The one thing that is obvious from the current situation in the world – it is a huge mess.
The way the politicians have handled Covid-19 is the most obvious example today of how democracy is not able to solve the problems of the contemporary world. Meanwhile, darker clouds are looming: climate change, ecological collapse, nuclear rearmament, roll-your-own genetic engineering, another pandemic…. Who knows what else is in the pipeline? At the same time, on the individual level, the staggering levels of inequality – of both power and access to resources – blight the lives of billions with unimaginable cruelty.
People seem to be noticing! For example, a recent survey of 30,000 people across 27 countries by the Milken Institute and the Harris Poll reported nearly two-thirds of people say that “their leaders are out of touch with the rest of the country” (63%) and that “the people running the country don’t really care what happens to me” (62%).
John Gerzema, CEO of The Harris Poll said about these results, “Maybe even more than the virus, our common crippling hardship is the lack of leadership being observed on the world stage.”
Another survey by the Bennett Institute for Public Policy is the largest-ever global dataset of democratic legitimacy. The data are from close to five million respondents in over 160 countries between 1973 and 2020 who were asked about their degree of satisfaction with democracy in their country.
The report finds that about 55% of people in the US, 60% in the UK, and 57% worldwide are dissatisfied with their democracies.
The lead author of the report, Dr. Robero Foa, of the University of Cambridge, Department of Politics and International Studies, concluded, “This is the first generation in living memory to have a global majority who are dissatisfied with the way democracy works while in their 20s and 30s.” As the report explains in shocking detail, “We find that dissatisfaction with democracy has risen over time, and is reaching an all-time global high, in particular in developed countries,” where is has increased “from a third to half of all individuals over the last quarter of a century.”
Perhaps you missed the recent report from US Federal Reserve which revealed that in the US:
The richest 50 people are worth the same as the poorest 165,000,000 people. As Osho explicitly lays out, such inequality is itself a complete denial of democracy.
Who decides the rules of this game? Politicians.
Anyone who has listened to Osho will not be surprised. He has warned repeatedly that is exactly what to expect:
“One thing is certain: The days of the politicians are over.
“They have done too well their job of being destructive, violent.
“They have come to a point where humanity has to decide either to die remaining with the politicians, to commit a global suicide, or to throw out the politicians and save humanity, civilization, culture, life.”1
The mismanagement of Covid-19 confirms this exactly. It has unmasked the chronic failure of these people to deal with any of the significant issues facing the world today. It is obvious to everyone, for example, that the politicians will not meet the challenge of climate change, a pending catastrophe that will dwarf the problems created by their failure to manage Covid-19. They have fiddled for over 30 years while the earth has burned.
The hypocrisy in all these examples is just too disgusting. As Osho explains, “We are living in a hypocrite society.”
In reality, everyone can see that democracy simply does not do the job of managing human affairs intelligently. There is now a growing list of recent books, commentary, and research confirming this, with titles that tell the story. The End of Democracy; How Democracy Ends; How Democracies Die; The Sale of Democracy; The Twilight of Democracy; Democracy Hacked: Political Turmoil and Information Warfare in the Digital Age; Ruling The Void: The Hollowing of Western Democracy; The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America; Fascism: A Warning, Can it Happen Here?
Not to mention the classic, The Best Democracy that Money Can Buy.
Another similar book, Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government, is instructive. One review from the London School of Economics describes the authors, as “two of the world’s most prominent and celebrated political scientists.” They confirm that the authors “emphasize that democracy remains far superior to alternative forms of governance.” They also write: “Finally, the concluding chapter of the book, which offers proposals on how democracy can be made to function more effectively, feels somewhat cursory, given the multitude of flaws they have presented.”
In Bland Fanatics, Liberals, Race, and Empire, Pankaj Mishra excoriates the self-congratulatory narrative of Western liberal attitudes and its “mind-numbing simplicities about democracy.” But again, at least according to the review in the New York Times, “What is much less clear is what, specifically, he thinks would be preferable.”
Another recent title, In Defense of Democracy, is presented as a “take-no-prisoners book,” where “Canadian-Irish author Roslyn Fuller kicks these anti-democrats where it hurts the most – the facts.” So, there!
