After the world’s first democracy was birthed in Athens 500 BC, its flaws became fatally obvious. Socrates was an inquisitive soul born in Athens and, after becoming a decorated war hero, devoted his life to serving Athens through teaching wisdom.
Socrates was constantly offending people with the truth proving through questions that people were not as wise as they thought they were, “I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.” (Republic, Plato). Contrarily, the Sophists of his time taught their students how to sound smart and win crowds through emotional manipulation.
The Sophists who had been clearly out thought on many occasions bore a grudge, and brought Socrates before the court. The crowd, according to Athenian law is to vote whether Socrates is guilty or not. They are not moved by Socrates who insists on appealing to reason instead of using emotional tactics such as bringing his crying sons before the jury, as others had done.
They are moved instead by emotion and ignorance, incited by the Sophists. They vote him guilty and condemn him to death. There is tragic irony in these events that Christians are most familiar with. Those who were most ignorant and harmful killed the one who had wisdom and desired to heal.
I remember a friend of mine, who works in the upper echelons of government, telling me that there is an air of anti-intellectualism in Australia. He told me that our government would invest in researching the best solutions to problems our citizens are experiencing, only to have those solutions be rejected by politicians.
He said that the politicians did not listen to the advisors because they knew it would be unpopular to us voters. We have the capacity to fix many of our problems, but we lack the wisdom to choose wisely.
At the birth of Democracy the people were persuaded to kill someone who loved them. 2500 years later the same issue is still present and causes us to waste millions on projects our research has proven will fail. We ignore those who have wisdom in favour of modern sophists. I can’t quite articulate this flaw in democracy fully. Perhaps you can. For now, I would say the weakness of democracy is that wisdom offends us and we will vote foolishly for as long as emotion is valued above reason.
As democracy consolidation is heavily reliant on protestant Christians being present in a population, I highly value democracy. It is rooted in the belief that every person has worth and deserves freedom. I do not write this critique to say, “Down with democracy!” rather to warn that there are powers at work that wish to destroy democracy, and they are using this weakness.
An example is the Black Lives Matter movement. BLM has been present at 95% of all violent protests in America for the last few years. These clearly coordinated outbursts of aggression have been shown to be supported and financially affiliated with China’s communist party.
The violence and instability we see in America wasn’t home grown. Yet the weapon that is being utilized and is seen in the extremists of both political ends is inherent in democracy. Democracy puts power into the hands of the masses. The masses are swayed by emotion. Emotion is determined by the stories we consume.
What can we do about this impending collapse of society? Listen to Jesus’ words. Before pulling the speck from our brother’s eye, we must examine the log in our own. If your gut reaction is to cast others with different political ideologies as irrational and prone to emotional thinking, recognize that as the emotional response it is.
Then recognize that your political opponent is likely sharing that emotional response with you. We must become a people that are willing to be offended by wisdom. We must be as harmless as doves and shrewd as serpents, especially to those we disagree with. Furthermore, instead of blaming politicians for ignoring wise policies over popular ones, we must acknowledge that they will become whatever we as voters reward.
Frances Ducommun is from Brisbane Australia, a student of philosophy and artistic endeavors. She thinks she's funny, is constantly covered in cat hair and will substitute sleep with reading if no one keeps an eye on her.