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America, the New Rome?
A case-study on the new Democratic culture:
The United States has long been viewed as the main purporters of the modern democratic experiment. The shining, guiding beacon of Athenian Democracy. With titles like the “Senate,” “Democrats” and “Republicans” America capitalizes on such comparison. But such parallels as may be drawn between the American and Greco-Roman Empires, are anything but a compliment.
There is a certain form of aristocratic rule in American politics, in the long continuing tradition of rich businessmen, lawyers and judges dominating the House and Senate. It would seem that the political art form of supporting and selling bullshit, requires a law degree in the same. The Imperial Aristocratic parallels were easily drawn from the Sr. Bush – Clinton – Bush Jr. – Mrs. Clinton cycle. Luckily, Hilary dropped out. This was not a good look for a supposed democratic process. If Hilary had won, it may very well have led to more women running for office, which would not be a bad thing. Unless of course it inspired dear old Barbara or Laura Bush to give the oval office chair a spin. For while a two-tiered political system maintains the illusion of democracy, a two-tiered Monarchial system holds no such illusions.
Two schools of thought, which emerged during the Greek Empire, were those belonging to the philosophs and the sophists. These are evident en masse in today’s society. In some cruel irony, on the scale of a Greek tragedy, the mass media has become little more than a source of sophist rhetoric, whilst the true philosophs exist in the forms of the less upheld guises of hip-hop artists and new satirists such as Rick Mercer, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert. These are our elevated scholars in the undying conquest of Socratic questioning. Yet they are dismissed as entertainment. Perhaps in the guise of a modern-day Plato, these original Socrates will be given a voice as their corpses ride the proverbial hand up their puppet-asses. Of course, like all such matters, it is far too convoluted to see who truly pulls the strings.
Even though the American psyche has reached an unprecedented pinnacle of desensitized bloodlust, there is nothing to equate proportionately to the barbarity suffered in the spectacles of the Roman coliseum. We have not yet regressed to the point of having a reality show which combines bloody entertainment with capital punishment. Yet sports still serve the same purpose of pacifying the plebiscites with an involved sense of entertainment. Through organizations like the UFC, pugilism is making a comeback, offering greater, bloodier thrills over the safe(r) gloved boxing. Perhaps this is because the damage is more immediate and obvious than brain trauma caused by knockouts and having one’s brain rattle against their skull. On the world stage, we have eroded the lessons of Greek sport. The creation of the Olympic games was to foster peace, unity and friendly competition in a wide range of activity, including artistic and scholarly pursuits. While more of the world competes in these games, they have become a ground for political action, such as the boycott of the Summer Games in China, rather than a breeding ground for unity. While sports remain a part of the competition, the public at large has lost appreciation for the arts, becoming rather patrons of the vacuous black box. The scholarly component has been put on ice by the mind-numbing disease of contagious, dogmatic, anti-intellectual conformity.
Looking at the framework of the current American institution, it is riddled with hypocrisy. The sentimentality that it is the American Way to police the world, spreading its corrupt placebo form of Democracy, has produced freedom-depriving legislation such as “Patriot” Acts I and II. While these foster the current fierce Nationalist rhetoric, thinly veiled as a false and dangerous mindset of patriotism, they do great damage to the Democratic traditions of the American Constitution. Whilst democratic freedoms such as Freedom of expression, and of the press, are much applauded, there is this pragmatic and dogmatic self-imposed censorship and suppression of Socratic questioning by the media. The irrelevance of the news is made further irrelevant by the dulling sense of desensitization to it all. While atrocities and disasters occur everyday the world over, 9/11 was the largest event to hit home in the US. And they had no idea how to handle it. In some uneasily nostalgic, or rather, alarmingly chiliastic recourse, Bush Jr. got us into another Gulf War, this time with an unconquerable enemy. For terrorism is but a means of action behind an idea, guided by the crude Jacobin mindset that violence is the only avenue for change, and that the greater good (from one’s own viewpoint) is all that matters. No one can kill that.
I then propose that the United States is not the vehicle for democracy it is held to be. Rather, it is that country which the increasingly illiberal, crushingly dictative American government labels as a weak nation: France. That is correct, France. France has had an expansive history of deposing its despots and autocratic authoritarians, from Napoleon, to Louis the self-proposed “Sun King,” suggesting he was not only eccentric but heliocentric, thus making him a dangerous heretic, to the support and eventual disillusionment with the radical anarchist thinker, Maximillien Robespierre, and his “Terror,” and perhaps the most popularly notable public decapitation of Marie Antoinette. This proud tradition continues on today as the French people actively congregate to protest, successfully achieving their aims. Whilst this posits the power of government in the hands of the masses- the very epitome of Democracy, in America this is presented as a sign of weakness. What backwards irony! The Constitution and Declaration of Independence are based upon Socratic questioning, and the God-given right to oppose abusive or overbearing authority. Furthermore, Lady Liberty, a gift to America, from France, meant to symbolically pass on the torch of democracy and freedom, she so proudly upholds, once a bastion of hope, looking out from port, towards welcome new immigrants, has now become more accurately representative of having its large back turned against Uncle Sam’s Empire.
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