Oligarchy and Democracy

Perhaps one way to understand Obama’s relationship to the Elites is for us all to stop either whimpering or recriminating and recognize that he, like all Presidents, merely rents the house that the Elites own. He can make some limited repairs, some customizing to suit his understanding of the world and what’s politically important ( as did, George Jr. and all the rest who preceded him,) and some relatively minor improvements (useful and helpful in their own limited way) but he cannot tear the house down and build a new one.

Why not? Two reasons: The Elites who own it won’t let him, and the public, which has ingested, each of us in our own way, the culture we live in, will not permit it. Kissinger said if it is necessary to choose between order and justice he would choose order. I believe that is true for most people most of the time.

I believe it is always true, and has to be true for politicians. Even revolutions fought in the name of equality and liberty devolve into hierarchal command structures that, so far, have always been required to maintain the newly established order. Think French revolution. Think Russian Commissars. As creatures we are a long time away from becoming as good as would like to be.

At this point it may be more important for all of us to get intelligent about the world we live in, before we try to get to be  good about it, because the road to hell is a familiar one,  sign posted with short sighted good intentions.

It may be that we need to think about political innovation in terms of the long term; we need to think about seed planting, and leave the on-going weed pulling, watering and harvesting for later generations.

Within that context we have to understand the reality of out political system. It functions fundamentally and practically as an undeclared Oligarchy wrapped in the popular delusion producing costume of Democracy. And it will continue that way for a long time to come.

The task may be for those of us who do not trust the Oligarchy to look out for the interests of the general public to free ourselves from the constraints of the delusion and thus become free enough to see our system for what it is, to strip the costume away, and to understand that our obligation is not to “become a real democracy” but rather to acknowledge what we are, and in response to that, develop stronger communal and democratic practices to serve as a polarity of balance: we need to employ democratic principals as an ongoing public watch dog process guarding against the excesses of the hidden self-interest of the Oligarchy.


  1. David Lee · · Reply

    I am impressed with your ideas and have read this article several times. I am especially moved by the injunction for us all to become intelligent about the world we live in, even before we can be good at it. Yet, I am unclear how to respond to much of the other. Line by Line? That seems tedious and even insulting.

    So, for the moment, the article reminds of the genre of Road Movies. You know, like Easy Rider and some German stuff. White guys, modestly affluent, are on the road of misadventure: thrills, drugs, sex, and it is all so boring but wonderful even if it snuffs them. However, if the characters weren’t so middle class, or even women, and so entrenched in White Culture it would be hellaciously boring and scary.

    To say, “Oh, well. Obama is the best at Elite-speech. No use complaining. He’s cool. Harvard-type that can talk slick and do nuthin.” Or using a not very opaque crypto-fascist like Kissinger as a model of human aspiration as if he were Abraham Maslow’s Maslow.

    But to fault the American, French or Russian “revolutions”, we must also think of the burning of the library of Alexandria or the Weimar Republic. Both, were pinnacles of culture. Yet, all the wise guys that contributed to the library never challenged issue of slavery, nor used their developing technology to make life easier for the majority of the population that fed them. The library was torched by the general population that was influenced by a scheming elite politician.
    The Weimar Republic had only 3% Nazi as late as 1928. Yet, the culturally magnificent Germans did little for the majority of its people.
    America can not provide even worthy health care to its people, and it is
    frightening what can happen very soon.

    But, for sure, developing communal practices is compelling. But, if we can not even get more than a whimper about single-payer health care or
    rigged elections, I am not sure too many of us are going to get off our butts.

    Praise to the all of the anonymous heroes that are the base of all meaningful social change!

    Enuf for now. Thanks!

  2. David Lee · · Reply

    A tad more of a reply to your well thought-out article. Yes you are right, the historical events that deposed the French kings and the Russian Tzars did devolve into hierarchal structures that contained the corruption already in their culture. But, we must not compare their revolutions with America’s.

    Our 18th century conflict killed (adjusted to our present population) 3 million colonialist for a palace coup. Washington, Jefferson, the Lees, etc. merely received a transfer of power from one elite to another. The Constitution is a document guaranteeing that the US would not collapse into an egalitarian society that we could find today in Scandinavia and possibly Japan.

    In short, the French, Haitian, Russian, multiple-African and Nicaraguan revolution tried. We did not even try. The American revolution gave a generous, life-time pension to the officers, but nothing to the anonymous soldier.
    Again, thanking Todaysdrama.

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