The review of this book in the Washington Post again reminds its readers to be “wary of criticisms of democracy that do not consider the corresponding problems with proposed alternatives.” The review in the LA Times Review of Books confirms this “flood of critical analyses” about the failings of democracy but, again explains:
“What they generally lack, however, is useful advice about what is to be done to restore faith in and the actuality of liberal democracy.”
The direct coverage of this issue in the mainstream media is no clearer. After four years of Trump, we have the Washington Post with the headline, “The end of democracy? To many Americans, the future looks dark if the other side wins.” It is full of apocalyptical fears, but no suggestion of a way forward. The Economist was asking already some time ago, “What’s gone wrong with democracy?” But immediately frames their response, “And what can be done to revive it?
The extraordinarily prescient article in the May 2, 2016 issue of New York magazine, by Andrews Sullivan exposing the innate fascism of Donald Trump, includes the withering criticism, “To call this fascism doesn’t do justice to fascism. Fascism had, in some measure, an ideology and occasional coherence that Trump utterly lacks.” However, this time the problem is, as the title explains, “Democracies end when they are too democratic.”
Then we have the scholars providing an ever so polite warning that the US is “backsliding into autocracy.” How very interesting. Hey guys, this is fascism! Their tepid headline has the ring of a 1933 German newspaper.
Just before the 2020 election, for example, the New York Times revealed a police training slide show, only discontinued in 2013, which included “quotations attributed to Adolf Hitler and Robert E. Lee,” which says that “troopers should be warriors who ‘always fight to the death’ and encourages each trooper in training to be a ‘ruthless killer.’”
You see the fundamental problem here: A huge number of US-Americans are very dissatisfied with what is going on in their country. As the Journal of Democracy reports, “In the United States, citizens have rapidly lost faith in the political system; in early March 2016, for example, public approval of Congress stood at a mere 13 percent.”
Despite these shocking figures, the intellectuals keep describing their own concerns and fears that the system is unraveling but end up wriggling around in their heads trying to prop up the failing status quo.
They are then surprised that many people – already conditioned to prefer authoritarian solutions – don’t buy these excuses, and are easy pickings for the usual Goebbels & Fox Inc. playbook. They then vote for what they see as the only available alternative, and “democratically” elect the Führer, just as they did in 1933.
By contrast, Osho is clear that liberal democracy is only a poor shadow of what is possible for human society. This was in response to Fukuyama’s, End of History. About which Osho explains that this idea is “absolutely baseless. History moves in waves – there will again be something like fascism arising in the world,” and warned of events “more dangerous to humanity than anything by Stalin or Mussolini or Hitler!”
Now other radical voices are starting to agree about these heightened dangers: Noam Chomsky for example describing Trump’s leadership as “Definitely the worst one I can think of in history, Adolf Hitler was pretty hideous – [but] he wasn’t trying to destroy organized human society on earth.”
So, here we are. Exactly as Osho warns, with fascism coming out of the woodwork all over the place, including in the bastion of democracy, the USA. The UK, which prides itself on having the “Mother of Parliaments,” is not far behind. What to say of the decline in freedoms across the globe, what Freedom House calls, “Dropping the democratic facade in Europe and Eurasia.”
The basic problem is that the members of the intelligentsia, who admit that democracy isn’t working, are only scrambling around trying to fix it. And because they can’t, they leave the door open to the horrific alternative, fascism.
This is not just academic chit chat. James Traub explains in Foreign Policy, that he spoke to “a number of scholars of democracy” and found that they “agreed that there are few prior examples of a mature democracy that has lost and then refound its way, though history furnishes any number of instances, such as Weimar Germany, of democracies that have slipped their moorings and plunged into authoritarianism.” He concludes, “I found very little optimism.”
Timothy Snyder fleshes out the risks to civilization in his usual surgical fashion, here and here.
The reason they can’t fix it is that they won’t face democracy’s basic flaws.
The first flaw is we are choosing the wrong kinds of people to be in positions of power. Yes, complex modern societies need competent, functional, and accountable managers. How did end up deciding to give that job to politicians?
