Trump Reminds Us How Fragile Democracy Is

Too often do we take for granted the freedom of our society without measuring how fast we can lose it

Democracy is always one step away from descending into chaos and tyranny. For as long as humans have practiced it, they’ve known this. In 380 B.C. already, in The Republic, Plato asked “does not tyranny spring from democracy?”

A philosophy professor explains that Plato’s question sprang from the fact that, in a world where the principles of Aristotelician logic had not yet been coined, “power belonged to anyone who could harness the collective will of the citizens directly by appealing to their emotions rather than using evidence and facts to change their minds.”

Since Plato, we have discovered and refined Aristotelician logic. Our knowledge and scientific abilities have increased exponentially. We’ve witnessed countless times the horrors of tyranny and dictatorship. Millions of lives were lost in the fight for democracy and freedom.

And just like that, in an instant, we realise that all it takes for democracy to crumble is the bad faith of a single person, and the complicity of those whose duty it is to keep them in check.

Donald Trump is a stark reminder of how tenuous our grasp on democracy is and how skewed our expectations of democracy are.

We realise that what truly holds us together as nations is the respect for norms, traditions, and protocols. We have agreed one day that, for the greater good of all, the fighting between factions would not occur on the battlefield but in the voting booth. Conceding an electoral defeat is a way to quell any anger, and to move forward in peace. Failing to do so begets violence.

What keeps us united is our ability to build a common understanding of the facts of life and derive from them a shared view of reality. We must root our knowledge in science, logic, and reason. Faith and emotions are personal matters who have no place in public discourse. Governing by faith or emotions invariably leads to tyranny.

Democracy is, by design, a slow and steady process. It is cognitively demanding. By requiring the agreement of a majority, it asks for clear communication and requires its participants to think. As citizens, our duty is to go beyond what we believe. We must inform ourselves to make decisions that will benefit the nation as a whole.

When a leader stirs emotions without reason, when a leader doesn’t respect science or expertise, when a leader gets his news from talk-show hosts, when a leader demonises his adversaries and disrespects the basic principles of politeness and elegance, this leader cannot then ask his citizens to act any differently.

Power belongs to anyone who can harness the collective will of the citizens directly by appealing to their emotions rather than using evidence and facts to change their minds

Donald Trump is a stark reminder of how tenuous our grasp on democracy is and how skewed our expectations of democracy are.

It is time for the US to reinforce its structures of governance. Build in the 18th century by men who clearly favoured drama over efficiency, they have done their time.

It is time for the US to recognise that a population who has no safety net cannot act as a functioning citizenry. Education must be free, so must healthcare. How can anyone expect the citizens to stand up for their country when their country does nothing for them?

It is time for the US to enter the 21st century and open its eyes to the fact that as Humanity marches forward, our goal must be the betterment of our society and the preservation of our environment. Poverty isn’t a crime; desperation isn’t a crime; necessity isn’t a crime.

Trump’s loss in the 2020 election is a shining ray of hope after four years of darkness. If he can achieve a single good thing in his life, it will be to empower the people of the United States and of the entire world to reject tyrants like him and get together for democracy, ecology, peace, and prosperity.

Failing that, the future doesn’t look so rosy…

I write about politics, business, society and culture on Medium. For startup/business content, check my newsletter: fundraisedd.substack.com

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