More iced tea, Grandpa? Another cushion?

A recent political discussion on these pages prompted one commenter to claim:

I think we (most people?) would prefer democracy because it is fair and it works as long as it is about the people.

The poster acknowledged that the U.S.A. was no longer a 'real' democracy–but was better described as fascist, corporatist (in the business sense). Others chimed in with oligarchy, plutocracy, etc.

A fair enough debate. But is democracy the 'be all and end all' of politics?

There is a sort of democratic mythology, mostly trumpeted by United States, which claims this one system of government (actually a myriad of concrete forms) is the last hope of civilization, and that any society will eventually adopt it spontaneously.

Historically, most of the democracies of Europe were established not by a the popular demand of the people, but were either made conditions of foreign aid, or were imposed by an outside military force.

Let's consider one possible form of rule that is not by nature 'democratic' i.e., in simplest terms: one person, one vote. (Though all democracies disenfranchise some portion of the populace–children, criminals, the mentally handicapped, etc.)

The Belgian Congo operated as a European colony until 1959, when internal uprisings forced recognition of national political parties; the democratic myth, come true!

Patrice Lumumba, the first legally elected prime minister of the Republic of the Congo, was killed by Belgian soldiers on direct instructions from Eisenhower who disliked Lumumba's socialist leanings. For example, he no longer wished to hand over uranium for U.S. weapons production (Congolese uranium provided the bombs in Hiroshima/Nagasaki with their fissile explosive material).

As Barbara Kingsolver says in her novel The Poisonwood Bible, the Americans showed us what democracy was really all about.

She also mentions that the Congo was traditionally ruled in a tribal manner; that, in a dispute, negotiations would not end until all parties reached agreement, rather than by majority rule. This system worked well enough for them that it should give us pause: there is always a compromise–something we have likely forgotten in our absolutist world.

However, I found the most interesting titbit of traditional Congolese governance was that when deciding courses of action, the tribe would accord more weight to the opinions of the elderly. Think about that for a moment.

Imagine a political system that gave, for example, one vote for every ten years lived. Twenty years old? Two votes. Seventy-three years old? Seven votes.

Life experience counts, my friends.