Thursday, May 2, 2013

the meaning of democracy

Democracy, as the term is used on Sunday morning talk shows and in casual political conversations, is, first and foremost, the inside (good side) of a value judgment set up in opposition to dictatorships (and, in academic contexts, oligarchies as well). It primarily serves as a tool for the content-free assignation of good guy and bad guy roles, a way to let people know who to cheer for. The terms are so embedded in western political discourse that any actual dictator who said "I am a dictator" would simply be taken as meaning "I'm bad," as opposed to making a claim about the structure of the government he plays a part in.

U.S.-allied dictators like the Royal Sauds and 1980s Hussein and Pinochet are assigned the good-guy-compatible term "strong men sometimes prone to excesses" while authoritarian governments, like the world's drone leader, that abuse domestic populations while setting up polling places where the abused can go now and then to symbolically pledge their obedience, call themselves democracies.

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