Excerpts from my “essay on the political importance of culture”

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Overly liberal systems seem to collapse, not due to the greed of the authorities – as it is the case in overly oppressive systems – but due to the greed of the public itself and its inability to assume responsibility in a society which expects each individual to contribute, without the need of force, as much as he or she has taken from it. Whilst the misuse of power in an overly oppressive model is comparable to parents letting their own children starve, in the overly liberal model the situation is comparable to a child who – because he or she is given the freedom to do so – consumes all of the food available in the household without leaving anything for the rest of the family. This results in the parents seeing no option but to exercise some form of authoritative restriction again.

In both types of system the public remains unsatisfied with its government, feeling that it can only either blindly obey or blindly rebel against it, never reaching however an actual in-depth understanding of the country’s political affairs for itself. This is comparable to how a child obeys or rebels against parents or teachers without awareness of whether or not the established rules within the family are necessary, good or bad for their own development. In order for a liberal, democratic model to function, it is essential for the public to realise that their own responsibilities and limitations within society are expected to be set by themselves, not by a higher authority. The public however expects this responsibility still to be in the hands of the government as it approaches the situation with the same passivity with which it used to approach dictatorships, oligarchies or any other type of system in which it had no politically influential role. The expectations the public has of the state remain unstable, continually increasing until they are impossible or too difficult to be met. The result being that the freedom of democracy is taken for granted as soon as the conditions of life in much more exploitative systems are forgotten once again. Even though democracy is a political and social model with a valid approach to human rights and individual development, these observations lead one to realise that it is a system destined to fall unless it is accompanied by an adequate culture which makes people aware of their significance in society and promotes self-control and self-awareness to complement its far-reaching freedom and liberty.

(…)

The essence of the failure of both overly liberal and overly oppressive systems lies neither entirely in the public nor entirely in its government. Instead it lies in the same mentality found amongst most members of society, a mentality passed on through our culture and education and characterised by a neglect of social responsibility. This neglect springs from a feeling of insignificance and inferiority to those who are considered to be more powerful. Whenever someone submits to another, voluntarily or involuntarily, the underlying emotion is a feeling of inferiority. Whether out of this inferiority grows a phobic passive and obedient attitude towards authority or a counter phobic passive-aggressive and rebellious attitude towards authority is mainly a question of how safe and comfortable the submitting individual feels. Authorities are obeyed if they are considered strong. However, they lose their support if they show weaknesses. As soon as the prevailing feeling of inferiority towards power is combined with a feeling of insecurity and dissatisfaction, this leads the passive members of society to attack it. The public desperately expects the authorities to appear stronger and to provide better social conditions again instead of taking responsibility for society itself. It is in this mentality where one can find the real danger this society is facing as there is a division of the members of society into active and passive parts.

Even though democracy literally means the rule of the people, the individual’s mentality has not yet adapted to that. The political system might be democratic – although this is also arguable – but the people are certainly not yet democratic at all. Members of the public still feel the existence of an external power, putting their trust into authorities regulating the political affairs both internally and externally. No system in which the population is segregated into two parts, one of which assumes a role of activity and responsibility while the other obeys or rebels without awareness of their own social significance should therefore ever be looked at as a permanent option of leadership.

It is the same case with the relationship between parents and children. Parents should not raise their children to keep them dependent forever and full of undiscovered talents but instead raise them to one day become fully independent and able to use their full potential.

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In order to live in a true participatory democracy and to prevent the repetition of an oppressive leadership a culture must emerge that brings out the awareness of political and social significance in every individual from early on; a culture which makes people aware of their passivity and their own destructive psychological patterns and reduces feelings of insecurity towards authorities. This is only possible through changes in education and cultural life as this is where our currently prevalent feelings of inferiority towards power are in themselves generated. The desirable outcome of a cultural reform would then be an entirely active population without feelings of social inferiority and insignificance, which in itself would increase public satisfaction but also the sustainability of any social or political model. The need for a government enforcing anything would decrease as this mentality of participation and awareness would be passed on automatically through the educative and cultural goods we create. The increased capacity for moral reasoning amongst the public would also decrease the threat of a liberal system ever being corrupted again. However, for this to happen, culture needs to be educative, explanatory and informative and the use of authority to enforce morality or “correct” behaviour needs to be recognised as detrimental to the development of individual moral reasoning and social awareness. Instead, education through the simple exposure to the right cultural goods could provide the necessary amount of moral guidance to a child whilst allowing it to maintain its confidence at the same time. Ideally this would cause the child to grow up without developing a feeling of inferiority, neither towards parents nor the state or other forms of authority in human form. Culture is controlled by no one but by all of us; by anyone who communicates in society. The realisation of the individual’s importance in the context of society is therefore not only the goal of such a cultural reform but also the means to achieve this. If this cultural reform were to be initiated amongst the youngest members of society, an ability to successfully live in a direct participatory democracy is likely to develop. A democracy in which people are actively making decisions not on who should make decisions for them but actively making decisions on all sorts of political, social, legislative and economic interest themselves. This would require ongoing long-term reform, but it is in no way unrealistic when one realises that it is our capacity to perceive, understand & imitate cultural information which has led humankind to progress from the most primitive Neanderthals to the relatively civilised human beings we are today. The increasing possibilities of fast-spreading cultural information on a global level through digital media and the internet are just another facilitating factor for a cultural revolution of this sort in the future.

The cultural traits of a society are of utmost importance in politics and must not be underestimated. They are the most crucial elements in the maintenance of a free society as any generation raised in a culture that provides a sensation of insecurity and inferiority will stop supporting any political system at the slightest discomfort. Before the aforementioned authoritative tendencies lead again to the destruction of the European democratic spirit, a cultural reform is required. It should be crystal clear after all these years of alternating political constellations, social reforms and revolutions that the blame for the decay of a society can’t be found in these systems we have created to deal with the just administration of life in the big communities. It lies in the human psyche and our neurotic customs and education. There is no revolution on a social and political level which could lead us to any better living conditions as long as a revolution in our culture, and in our mentalities, has not yet taken place. On the contrary, a violent and radical change in government would lead us to the false impression that an ‘evil’ has been terminated. It would lead us to falsely believe that a change has occurred through the substitution of a government, masking again the true grounds of the ongoing misuse and exploitation of power and authority. It would be like exchanging the worn-down wheels of a car whose engine has long been broken.

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