Monday, April 26, 2010

Democracy is not for Stone Age people

I would venture a guess that around 80-90% of the world's population is less than 200 years out of the Stone Age, culturally speaking. Whether we are talking about the native peoples of Asia, Africa, South America, Australia or New Zealand, the culture has been operating on a strictly tribal basis until very, very recently with no interface whatsoever with any other form of government or social organization. There has existed no concept of nation, race or anything larger than the village/tribe. To attempt to externally impose the structure of Western European democracy on these people is folly at best and a serious crime at worst.

The entire concept of democracy grew from a relatively educated and urban culture which had outgrown the complex form of tribalism called monarchy. Monarchy is the first step beyond the attempt to organize a geographically contiguous society in order to extend the rule of the "chief" over several closely located villages/tribes. Ultimately monarchy grew even further in terms of geographical rule and that extension led ultimately to its undoing as a viable form of government. Monarchy requires a certain social cohesion and shared values absent when extended beyond a local sphere. When that geographic and social cohesion is present monarchy is a very acceptable form of government. Take Bhutan for example. Although now a constitutional monarchy, the people prefer the king to elected officials and really don't want or care much about democracy.

Democracy, externally imposed on this type of society, is doomed to failure and will only result in the chief finding a way (corrupt or not) to be elected and to continue his reign. The entire concept of democracy is foreign to these people. Their culture will need a very long time to evolve to a point where real democracy is meaningful. At that point it will be born from within not without. Just as communism was a total failure in backward agrarian societies, so is so-called democracy.

It is the nastiest of arrogance for Westerners to think that they have any right or calling to impose Western values and institutions on these people. Or that they can make acceptable imitations of white Westerners from people so recently removed (often abruptly and violently) from Stone Age culture.


The further one progresses away from the activity of pure survival, the more trivial his life and concerns become.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Global Warming and Sustainability

Without getting into the argument about the correlation between human-caused CO2 emissions and global warming (a theory that is at best questionable), I would like to take a look at the elephant in the room. The fundamental causes of human pollution which threaten life on this planet are two deeply interrelated factors - population and consumption (a.k.a. "standard of living"). As long as we persist in promoting population and economic growth, all other measures attempting to engender ecological sustainability are band aids on a virulent, malignant cancer. The only way to prolong sustainabilty for human life is to reduce both population and consumption ("standard of living") significantly - say 30% or more within the next 20 years. Short of this I fear that the trend toward self-destruction may be irreversible. There is no way to continue to encourage economic growth (growth in consumption) while reducing pollution. This is particularly true in so-called developing nations wherein economic growth ("prosperity") will concurrently result in further increases in population. Who or what is going to interrupt this self-destructive cycle?

As it currently stands there is no solution for this problem of growth versus sustainability. Sooner or later we must see that they are diametrically opposed goals. One denies the other. Only one is possible. Somehow we must break the seeming cast iron bond between GDP and quality of life. Haven't we learned that these two are nowhere near correlated? Perhaps we need to adopt the Bhutanese standard of Gross National Happiness, which requires little of Twenty First Century madness.