Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Greatest Democracy?

George Monbiot's latest column in today's Guardian, in which he tells us that a vote for Nader is a vote for Ameircan democratisation because, well, near as I can tell this is the only reason Monbiot comes up with, Nader is 'courageous' (i.e., not beholden to the ubiquitous evil of 'THE CORPORATIONS!'), is indicative of the stuff that I hear on a daily basis at the university. There is, of course, no assertion that Nader would actually be a good president, mind you, at least in the traditional sense of getting legislation through the Congressional committees let alone to the floors of the House or Senate; far more important to Monbiot is that the American president be progressively democratic, whatever that means. If that is the case, Mr. Monbiot, forget Nader -- he has nothing on Giblets:

Giblets will not settle for promoting anything as pansy-ass as Democracy! He will not rest until every single country in the world - including countries where are no countries such as Antarctica, Atlantis, and the Moon - into Ultrocracies, democracies so ultra-democratic that the will of the people manifests itself as an immense avatar-being of pure energy that roams around the countryside turning garbage into food and corpses into high-paying private sector jobs!

More to the point, though, what in the world does Monbiot mean when he refers to America as 'the greatest democracy on earth'? Outside of a mere platitude that apparently softens the blow against any American cheek who may be reading the column, how might one justify that claim? It's certainly not that (a) more people are actually involved in the democratic process, or (b) that people are (or feel) better represented by its leaders, than anywhere else in the world. This isn't to say it's any worse, mind you -- certainly we could name several places that are worse on the democratisation spectrum that Monbiot seems to have in mind. But is America REALLY a better representation of the democratic process than, for instance, the Netherlands, or Belgium, or even Britain? Wouldn't it be a far more poignant column to say, for example, Americans have effectively demolished their own democratic ideals by not caring, by being too stupid, by being too lazy, by working too hard, etc., and let 'THE CORPORATIONS' take control of their country? That they, not simply the politicans, are to blame. (This line of reasoning is most often heard when dining or drinking in Western Europe.) Or, perhaps even more poignant, to say that democracy as such is in dire straits worldwide, that the situation in America is only the most illustrative model of a pandemic malaise, and something far more radical than a democratically elected progressive president is going to fix it? (This line of reasoning is most often heard when dining with very cynical expats from America and Western Europe.) As it is now, though, Monbiot doesn't really seem to be saying much at all.