Again, Osho is clear about the insanity of choosing politicians to run our lives:
“What has politics given to the world? Genghis Khan? Tamerlane? Nadir Shah? Alexander? Napoleon? Ivan the Terrible? Josef Stalin? Adolf Hitler? Benito Mussolini? Mao Zedong? Ronald Reagan?
“These are all criminals. Rather than being in power, they should be behind bars; they are inhuman.
“They are spiritually sick people. The will to power and to dominate arises only in the sick mind. It arises out of the inferiority complex. People who are not suffering from an inferiority complex do not care about power; their whole endeavor is for peace because the meaning of life can be known only in peace – power is not the way.” 2
“Politics attracts only the most mediocre minds in the world. It does not attract Albert Einsteins, Bertrand Russells, Jean-Paul Sartres, Rabindranath Tagores…. No, it attracts a certain kind of people. Psychologists are aware of the fact that people who are suffering from some inferiority complex are the people to be attracted toward politics – because politics can give them power. And through power, they can convince themselves and others that they are not inferior, that they are not mediocre.
“But just attaining power makes no difference to their intelligence. So the whole world is ruled by mediocre people, when we have a large number of intelligent people – scientists, artists, musicians, poets, dancers, painters – all kinds of sensitive, creative people, the very cream of humanity, but they are not in power. They can change the whole fabric of human history, they can change the darkness of the future into a beautiful morning, a sunrise.
“But the misfortune is that power is in the hands of the wrong people, and the people of intelligence are devoid of power.” 3
Or as Walt Whitman wrote in Democratic Vistas:
“Above all previous lands, a great original literature is surely to become the justification and reliance, (in some respects the sole reliance,) of American democracy.” Specifically, “Our fundamental want to-day in the United States… is of a class, and the clear idea of a class, of native authors, literatures, far different, far higher in grade than any yet known.”
By contrast, he warns: “I would alarm and caution” of so many elements that today threaten “our experiment of democracy the fruitage of success.”
About the intellectuals, he notices how “the thinkers of the United States” have given these critical issues, the “feeblest attention, or have remain’d, and remain, in a state of somnolence.”
About the governmental process, he is equally scathing: “The official services of America, national, state, and municipal, in all their branches and departments, except the judiciary, are saturated in corruption, bribery, falsehood, mal-administration; and the judiciary is tainted.”
He reserves his strongest condemnation for politicians. “I have everywhere found, primarily, thieves and scalliwags arranging the nominations to offices, and sometimes filling the offices themselves.”
“I have found the north just as full of bad stuff as the south. Of the holders of public office in the Nation or the States or their municipalities… all have been nominated and put through by little or large caucuses of the politicians, and have got in by corrupt rings and electioneering, not capacity or desert.”
He is in awe of the potential of The United States “either to surmount the gorgeous history of feudalism, or else prove the most tremendous failure of time.”
His recipe for “a nationality superior to any hither known… must be vigorous, yet unsuspected Literatures, perfect personalities and sociologies, original, transcendental, and expressing (what, in highest sense, are not yet express’d at all,) democracy and the modern.” Otherwise, “our modern civilization, with all its improvements, is in vain, and we are on the road to a destiny, a status, equivalent, in its real world, to that of the fabled damned.”
Over a hundred a fifty years later, this sounds today like a direct warning from Walt Whitman of the potential for our Trumpian world.
Osho describes exactly Walt Whitman’s “fabled dammed”:
“Politicians live on lies; politicians live on promises – but those promises are never fulfilled. They are the most unqualified people in the world. Their only quality is that they can manage to befool the poor masses – or, in poor countries, they can purchase their votes. And once they are in power, they forget completely that they are servants of the people; they start behaving as if they are the masters of the people.” 2
“Even if you want to be a plumber, some kind of qualification will be needed, some training in plumbing, some certificate. But if you want to be the president of America, no certificate is needed.
“It seems strange: plumbing is more important than the presidency of America! If you want to be a senator, no qualification is needed. If you want to be a teacher in a kindergarten school, qualifications are needed.
“Democracy is not succeeding; it has failed. It was better than its predecessors, but now we have to find a new alternative – because democracy has failed. It has not been of any help.” 4
Osho’s proposal is simply that those chosen to manage a complex modern society should be at least competent!
