ON A PERSONAL NOTE/By Maramis
Democracy, while an ideal, is a product of civilization, not of evolution. We must go slowly and select carefully those who will “watch over us,” those who will be our government caretakers as it were. There are many dangers of democracy. They can be:
1. Glorification of mediocrity. Those who seem to be good leaders but merely and barely live up to a passing grade in their positions. They don’t hold a candle to a Washington, a Jefferson, or a Lincoln, for example.
2. Choice of base and ignorant rulers. Similar in some ways to No. 1, but worse in that while not only not standing out in historic time, they cause great suffering upon the people in real time and don’t even seem to realize their own ignorance.
3. Failure to recognize the basic facts of social evolution. Times change, people change, and societies change. Great rulers keep up with the changes and don’t stifle them, while seeing also that the laws of yesterday are not hurting the people of today.
4. Danger of universal suffrage in the hands of uneducated and indolent majorities. The right to vote is most precious, yet it can be a weapon and an ominous one in the hands of those who not only don’t know how to use it but plan to use it in a way that is not in the best interest of its citizens or its country. Votes for sale, and votes just for the sake of voting, whether any thought is in it or not, or any consciousness is attached to it or not (as in fake votes or using the vote of someone suffering from a mental illness). All votes are not equal.
5. Slavery to public opinion; the majority is not always right. Unlike those who believe that if they hear something repeatedly, it must be true, slaves to public opinion also believe that if they hear something from particular pundits, or news commentators, that is what must be true, especially if it seems to be the popular belief.
Public opinion, nevertheless, is valuable, and while it may well retard social evolution, it does preserve civilization. Education (behind public opinion) is the only safe and true method of accelerating civilization; force — such as rioting, violent demonstrations and such — is only a temporary expedient, and cultural growth will increasingly accelerate as bullets give way to ballots.
Public opinion, along with the mores, is the basic and elemental energy in social evolution and state development, but to be of state value it must be nonviolent in expression.
The measure of the advance of society is directly determined by the degree to which public opinion can control personal behavior and state regulation through nonviolent expression. The really civilized government had arrived when public opinion was clothed with the powers of personal prerogative. Popular elections may not always decide things rightly, but they represent the right way even to do a wrong thing. Evolution does not at once produce superlative perfection but rather comparative and advancing practical adjustment.
There are ten steps, or stages, to the evolution of a practical and efficient form of representative government, and these are:
1. Freedom of the person. Slavery, serfdom, and all forms of human bondage must disappear.
2. Freedom of the mind. Unless a free people are educated—taught to think intelligently and plan wisely — freedom usually does more harm than good.
3. The reign of law. Liberty can be enjoyed only when the will and whims of human rulers are replaced by legislative enactments in accordance with accepted fundamental law.
4. Freedom of speech. Representative government is unthinkable without freedom of all forms of expression for human aspirations and opinions.
5. Security of property. No government can long endure if it fails to provide for the right to enjoy personal property in some form. Man craves the right to use, control, bestow, sell, lease, and bequeath his personal property.
6. The right of petition. Representative government assumes the right of citizens to be heard. The privilege of petition is inherent in free citizenship.
7. The right to rule. It is not enough to be heard; the power of petition must progress to the actual management of the government.
8. Universal suffrage. Representative government presupposes an intelligent, efficient, and universal electorate. The character of such a government will ever be determined by the character and caliber of those who compose it. As civilization progresses, suffrage, while remaining universal for all sexes, will be effectively modified, regrouped, and otherwise differentiated.
9. Control of public servants. No civil government will be serviceable and effective unless the citizenry possess and use wise techniques of guiding and controlling officeholders and public servants.
10. Intelligent and trained representation. The survival of democracy is dependent on successful representative government; and that is conditioned upon the practice of electing to public offices only those individuals who are technically trained, intellectually competent, socially loyal, and morally fit. Only by such provisions can government of the people, by the people, and for the people be preserved.
Now go forth and learn about your choices, study them, consider them, discuss them if you must, and make a wise decision, considering everything that goes into your vote because…
Your vote does matter!
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at email@example.com.