Democracy is a form of religion. It is the worship of jackals by jackasses.
* H.L. Mencken
With reptilian stealth, the anticlimactic and surprisingly ugly last chapter of the Cold War has crept up on the world and will play itself next week at, of all places, the Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood, California. There, a lifetime achievement award will be given to 89 year-old director Elia Kazan, who gave the world some of the greatest movies ever made--On the Waterfront and Splendor in the Grass, to name a few. Kazan is better known today, however, for being the most prominent Hollywood figure to "name names" at the House Un-American Activities Committee of the 1950s, the Salem Witch Hunt of our era. Kazan ruined dozens of lives. His testimony led to the blacklisting of dozens of dilletantes from the world of cinema who had dabbled, or even just thought about dabbling, in leftist politics. In short, Kazan was a major-league scumbag, a rat who denounced people not only for their political beliefs, but for exercising their right to investigate alternative schools of thought.
Up until now, it was hard to say conclusively just exactly what the legacy of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was. Had committee activity ultimately resulted--as people like me thought--in the popular lionization of the spirit of uncooperation, as shown by those people who had martyred themselves and refused to name names? Or had HUAC achieved, ironically, exactly what it set out to accomplish, which was to betray all the most basic tenets of free democratic society ir order to stamp out forever serious discussion of any alternatives to democracy for our country? On the face of it, it sure looked like the latter was truer than the former. Since the conclusion of the Committee's work, the word "democracy" has been alone among political systems in enjoying an absolute monopoly of approval in Western public discourse. We say things like "spreading good democratic values" without giving it a second thought.
And now, with the honoring of Kazan by the very community he once sold out, democracy in America has come full circle. Kazan's award proves that power corrupts not only people, but systems. With the cold-war victory over the Soviet Union, democracy was finally free to walk, in pursuit of absolute world dominance, down the road leading to its own bankruptcy. And now, with this Kazan thing, it's there. Democracy, richer than ever in subjects, will formally file for bankruptcy of ideas the moment the Oscar show begins..
Looking back now, it is probably inevitable. Here are ten reasons why this moment in time was bound to come sooner or later:
1. The cover-boys for our $1 and $10 bills--George Washington and Alexander Hamilton--changed their minds and sought to install a monarchy shortly after the American constitution was ratified. They were joined in this effort by America's second president, John Adams. Only spirited opposition by the Jeffersonian camp prevented them from succeeding. Nonetheless, the precedent was set of a government privately covetous of despotic power forced to publicly play lip service to rule by the people.
2. Fewer than 50% of Americans vote. 75% cannot recognize the names of their local Assemblymen. Of those who do vote, the overwhelming majority only do so during the Presidential and Senatorial elections. The average American will therefore never cast a vote which has any bearing on State and Municipal law, i.e. the zoning governing the street on which he lives.
3. With the passage of the GATT treaty, Americans-and all other treaty signees-ceded their Sovereign right to restrict or tax international trade to a multinational GATT tribunal in Switzerland, which meets in secret and cannot be sued.
4. No good movie since Amadeus has been voted best picture.
5. A 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling resulted in a law which says that "the ultimate guilt or innocence of the accused" is irrelevant to the seizure of property by police in arrests. The only standard the government must meet to seize property is to establish that a crime has been committed by someone. In other words, if a $100 bill in your pocket is found to contain traces of the cocaine someone once snorted through it, the state is entitled to seize that bill, even if you are never convicted of any crime. New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's initiative to seize all cars owned by those arrested on DWI charges is just one example of a trend that will almost certainly gain speed in the wake of the Supreme Court decision. Incidentally, at press time, over 90 cars had been seized in New York in less than one month.
6. Elections in most supposedly democratic countries are routinely fixed, often openly, as in the case of the recent Kazakh elections. Even in the United States, the 1960 election of John Kennedy and the 1996 election of Bill Clinton were upheld despite obvious irregularities in ballot-counting and funding procedures, respectively.
7. Hypernumerous New York sports fans stuff ballot boxes during all-star voting, making all-star baseball and basketball games pointless and no fun to watch.
8. Direct democracy has not existed since Athens. The American model, the most commonly-imitated, still keeps citizens at least one step removed from actual decision-making, except in the rare cases of referenda.
9. Prisoners are not allowed to vote in most countries, and incarceration rates are rising in almost every Western country. In the United States, more than a million and a half people, most of them poor and/or black, over half in jail on drug-related charges, don't vote. Prison construction has been one of the fastest-growing businesses in the West for more than a decade
10. Because envious women make up 51% of the vote, no sexually attractive woman will ever be elected to any office.