“It is so simple a thing. You don’t elect a doctor, that just anybody can stand, it is a birthright, and people can vote. Two persons fighting to be the doctor or to be the surgeon? What is wrong in it? The people choose for themselves: for the people, by the people, of the people. They choose one person, a surgeon, because he speaks better, he looks good on the television and he makes great promises.
“But he is not even a butcher! – and he is going to become a surgeon. He is not even a butcher. Even a butcher would have been better; at least he would have known how to cut and finish you. This man… but you don’t choose a surgeon by election.
“How can you choose a president by election? How can you choose a governor by election?
“You are giving so much power to power-hungry people; with your own hands, you are telling them to hang you! This is not democracy. In the name of democracy, these people have been exploiting the masses.” 1
The perfect example of this is Taiwan’s vice-president, Chen Chien-jen. As the New York Times describes it, his “first love” is the natural sciences. A John’s Hopkins’ trained epidemiologist, he is described by colleagues as a scholar who “actually doesn’t care much about the power game.” At the height of the SARS outbreak, he was asked to be the health minister. In 2015 was again persuaded to leave his academic life when he was invited to be the running mate of the then-presidential candidate, Ms. Tsai. He ended up as vice-president in time for the Covid-19 pandemic. He plans to return to his “first love” in academia as soon as he can.
Did Taiwan benefit from having a competent expert in charge of the Covid-19 response instead of a politician? According to Bloomberg, as of the end of October 2020, Taiwan, with a population of 23 million people, has had 600 Covid-19 cases and 7 deaths. Look at the comparison with the pathetic response in Trump’s USA: With about 15 times the population, and 20% richer, instead of about 12 million cases and 250,000 deaths – and still counting – had an equally competent epidemiologist been in charge, the USA would have suffered about 9000 cases and just over 100 deaths!
The deliberate denial of the facts of this disease has, from March 15 to November 7 caused a total of 326,000 excess deaths. Isn’t this culpable homicide? At this rate, the numbers of US deaths will soon exceed those lost during the whole of World War II.
Worse, compare that possibility of limiting the total US deaths to 100 total US deaths, Taiwan-style, with the results of research by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research”:
The 18 Trump rallies between June 20 and September 22 “ultimately resulted in more than 30,000 incremental confirmed cases of COVID-19” and “likely led to more than 700 deaths.”
Remember how Trump was continually railing against those unelected Communist Chinese for their lack of transparency for the first two or three weeks at the beginning of the pandemic. Meanwhile, his own “democratically elected” government’s attempts to doctor the facts to suit itself have been going on for months, culminating in his installing his own party loyalist into the US CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) bureaucracy to try and control the flow of information. Such is the extent of this meddling, it is now being investigated by the Government Accountability Office.
Compared that outrage expressed against that Chinese government interference with Trump attitude to Dr. Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Health and Infectious Diseases. He listened “with evident relish as the crowd chanted ‘Fire Fauci, Fire Fauci…’” during one of his rallies. “Wait until a little bit after the election,” Trump replied. “I appreciate the advice.”
Exactly the abuse of power that Osho so clearly dissects so precisely.
Or just next door in Nova Scotia, it is the same obvious story. Why did they manage to control the epidemic? According to Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s public health chief, “Public health officials, not politicians, set the policy here about what opens.”
Referring to government involvement in Covid-19 decisions, a recent editorial in the British Medical Journal explained it this way:
“As the powerful become more successful, richer, and further intoxicated with power, the inconvenient truths of science are suppressed. When good science is suppressed, people die.”
You have to wonder how many more people have to be sacrificed for the sake of this outdated idea of letting politicians anywhere near power – just because that is how we have traditionally defined “democracy”?
See the next part of this series next week: “Democracy — The Other Fatal Flaws”
To continue reading and see all available formats of these talks:
1 Osho, From Misery to Enlightenment, Talk #8 – From Idiotocracy to Meritocracy
2 Osho, The Hidden Splendor, Talk #6 – Politics Has No Heart – Religion Is Pure Heart
3 Osho, The Sword and the Lotus, Talk #3 – The Science of the Inner Soul
4 Osho, From Bondage to Freedom, Talk #31 – Democracy Means Mediocracy