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Misunderstanding Democracy

Updated on September 6, 2017

Voting for the truth

Napoleon Bonaparte said that "Truth is a lie that everyone agrees with". Whether we believe that he was right or wrong, matters much more in our daily lives than we might think.

The concept of voting seems a natural trait. Kids do it when they have to take group decisions about who should do what or where should they play, or whatever kids have to decide upon nowadays. Adults do it on certain official or not so official occasions and it seems obvious to everyone that the decision of a group should be respected.

When it comes to deciding what to vote for, each voter chooses to stand for what he sees as "right" or against what he sees as "wrong". So far these seem statements of the obvious.

The catch is that somehow, we need to understand, that no everything can be voted for and that what we believe to be right is not necessarily the truth. The act of voting is based in most cases on belief. Democracy is not about deciding what is true or not, it is about deciding what is deemed right, in accordance with a certain belief regarding a certain revealed truth.

It is quite self-understood that rightness of Newton's law of gravity it's not an issue opened for popular decision. No matter what one's believe about gravity, no matter what majority votes against it, gravity will stay the same.

The fact about voting and democracy, is actually a matter of choice. Choosing is something we do everyday, from dusk til dawn. Even though one might live in a democratic state, one works in an oligarchic environment: few heads that decide, for the majority of employees. The rulers earn more, take decisions for the others without giving too much attention the needs of the many. The scope of the company is to make money in order to ensure it's survival. We see this as a natural truth. Most probably you never imagined a scenario where the employees would choose the CEO or the CFO, some might even imagine such a scenario as preposterous.

There is a nice illusion that arises. One can say: "yes it's true, but I can choose my employer whenever I want to". I'd say "Really?". The biggest chance is that you could choose to work inside another oligarchy and quite small chance you'd start your own.

The thing is that we are quite opened to giving up democracy for safety. Because that's what a job is actually about providing means for food and shelter, for survival. We don't see democracy as required in every aspect of our life.

We are voting for freedom, but we would debate with different people about what freedom means, we would find out that there are quite a lot of definitions.

Voting starts long time before the ballots. It starts when we decide what is right for us and for our group. Experiments have shown that people tend to choose what they think is best for the group, which is a nice fact, but it will always measure an amount of subjectivity.

"I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong." - Bertrand Russell

Democracy is not about voting what is true. The laws of nature and the laws of men, are not the same category of laws. Not all the laws of nature are sane for the society and many of the laws of men are quite unnatural. Truth loses it's value when it is perceived as a matter of common agreement. Whatever is right for now, might not be right in a few years from now and that's why the main purpose of democracy is to ensure a natural change in accordance with the majority. An efficient oligarchy is not destructive, as it is proven by the satisfaction of the employees of certain companies. But a democracy that is wrongly understood as the power of a majority to enforce the truth upon everyone, by deeming some belief as unique, good, necessary and perfect, can lead to sad consequences.

Democracy is about understanding that not all people share the same views even though they share the same immutable physical truth.

Freedom is about allowing yourself to doubt the absolute rightness of your beliefs and the absolute wrongness of the beliefs of others. Because in spite of our potential free will, only time decides what's true, what's right and what's wrong.


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