28 The Rise of Hands-tied Democracy
The experience of the 20th century and no doubt earlier times is that a democratic political system works among economic equals, but becomes dysfunctional the moment economic equality is no longer enforced as an absolute or near absolute requirement. The moment democracy meets up with a situation of economic inequality, it becomes a practice only among those who are economically more equal than others. In short, democracy is not a workable political system for all, certainly not in our time, because our time does not practice economic equality.
What is absolute economic equality and how does democracy work in such a society?
Anthropologist Michael Taussig in his book “Mimesis and Alterity” (Routledge, 1993) discusses the remarkable economic democracy among the aborigines of Tierra del Fuego and their fate following their discovery by the West. Toussig quotes Charles Darwin, who because of his travels on the famous research ship HMS Beagle is almost the first among outsiders to meet the Fuegians. Darwin writes in his Journal: “The perfect equality of all the inhabitants will for many years prevent their civilization, even a shirt or other article of clothing is immediately torn to pieces.”
Rather shocking “equality”, is it not? But it is certainly democratic. According to Toussig, who is studying the extraordinary mimetic abilities of aboriginal peoples, such economic equality and democracy is the result of the profound ability of the mimetic faculty to empathize.
On the other hand (to quote Taussig): “Unlike the mimeticized world, this disenchanted one is home to a self-enclosed and somewhat paranoid, possessive, individualized sense of self severed from and dominant over a dead and nonspiritualized nature, a self built antimimetically on the notion of work as an instrumental relation to the world within a system wherein that self ideally incorporates into itself wealth, property, citizenship, and of course ‘sense data’, all necessarily quantifiable so as to pass muster at the gates of new definitions of Truth and Accountability.”
Taussig’s long, but well thought out sentence can be reduced to a few horror filled facts. Let us begin by noting the words of The Daily News, London 1882: “It is thought that the country of Tierra del Fuego would prove suitable for cattle breeding, but the only drawback to this plan is that to all appearances it would be necessary to exterminate the Fuegians.” Anthropologist Toussig continues: “The serious exterminating [had already—auth.] began with the discovery of gold in 1878, and acquired a thoroughgoing character with the setting-up of sheep ranches by whites shortly thereafter…. Paid hunters were encouraged to wipe out the Indians*…. they (Toussig here cites Gusinde, another anthropologist) were offered the same price for a pair of Indian ears as the going rate for a puma—one pound sterling. A pregnant woman’s ears together with those of the fetus extracted from her womb paid more….”
This is how “democracy” arrived to Tierra del Fuego. A not dissimilar “democratic” politics—though certainly better disguised—continues to be practiced in “democratic” Europe, the European Union to be specific. At the time this is being written, the “democratic” powers, with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) at their head, have saddled the “dumb Latvians” (according to Latvia’s own sociologists, politicians, and ‘politologues’) with a debt the service of which will kill thousands of elderly, cause untold suicides, and virtually destroy the birth rate among the young in a country in the throes of a demographic catastrophe. There will be nary an empathetic (mimetic) tear shed by the “democratic” people of the more equal than others people of such “great” European countries as England, France, Germany, Russia et al.
How is democracy to come about among people living in our times, where Truth and Accountability are clearly dysfunctional from the likes of IMF down to the ruling and academic class of Latvia itself? Whatever praises are being sung to democracy in our day, the same are faith based, self-induced political religious gobbledygook of which its “God” (democracy) is as far removed from Earth as Jesus Christ is frozen stiff in man-made Heaven. Must we return to the early years of the 19th century in Tierra del Fuego?
The answer to that proposition is plain: the nation and its military and police forces will prevent this—as they have already so many times in the past done so. Moreover (and here to quote Georges Bataille), “National and military life are present in the world to try to deny death by reducing it to a component of a glory without dread.” In other words, make death cheap or just about irrelevant not only in its current wars, but from the very foundation of its dysfunctional faith in a God removed from Earth. This is why the answer with regard to a renewal of democracy demands a return to the reality of death.
The Latvians, currently in the early phase of a die-out, are certainly gripped by the fear of collective disappearance—death. And, alas, the Latvians have no military force worth speaking of to start a desperate war. If such a war to be fought for the sake of increased self-awareness, the death of Latvians as a community is as surely guaranteed as just letting things go their present course. So, is resistance to death (without seeking immortality) possible in any way?
The answer is yes and no. No—if self-sacrificial public death is shied away from for reasons of mind-paralysis, which is the result of faith in the God of nations and militaries removed from Earth. Yes—if Latvians begin to practice self-sacrificial public death at the doorstep of the European Union and the IMF. Though the Latvians may not survive their daring and dread, they may begin a long overdue revolution and reconstitution of society across our entire planet Earth.
*Indians—a word borrowed by the Europeans via India. The origin of the name of “India” is to be sought in John (Yan-Ian-gens-gans, etc.), which is why these Tierra del Fuego “Indians” are in fact, in the language meme of archaic Europe, the Children of Johns, a theme discussed in earlier blogs.
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