Democracy — Towards a Democratic Meritocracy

Democracy — Towards a Democratic Meritocracy
13 min read

In the two previous articles in this series we have described in detail exactly why democracy is no longer up to the task of managing a complex and crisis-torn planet. You can read, “Democracy – The Primary Fatal Flaw” and “Democracy – The Other Fatal Flaws,” and now we present a progressive, radical alternative towards creating a democratic meritocracy.

In summary, we have already outlined the fatal flaws in democracy in its current form.

In particular that choosing politicians to rule over us is increasingly suicidal, and that a manipulated electorate turns democracy into a mobocracy, even if those voters can circumvent all the corrupt attempts to prevent them voting at all.

The key point is that the failure to explore progressive alternatives leaves the door wide open to what is seen as the only alternative: fascism.

So, what is that progressive alternative that no one seems willing to explore?

First, we need to find a way to take the power back from the politicians. Osho explains:

“And what power do politicians have? All the power that they have we have given to them. We can take it back. It is not their power, it is our power.

“We just have to find a way to take it back – because giving is very easy, taking is a little difficult. They will not be so simple and innocent when you take the power back as they were when they were asking it from you. It is our power, but they will go on having it if the mob remains there to give it to them; the mob can be convinced about anything.” 1

The way to do this is to let the smartest people work out a better system of making sure that our affairs are managed by the most qualified people. Selecting people based on their merit – a meritocracy. In order to plan for a more contemporary version of democracy, we need to create the opportunity for talented people to make the decisions that today we allow politicians to make: 

“I would like all the universities – first of just one state – to call a convention of all the vice-chancellors and the eminent professors; of the eminent intelligentsia who may not be part of the university: painters, artists, poets, dancers, actors, musicians. It would include all kinds of people who have attained a certain eminence and have shown their caliber – excluding politicians completely.

All the Nobel prize-winners should be invited – excluding the politicians again, because within these past few years a few politicians have managed to get Nobel prizes, and this has degraded the value of the Nobel prize.” 1

And:

 “Every state should call a convention of all the intelligentsia who are part of the universities or not part of the universities – writers, novelists, all dimensions of talents – and they should choose a delegation for the national convention.

“So from all the states a national convention meets and goes into details of how the meritocracy can work.” 1

 So, as suggested, these conventions could experiment, starting with one state for example, so they can try different approaches to see what works and what doesn’t.

It is so bizarre that in almost every facet of human life, we want to make sure that the most talented people are making the best decisions. It could be our doctor, our dentist, our lawyer, our bank manager, the local utility company, our teachers, our airline pilots, our Uber driver, our employers, our employees….

In fact we try to ensure we are served by the best people in every facet of life, except when it comes to the people we give ultimate power to rule over us: the politicians.

An example: According to the Harvard Business Review, when Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he revolutionized its management structure with a simple understanding “that those with the most expertise and experience in a domain should have decision rights for that domain.” Since then Apple’s revenue has grown from $7 billion to $260 billion in 2019.

Of course, how these people were selected is a totally different, and crucial issue. The only reason for citing this example is to demonstrate the obvious potential benefits of having complex issues dealt with by people who actually know what they are doing.

About that, is there anyone on the planet who thinks it would have been better to have allowed a bunch of politicians to run that company?

So, why do we allow them to run our lives?

Once we see this, we can start to examine how to create a situation that is exactly the opposite of this. Then the best geniuses of humanity can serve us directly, leaving these politicians out of the picture completely.

Osho again:

“I want a government by the people of merit.

“And merit is a very rare quality.

“As the situation is, all the geniuses of the world are outside governments. It is hilarious: those geniuses are needed in the government because they can give the best world to humanity, but they are servants of the retarded politicians.” 2

And by merit Osho is clear what this means.

