Saturday, October 27, 2018

26/10/18: De-democratization of our values?

Do you, my friends love that smell of napalm in the mornings? Does it fill you with confidence about the future - your own and that of the rest of the world? For if you do answer 'Yes' to both of these questions, congratulations: you've made it into the American values (on average).

Here is the data from Pew Research on public trust in institutions:

Democratic cornerstones of political leadership and the media are trusted by less than 50 percent of the Americans, 27 percent to 41 percent. Command & control institution of the military is trusted by 79 percent. Scepticism over coercive power and centralized counter-democratic system based on rank-command trumps all the softy stuff. even educators are more trusted in the settings involving more deterministic decision-making (e.g. medical sciences and sciences) than in more polemical setting (e.g. general education).

But if you thought European are all softy-dofty democratically minded, think again. In fact, there is not much of difference between the American population and the European ones on the same topic:

Yes, yes, I hear you, the choir of Patriots: but in a democratic society, military is subject to democratic checks and balances, so why is this degree of confidence in military a matter for concern?

Let me explain why:

  • Firstly, irrespective of the democratic or other checks and balances, military is not a pluralist institution that encourages debates, inquiries, and discoveries through dissent. In other words, while military may be framed into the broader democratic constraints, it cannot by itself be a genuinely democratic institution. There is no democracy in command systems. 
  • Secondly, to anyone pontificating on democratic checks and balances, may I suggest revisiting the entire modern history of the U.S. to identify exactly at what point in time did democratic checks and balances imposed onto military do their jobs before the damages were incurred? In Vietnam? Nope. In multiple military engagements in Latin America? Nope, again. In the Balkans? Not really. In Afghanistan or Iraq? Not at all. 
Thus, in real terms, checks and balances do not define a democratic set of values that put strong public preference in favour of the military ahead of much weaker preferences in favour of the immediate democratic and pluralist institutions, such as politics, media, business, education.

What is happening, thus, as revealed by the above data, is the strong drift in public preferences away from democratic and liberal foundations of our modern states and toward more command and control, more coercive power-based institutions, such as military. To paraphrase one semi-failed leader of the past: it's public values de-democratization, stupid.

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