A Word About Democracy from a Man Brought Up in a Dictatorship

I am a Jew, and like many Jews, I fled the land where I was born. That was the Soviet Union. I am far from alone. Seems that at every stage of history, someone has been sure to throw the Jews into the sea. The Jews, however, had already been to the sea – when they left Egypt – and got out safely. That sea was the Red Sea. When I got out of the red, socialist sea, I found a sea of democracy in Israel. And here is what I have since learned:

Under Soviet socialism, there was no democracy. The state controlled the press to the extent that there were no automobile disasters, no mine collapses, no factory fires, no train, streetcar or airplane crashes, no earthquakes nor floods.

There were no natural disasters under socialism. If cold winds blew in the USSR, they came from the West. Imported cold currents and cyclones also came from there. If hot winds blew, they were called Afghans. If there were organized thefts of socialist property, their authors were known to have Jewish surnames.

Bad news was forbidden under socialism. And it seems that people got used to it. How much easier it is to live as a person who is not constantly bombarded with reports of catastrophes and crimes, right? Such a person has a life of calm, other than the aspect of life that was streamlined in long queues for food and goods, all of which were sorely lacking under "developed socialism."

In a totalitarian state, the majority of the population is doomed to be content, for the alternative is dangerous.

In a democracy, the majority of the population is condemned to dissatisfaction, for the alternative is boring: one is too free to enjoy freedom.

Suicide and mental illness rates in democracies exceed these rates in non-democratic societies. Listening to the news in democracies can turn a healthy person into a psychopath. In democracies, news and commentary in newspapers, on the radio, on television and on the Internet are contra-indicated for people with a weak nervous system and unstable psyche. Democracy is a regime whose means of strengthening it contain the seeds undermining it.

Democracy criticizes itself, otherwise it risks degenerating into a pseudo-democracy. Democracy is not a rigid structure, but a process that goes with the failures associated with its inherent weaknesses. Yet these are also its advantages over dictatorship: The lack of comprehensive control over society, the opposition of the legislative, executive, judicial and economic powers and the press.

Democracy necessarily lacks something. It lacks a dictatorship in the sense we understand it, but that very absence opens the gate to its replacement -- a dictatorship of the autonomous individual.

In a democracy, the human mood is worse than in a totalitarian regime, because democracy carries with it a great burden of choice.

The description of the futility of a democratic society is its characteristic feature. Under a totalitarian regime, the state seeks to enhance the mood of the individual by creating and imposing the illusion of well-being.

Democracy, in contrast, intends to dispel as many illusions as possible by working to bring a member of society into a depressed state.

Unlike despotism, democracy is an imperfect regime. There are fewer flaws in a dictatorship than in a democracy because, from the point of view of the system, one knows what is right and wrong; there is more right and understandable than wrong and ambiguous.

In a democracy, the difference between right and wrong is not always clear.

Not only is contemporary democracy far from building a bright future, it is skeptical of its bright present. Democracy is dissatisfied with itself. A dictatorship is content with itself. Democracy feeds on doubt. The dictatorship rejects doubr.

In one of Goethe's letters, an image was drawn which Nietzsche, described as follows: "The serpent that cannot change its skin perishes. So, too, is the spirit that is not allowed to change its convictions: it ceases to be a spirit."

Democracy is not always effective and does not always produce good results. In Nazi Germany, democratic elections in a system designed with weak safeguards brought an extremist regime to power without a popular majority.

The Republic of Haiti, forged in independence as a democracy, has been tossed from one dictatorship to another for about two hundred years.

Democracy is not an aesthetic rule, nor is it beautiful or perfect. Democracy is able to criticize and control itself.

A dictatorship is incapable of this. Totalitarian regimes suffer from an innate blindness, an insensitivity to the dangers that an exaggerated assessment of their power can bring upon themselves. A lack of democratic immunity, self-control and self-criticism drags empires into the abyss. The German and Austro-Hungarian empires were stable and prosperous countries, until they embroiled themselves in the adventure of World War I, in which they suffered crushing defeats and disappeared from the historical scene.      

Democracy, by definition, is majority rule.

Liberalism is an ideology that puts one person, the individual himself, not an aristocrat, not a rich man, not a representative of the government or the majority, not a member of the power structure, as the center of the universe.

It does not accept the cult of any one "great" person, but accepts the cult of any single person. 

Liberalism promotes extremism in its atomized individualism and disgusts conservatives with its tolerance, amorphousness and omnivorousness. A characteristic feature of liberalism as it is seen today is that it seeks to create a society in which man, not God, not the earthly ruler, not the hegemonic class, is the highest value.

Western liberalism takes the struggle for individual rights to an extreme. After the overthrow of God, Western non-conservatives have deified man. Instead of God, they created a new idol – the individual – and began to give divine honors to the individual. Man began to take for himself the rights that previously did not belong to him. There was a cult of personality, but not the cult of one person, the personality of the tyrant, but the cult of any person. There was an absolutization of the person himself, even if he has few merits. The absurd tendency of "man for himself" has become a tendency of "man only for himself.

In an outburst of unprecedented love for himself, man loses a friend, a relative and a loved one. But he fiercely defends the right to have all the rights and to be the center of the universe. Psychologist Erich Fromm noted that by becoming a god to himself, the individual conflicts with others who are gods like himself. The portion of love given to him by nature, by genes, is spent exclusively on self-love. Love for the other is often replaced by the use of the other. The inflation of love for one's neighbor contributes to alienation and loneliness. The omnipotence of God is replaced by the omnipotence of the individual. In advocating freedom for oneself, one is enslaved to oneself, submitting to the rule of being the center of the universe for oneself.

The new generation in the West differs from the previous generation in its great focus on individual rights. It is automatically implicit in the upbringing that the cultivation of individual rights improves society. But making the individual an end in itself weakens him, makes him gentle, spoiled, parasitic. Freedom can turn into promiscuity. Anyone who notices the difficulties of raising children in an atmosphere of triumphant liberalism feels the destructive tendencies to absolutize the individual. Individualism, as an important part of liberalism, ignores the collective in the individual and encourages selfishness and self-centeredness that threaten the foundations of the state and society.

Anti-religious liberalism has created a religion according to which the formerly weak are placed on a pedestal in the name of equality. In his book Philosophy of Inequality (1923), in the seventh letter (on liberalism), the philosopher N.A. Berdyaev writes: "Freedom and equality are incompatible. Freedom is first of all the right to inequality. Equality is above all an encroachment on freedom, a restriction of freedom. [...] Freedom is linked to the qualitative content of life. Equality is directed against every qualitative difference and qualitative content of life, against every right of elevation. [...] Equality devours freedom."

Falsely understood and aggressively implemented, equality degenerates into a dictatorship.  In search of a mythical ideal of equality, democracy, which opposes the dictatorship, begins to resemble it. The man who was brought up under the dictatorship feels the arrival of democracy at the "dictatorship" station.

Alex Gordon is a native of Kiev (USSR) and graduate of the Kiev State University and Haifa Technion (Doctor of Science, 1984). Immigrated to Israel in 1979. Full Professor (Emeritus) of Physics in the Faculty of Natural Sciences at the University of Haifa and at Oranim, the Academic College of Education. Author of 8 books and about 500 articles in paper and online, was published in 61 journals in 13 countries in Russian, Hebrew, English and German. Literary publications in English: "Jewish Literary Journal" (USA), "Jewish Fiction" (Canada), "Mosaic" (USA), forthcoming publication in "Arc" (Israel) and "Jewish Women of Words" (Australia).

Image: Pixabay / Pixabay License      

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