A criticism of democracy? No, I’m afraid that this is much deeper than that. It is a statement of human nature.
Although there are abundant examples of strong, self-reliant individuals to be seen, that is not the norm. The majority of people are not self-reliant at all. Even if we do not require the presence of another person, we require either the products they produce or the interaction they provide. We are social animals who have trouble supplying our own needs without great help.
In the early days of humans, when there were far fewer people, less capable tools, and far greater risk, those strong individuals who also provided for the good of the society in which they lived were revered as heroes and leaders. Today, we have such a comfortable life that few of us live in a state of risk on a regular basis, and our lives are so full of conveniences that not only do we not need to fight for our survival on a daily basis, but we are so busy minding our conveniences that we do not have the time or inclination to tend to our necessities personally. Yes, our very necessities we have relegated to others, whom we ostensibly trust with our very survival.
Trust with evidence is logical, but without evidence it must rely on emotion. Since we have a need to fit into a group to compensate for the difficulty meeting our needs on solely our own merits, and since we are so busy with conveniences, we tend to rapidly and with little thought identify with the group that most nearly reflects our own opinions, our own feelings, and give that decision only a minimal rational examination.
As technology and industrialization increases, this tendency also increases. The group with which we choose to identify becomes supreme to our own ability to survive as individuals, and as long as the group continues to provide for our needs, why would we want to disassociate ourselves from that group? After all, it’s working for our survival, isn’t it? But that’s the catch. If we become such individuals that we threaten the goals of the group, we become a threat to the group and must be dealt with in such a way so as to ensure the status quo of the remainder of the group. We then become outcasts and criminals.
This is true to some degree in any kind of group. Nations, ethnic groups, religions, political parties, it does not matter. Once we subvert our individual identity to become a member of the group, we lose much of our individual rights in favor of the rights of the group.
In religion, since we can not be bothered to spend the time in study and reflection ourselves, we subvert ourselves to priest, pastors, imams, and other holy men.
In a national setting, we are so busy with our day to day activities that it seems beneficial to us to allow a seemingly wise ruler or set of rulers the power to deal with the choices that must be made for us outside of our private little bubbles so that we are not burdened with the task of participating in these decisions directly.
In politics, it is the same. Most of us do not have the inclination or the sense of responsibility to accept the inconvenience of educating ourselves and participating more than cursorily in decisions which are to be made, so we label ourselves as Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, or something else, then allow the leadership of our selected group the authority to not only make the decisions for us, but to tell us what we should believe. We have given these leaders authority to see to our very survival rather than reserving that authority to ourselves, all because it is easier to believe what we are told by our selected leaders than to devote the time and effort to make our own rational determinations.
We have become what many call sheeple. Rather than follow our own rational and beneficial path, we would prefer to have the leaders of the group tell us where to place our feet. We no longer stand for what we believe, we stand for what the group tells us to believe. This has brought us to the point where the individual is no longer revered, but looked upon as a threat to the group, and treated as such by many members of the group.
If you are to buck the leaders of your religion, you may well be punished by one of various methods such as excommunication, shunning, stoning or beheading.
If you buck the leaders of your nation, you may be jailed or executed for serious offenses, and receive some other form of punishment for smaller offenses.
If you oppose the positions of your political party, even if it is an informal one, you will likely be slandered and denigrated in such a way that you will be unable to succeed in your opposition (unless, of course, you join a more powerful group).
And so the mob rules. Even if it is well disguised, the mob still rules. It is fine to say that a group is acceptable if it uses no coercion, but looking deeper we find that society itself coerces us all to select a group to join. The only way to escape the negative ramifications of this societal coercion is to intentionally join a group that refuses to subvert the rights of an individual to the rights of the group, and then to vigorously promote that group with the goal of including enough members to give that group enough staying power to survive the onslaughts of the mob of individually subversive groups.
The continuing challenge is to ensure that the members of your group all continue to hold each other, especially those with the most influence, to the tenet that the individual is supreme, and the group can not be allowed to violate the rights of any individual simply for the greater good.
Unfortunately, we must also bear in mind that some groups, notably nations, have co-opted so much power that they can select their own members, and like it or not, we are members of one or more of these groups by default. This is the end result of allowing group rights to have precedence over individual rights. A nation can be called a group grown to maturity. This is where all groups will end up without proper supervision by the members of that group, any time that group survives to maturity without being required to subvert itself to the rights of the individual consistently from start to finish. Allow the group the single opportunity to trump the individual and a monster is born.
May we all come to the point in our reflections that not only can we join with all other individuals who believe that we can work together, as a group of individuals, to maintain our individual rights, and at the same time seek to educate as many as we can to this philosophy and encourage them to join with us.