“But merit for what? The merit is to serve and share. And once you have decided to shift the power from the politicians to the intelligentsia, everything is possible – everything becomes simple.” 1

It is important to note that Osho’s understanding of merit is totally different from the normal way meritocracy is perceived. If “meritocracy” is simply a means for already privileged people, and today particularly white males – to capitalize on their existing elite positions to enhance their advantages – of course that is a totally reactionary outcome. Then it becomes another game of ambition, politics and the greed for power, just like now. But as the example of the vice-president of Taiwan that we cited earlier shows, colleagues usually have a pretty good idea of what motivates their peers. Distinguishing between those who really want to “serve and share” from the average, driven, office-ladder climber is not so difficult. They can be smelled a mile away. If you can’t tell, you are probably not a woman.

Of course, power is power, and maybe someone’s craving for it is so unconscious, not only are they not aware of it, even their peers may not be either. So, not only is the way we select people who will have power a critical part of this new approach, a key ingredient for us all is to be able to recognize what it means to be authentic. Equally important in this context is to preparing people to exercise that power consciously, which is explained here.

Those who are given the chance to serve and share their genius will not be preselected as now by political parties or the vested interests, who then dictate to them what decisions to take. Every candidate for every functional post will operate as free individuals, deciding, in conjunction with other people with expertise, what is the best way forwards.

“Democracy will be possible only when there are no political parties, and each individual decides on his own. Nobody is going to campaign, nobody is going to convince him. He is not a party member, he has not to follow a party line – he has to decide himself.” 3

And:

 “Every individual should stand on his own merit. And people can choose. Why should there be a political party? There is no reason. If you need a finance minister, all the great experts you have in economics and finance can compete for it, and someone can be chosen for it. There is no need for any party. We should move from party politics to pure individuals – from democracy, from dictatorship, to meritocracy.

“Merit should be the only decisive point. And we have so many people of great merit – but they should not become part of a political party, they should not degrade themselves. To become part of a political party is below them – to beg for votes and promise you false things which they cannot fulfill. So only the third-class people, very mediocre people, become part of political parties; the best remain out.

“The best should be the ones who manage the society. We have in every field geniuses, but you don’t find those geniuses becoming prime ministers or presidents.

“They can become presidents and prime ministers if there are no political parties. Then their sheer merit will be enough, and nobody will even be capable of competing with them. They will not have to go to beg for your votes, they will be chosen unanimously. 4

And:

“There is no need for any political party. Persons should stand on their own merit. Every individual should choose the person, without any political party programming him, forcing him, bribing him.

“Individuals should stand, and individuals should choose, and the choice should be on merit. Just as you choose your bureaucracy – but that is not an election, it is an appointment. Your political system should be an election of merit, and the press can play a tremendously valuable role in explaining to the masses the merits of different people who are contesting.

“I think only a meritocracy is the answer for our problems. Idiots are trying to solve problems which they don’t understand at all.” 5

So, no one will be knocking on our doors begging for our votes in return for promises that will never be fulfilled. We will be knocking on their doors, asking them if they would be willing to serve.

Of course, the level of expertise required of these new managers of the public domain will depend on the context. Issues that are only local and affect only local people would be decided locally, not from some central authority imposing their political will on others as is often the case today.

Issues that are individual, that affect no one else, each individual is free to choose for her or himself.

By contrast, consider the situation in today’s “oldest democracy,” the USA: Anybody over a certain age (more or less), can vote to choose who will be the most powerful man in the world. At the same time, currently some 40,000 people, mainly black of course, are locked up because those individuals chose to consume marijuana. Some are even serving life sentences!

And the game of political parties is, as Osho sees it, “just a political conspiracy”:

“It depends on a certain psychology of people, and democracy is using it. People’s memory is very short – three years. So for four years, five years, one party rules, and naturally it cannot fulfill all the promises that it has given to the people. It starts falling, in people’s eyes. And for five years, the other party has been giving promises that, “We will do what they have not done.”

“So after five years the other party comes on top. And this game goes on being played. Those two parties are conspirators, shareholders in the same company. It is a rotation of a wheel.

