I do not want to be equal to you. All my life, you have asked me to be less than I am, so that you could be more comfortable around me. All theory aside, most people tend to fall into three categories in each others' view: less than me, greater than me, and competition. Until they make up their minds which one you are, they're not comfortable. And declaring you "competition" tends to mean that they've decided to force you into "less than me" if it's at all possible. Cynical? Perhaps a bit.
What I want to see, from as many people as possible, is "Wow, another crazy human being. Show me what you can do." This takes a high degree of internal self-acceptance to even contemplate, and tends to be a rarity rather than the norm.
I believe in democracy. I am forced to believe in democracy, rather than knowing what it is, because I have never, to this point, seen it working. I do not know who "The People" are. The best non-theoretical definition I have been able to figure out up to this point, from almost all the usage I have seen, is "My side." The realization that there have been exceptions to that definition is one of the things that keeps me going.
It seems to me that the essence of democracy would be compromise. Rather than a few getting all that they want, and the many getting nothing, or even the majority "winning", it strikes me that the condition of having almost everyone unhappy in some way about any given outcome is likely to be most truly demonstrative of democracy. Yet the loudest voices I hear in favor of "democracy" tend to be the most adamantly against compromise. It is the blackest of sins, that they should have to cede any of their demands to the people they rage vehemently against.
To accept compromise, it would seem, is "going against your principles", which seems to further imply having no "principles" in the first place, whatever that is supposed to mean. Another concept I am forced to believe in, because I've seen very few practical demonstrations of their reality.
Is there anyone I haven't managed to either irritate and/or start thinking? ;) Come below the fold for more.
Do we actually want a democracy, or do we want a meritocracy? Or, can the two be defined to at least coexist with each other? La Feminista's excellent diary sparked the following comment, and, to some extent, this riff. Hey338Too's gentle nagging had something to do with it, too. ;p
Like a lot of other things, getting ahead on merit can be a chimera. It's easy to show, many times, that inherited wealth, or family connections, or political pull trumps legitimate expertise in the choices that are made.
It's not so easy to show how, or even why, someone who is good at their job needs to be replaced by someone who might be better at it. In some ways, the concept of a meritocracy is the antithesis of "an equal society". Equal educational opportunity tends to cut off both the high and the low end student from those extra hours of attention that might be necessary to fully develop each individual to their fullest potential.
In truth, to have a meritocracy, we must promote inequality. Once we solve the problems which promote false inequalities - race, status, gender, etc., etc., - then we're left with the true inequalities that the new system must promote. And we don't even really know how to measure them at this point, or even, for sure, what they are. The level of false inequality tends to override any solid data on what might be there.
A lot of people won't like this argument. I don't particularly like it myself, but I confess to a desire to figure out how to make it happen, if only to find out whether a meritocracy would actually be a viable social form or just another tempting dream.
In any political system, at base we are talking about how power is divided, and how it is handled. If there is a single thing that might be said to exemplify the difference between democracy and its ilk and more authoritarian or autocratic governmental systems, it would seem to be the varying limitations on power that the systems enforce. If democracy is seen as a system of widespread compromise, then the power needed is enough to be able to insure that compromise takes place. By this definition, ending the practice of "pork barrel" politicking may have been the greatest mistake we've made in the past century. It took a great tool out of the hands of those few who were most likely to try to promote compromise.
I'm tempted to go off on what it means (or doesn't) to have a "level playing field", but enough for today. It's your turn.