Why I am hardly democratic
by Vladimir Volkoff
Translated by Roberto Hope from the Spanish translation of
Pourquoi je suis moyennement démocrate. (éditions du Rocher, 2002)
Because Democracy is rarely democratic.
Once more, I do not deny what there can be of seductive in the democratic idea but I don't see that actual democracy fulfills its promises.
As a way to designate rulers, it is exposed to all kinds of electoral trickery: on one side of the Atlantic, the voting ballots are interpreted fallaciously; on the other, the dead are cynically made to vote. The time when, on the other side of the Mediterranean, the voting urns were filled before proceeding to carry out referendums is not long past. Even where no such excesses happen, the electoral campaign system, subsidized, and influenced by the media, falsifies all the facts; as regards electoral promises, we have to ask ourselves how can they still make impression on the voters: «I am a politician and, as a politician, I have the prerogative of lying any time I feel like it» would proclaim, without compunction, Charles Peacock, Bill Clinton's friend..
In the realm of ethics, democracy turns out to be profoundly disappointing. It does not tolerate any theory, any other form of living, that is not its own. It affects tolerance but does not tolerate anything other than itself. When, in a country such as France, 15% of the voters have an attitude it condemns, democracy banishes them after having modified the electoral legislation so that they cannot have any representation. When in a country such as Austria or Italy, a condemned party gets close to achieving power by perfectly democratic ways, you have to hear the resounding cries of disparagement shouted! With all discretion, it drowns the liberty of thinking differently from it. And when it has to transgress its own diktats, it doesn't hesitate to do so. Witness the colonial ventures of France and Great Britain. More recently, the American task force in Somalia, and NATO's aggression against Yugoslavia prove that democracies are perfectly capable of committing war crimes in the name of the rights of man.
As a system of government, democracy mocks itself at every instant. Any manifestation in the streets that obstructs circulation, any blocking of routes, any civil servant strike which prevents my free transit, are all profoundly anti-democratic, not only because they infringe upon my rights as a citizen, but because they authorize minorities to annoy the majority. It would seem evident that, in a democracy worth its name, each individual should have the means to express himself without annoying his neighbor.
Add to this the various tricks to which parliaments resort, to refrain from consulting the nation on major matters (such as the relinquishing of sovereignty or of traditional moral values, or the armed aggressions without declaration of war, or the punishments to inflict on rapers or murderers of children) and you can see that, in actuality, democracy is often nothing more than a simulation of democracy.
What could make us become a little more democratic.
Let us recapitulate
I am hardly democratic because the democratic ideal is a bit too insistently hammered upon us; because I am not convinced of the infallible excellency of the democratic means to elect rulers; because it does not seem to me realistic that the same system should have the same virtues in all times and places; because of the lot of the minorities which the majorities tend to squash; because the «democracy» term itself does not seem to me to have too clear a meaning; because the notion of «people» in the name of which democracy wants to impose itself, also does not seem clear to me; because in our times, the qualities of democracy are declaimed rather than demonstrated; because democracy, as is being practiced in our age has all of the failings of the most obscurantist of religions but none of its virtues; because the philosophy of the rights of man seems to me to be considerably inferior to that of his duties; because democracy is grounded on a confusion between the common good and the whims of the public; because it ineluctably leads to diverse forms of totalitarianism; because it gives preference to the principle of quantity over the principle of quality: because by preaching equality, it is necessarily entropic; because striving to impose its Utopias, gladly resorts to terror; because it is not a form conforming to nature; because I find it deleterious in terms of culture and civilization; because it does not work except on condition that it is abundantly sprinkled with antidemocratic principles; because the current mass media prevent all types of citizens exercise independent judgment: because it is false to pretend that there is no alternative to democracy; because democracy tends to renege of itself every time it has a chance to do so.
I anticipate the question that will not be lacking: «What do you propose as an alternative?»
Answering it is not a topic for this modest work. On the other hand, I have expressed which are the regimes that command my sympathy. Here, I believe I have demonstrated quite well that humankind very often found ways of governing itself which in no sense were democratic and yet, have founded great civilizations. Otherwise, I know of no industrial or commercial business which is governed democratically. I have never heard an orchestra conductor consult the drummer or even the first violin about how to interpret a symphony, nor a chef submit to the majority opinion of his assistants — and much less to that of his patrons — over how to prepare a sauce. And I do not see why the fate itself of our communities, that is, our own, should abide by methods which in other parts have demonstrated to be perfectly inept.
I am also against the contemporary tendency to believe that if one is Christian, one has to be democratic, under the pretext that Christian principles and democratic principles corroborate themselves on some points. Of course, they coincide in the respect due to man, but in no way on the ideal structure of society. Believe me, if good God had been democratic He would have made that known to us.
«Then?» it is insisted upon me, «if we agree with you; if we get disgusted with democracy as is presented to us today, which regime should we adopt?»
On my part, I am willing to become a democrat if the system of Henry Ford were to be adopted strictly.
«I favor a democracy» he writes in his autobiography «which gives everyone the same chance of succeeding...» (up to here everyone is in agreement) «according to each one's capacity.» And it is there where all modern democracies back away because, without saying it openly, what they do not accept, is that not all have the same capacity, and they have a reason for this, because accepting it, means sticking the fingers into the gear-train of hierarchy. As regards accepting, that different successes come to crown different capacities is, worse still, recognizing that it is fitting to the «best» to walk ahead of the rest.
But Henry Ford goes farther «I am against» he continues undaunted «that one which pretends to confer to the number the authority which corresponds to merit».
Merit opposed to number! Authority sanctioning merit! It seems to me, Mr. Ford, that you are not speaking of democracy here. Is it not rather a definition of aristocracy that which you are giving us.
The difficulty, in our system, will consist, of course, in recognizing the merit to which authority will be conferred. In business, in commerce, it can be measured with relative ease on the basis of profits. The world of politics is a lot more complex.
But, frankly, I am ever more certain that it is not in the voting urn.