No, I mean seriously. Not just because the result isn’t what you’d have liked, or what you expected. It’s not just the result. Did you already forget how the whole campaign felt? And probably on both sides ?
What we call democracy now hasn’t been designed to be one.
Can we go back to the founding fathers? Oh yeah recurring theme in American politics I heard. Guess what they never tried to design a democracy; they tried to design an elective aristocracy. How is that different and is it that bad ?
Well Aristocracy just means the government goes to the best, to the most fit to govern from ἄριστος aristos « excellent, » and κράτος kratos « power ». Doesn’t that sound closer to how our system is supposed to work than the “government of the people, by the people, for the people”? Electing a leader is the basic principle of an aristocracy; if you govern yourself you don’t need a leader.
Ok that doesn’t seem to be too much of a problem, for some reason we’ve come to call “democracy” what is really an “aristocracy”. But why?
Because it’s a fucking good marketing tool. The “positive” use of the term democracy appeared around 1820, and of course it sounds good, thinking you are in a democracy makes you feel good, so pretty much everyone adopted it.
Is it that bad ? isn’t it just a minor semantic problem that doesn’t change much the overall picture ? Well it’s just a starting point, and a meaningful one: how marketing changed the meaning of words, how being deprived of the meaning of word deprive you from the ability to think : because as you start calling anything a democracy, the very concept of democracy disappears (or rather is relabeled as “anarchy”).
Our aristocratic system is broken
As I said, the aristocratic system in itself might not be that a bad idea: electing the person that seems the fittest to govern.
Well now we have to think about how people make their voting decision, and here I believe we are witnessing the conjunction of two things:
1. Humans aren’t rational
Ok it’s a very basic fact that everyone acknowledge but worth reminding. We aren’t rational and we are subject to a shitload of cognitive biases (just click the picture below for a few of the most common). We really can’t be trusted for rational decisions, we function much more on feelings that on reason.
2. We have created a massive feeling creation cash machine.
It’s called the media and entertainment domain: making money by telling stories that make you feel things. The magic of the market competition has worked to wonder: we have now an unprecedentedly efficient machinery to create feelings.
For a time journalism might have tried to resist, fulfilling the strange mission of presenting us fact for what they are, and so we learn them rather than just to make us feel something. But if that ever really existed, it has been crushed by the market: if you want people to give you their money, it’s much more efficient to tell them a good story than to bury them under cold facts.
And that’s how we end up where we are: post-truth politics, reality show (the fast food of storytelling) has taken over politics.
Yes fast food is the right analogy: a fast food restaurant isn’t designed to feed you well, It’s designed to transform your natural urge of feeding into as much cash as possible, and this in the rawest way possible: it doesn’t matter if you like it or not as long as you buy it, and the long term consequences on your health, well no one cares. Reality shows are designed to transform your natural appetite for feelings into as much cash as possible. It doesn’t matter if you like it or not, what matter is that you watch it and feel something: attraction, laughter, repulsion, fear, hate, doesn’t matter as long as you talk about it, and no one cares about the long term consequences.
So yeah I think we have reached to bottom line of our political system. An elective aristocracy sounded like a good idea, it appears it’s not when it falls into the control of the mass feeling creation industry that we have created.
The paths from here
How I see things from here: for me there are two main, long term, paths out of this:
A. : The data society.
We all take a deep breath and accept this paradox:
As human we are able to recognize that reason would be the right way to govern ourselves but we are totally unfit to behave reasonably.
And we handover the burden of governing humans to beings that are actually reasonable, like it or not: computers. Let’s create AI that will use all the data available to take reasonable decisions. Call it a technocracy, yes, I’m starting to think that it cannot be really worse than where we are heading if we continue on the current path.
B. : Democracy
Or maybe, we give ourselves one more chance, and we try, for once, democracy, the actual idea of democracy. What you currently shun as being anarchy: no leaders, small groups of humans taking local decisions by consensus, and for anything that really cannot be governed at local levels (not that much actually if you really think about it) we choose local representatives at random and send them to build federations.
One last thing
From here there are many paths, and none are really easy. But I believe there’s one more important thing on which we might be able to agree: The myth of the commander in chief is a myth.
A single strong man is not going to change things for the better. No it’s not how it works. Just No.
This myth is ridiculous, and I think we can start to agree on that. I’m not even willing to argue why.
PS. Of course I don’t trust too much option A. as long as these programs are designed by humans (that can’t be trusted, remember) in a society that has the same bias as the one that fucked up the media industry (i.e. taking the rapid accumulation of money as the one and only metric) it’s going to end up badly.
PPS. To my American friends, if that sound like another arrogant French telling you what to do, yeah it is, but you might be happy to learn that we’re as fucked as you are, elections here comming in 6 month and they look as ugly as yours.