overwork and exhaustion, noting that, "I am running the world," it is time to decide whether we, the self-governing people that we have always credited ourselves with being, are willing to be political "observers," instead of political actors. 

Bloom, as he notes, is reporting as an "observer." I, of course, continually suggest that "self-government" requires that we get involved in government ourselves, and that we need to be engaged, always, in political "action," not just "observation." What that means, at a minimum, is that we take our own power seriously, and that we do whatever is necessary to ensure that our elected "representatives" actually "represent us" in what they do. 

Those who don't see ways in which they can, realistically, make their government respond to what they want the government to do will definitely become discouraged, and they will undoubtedly sense that we are in a time of "terminal decline." 

Recently, for instance, someone who reads my blog wrote me to dispute the idea that what I call "self-government" is even possible, anymore - and even at a "local" level:

Because the areas in which the city and county of Santa Cruz have to perform are too large and complex for your model, my opinion is that your model is no longer viable. It worked in Athens when folks who could vote probably didn't have to do much work (maybe they did, but they did have slaves, so maybe not too much). Similarly, because they were landowners and wealthy, the enfranchised after the Enlightenment always had free time to think and discuss and learn. The key, however, is that compared to a modern society they didn't have much to study! Their world was drastically circumscribed, minute by today's reach. Each Industrial Revolution brought a further expansion of the world with which they had to interact, and the franchise was subsequently extended to many more folks who did have to work and didn't have a lot of time for "politics", though of course it sorta' kinda' worked because enough people made it work.... 
I think that because issues have gotten so complex it's absolutely impossible for anyone to be highly knowledgeable and conversant on one topic, let alone as many as there are.... Too much going on for even informed citizens to deal with, let alone uninformed, emotionally-voting ones...

I, of course, don't agree with that, and despite his "observations," Bloom doesn't agree, either. Here is how Bloom ends his article: 

The future of democracy, in the U.S. and beyond, depends on our ability to move beyond the cult of personality and reclaim politics as a collective endeavor. The alternative—a continued descent into gerontocratic oligarchy thinly disguised as populism—is too dire to contemplate. As we watch two aged politicians compete for the chance to lead a nation in crisis, let it serve as a wake-up call. The era of great men is over. The real work of rebuilding our democracy is just beginning (empahsis added).

I am with Bloom! It is time, I think, for a little "collective endeavor," which I believe will be much more satisfying than shedding bitter tears from the observers' stand, watching as the world sinks ever further into "terminal decline." 

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