“I don’t see any difference in their ideology, I don’t see any difference in their principles, I don’t see any difference in their faces. They are all the same people, playing a game. It is a football match: one team on this side and one team on that side. It doesn’t make any difference to me.

“I am against parties. I want democracy to be party-less. Unless it is party-less, it cannot be democracy. It is only temporary dictatorship. For four years, five years, or whatsoever time in different countries – you give a party four years’ dictatorship. It is a temporary dictatorship, it is not democracy.” 6

 It is useful to be reminded again of Walt Whitman’s evaluation of American democracy one hundred fifty years ago. He came to the same conclusion about political parties – which could have been written today – in Democratic Vistas:

“And I have noticed more and more, the alarming spectacle of parties usurping the government, and openly and shamelessly wielding it for party purposes….”

“For America, if eligible at all to downfall and ruin, is eligible within herself, not without…. But these savage, wolfish parties alarm me. Owning no law but their own will, more and more combative, less and less tolerant of the idea of ensemble and of equal brotherhood… it behooves you to convey yourself implicitly to no party, nor submit blindly to their dictators, but steadily hold yourself judge and master over all of them.

“Even to-day, amid these whirls, incredible flippancy, and blind fury of parties, infidelity, entire lack of first-class captains and leaders, added to the plentiful meanness and vulgarity of the ostensible masses….”

Naturally, introducing a progressive, radical new approach will take time, time for trial and error. But not one hundred fifty years! We have been playing politics for centuries and look where it has brought us. So, we should at least give the different alternatives time to evolve and be adjusted depending on how they work in practice.

And just as the people being given power need to be chosen solely by their ability to provide the best possible outcome for the people, so too, depending on what is being decided, the people who do the choosing also need to have the ability to make such a choice:

As Osho explains:

“Then just because you are twenty-one it does not mean you are capable of choosing the government.

“Choosing the government should be a very skillful, intelligent job. Just by being twenty-one you may be able to reproduce children – it needs no skill, even animals are doing perfectly well. It needs no education, biology sends you well prepared. But to choose the government, to choose people who are going to have all the powers over you and everybody and who are going to decide the destiny of the country and the world… the way we have been choosing them is simply idiotic.” 1

For so long those in power have abused that power to oppress those who are less powerful. For so long progressive forces have fought against this cruel barbarity. The idea that “one man (sic), one vote” was the way to address these horrors has become so entrenched in the ideology of progress that any challenge to that belief will be viewed with anathema by many. It is natural. So many have suffered and died in the hope that somehow “universal suffrage” will herald something that could be called “civilization.”

So naturally, letting go of this old idea will not be easy, and Osho explains:

“The common masses have no mind of their own. For centuries they have been conditioned, hypnotized, brainwashed continuously.

“So when a man like me says something, it needs guts in the first place even to hear it. Then it needs tremendous courage to absorb it, because it is bitter, it goes against all your conditioning.” 6

But how long will it take for us to accept that all our best efforts are failing, and in particular politics per se precludes any radical change that will free the world of oppression?

As Osho specifically describes:

“All political ideologies have failed, utterly failed. No political revolution has been successful. And the politicians of the world have brought humanity to the verge of a global suicide. Politics has contributed to humanity the possibility to commit total suicide. That is their contribution of thousands of years.” 7

In fact, we are so blinded by our own conditioned belief systems that many may decide that Osho’s particular brand of meritocracy is even “anti-democratic.” He answers that specific point:

“There is no democracy, so how can I be anti-democracy?

“What I am proposing is the right way to change the whole structure, so that one day meritocracy can merge into democracy – because sooner or later everybody can be educated. I am not preventing anybody; I am simply saying that right now give the power of governing only to those who are entitled to it and prepared for it. Meanwhile, go on preparing other people.” 1

And:

“I am not against the people. In fact, in the hands of these politicians, the people are against themselves. I am all for the people, and what I am saying can be said to be exactly what has been said about democracy: for the people, by the people, of the people – just “by the people” I will have to change. This intelligentsia will be for the people, of the people. It will be serving the masses.” 1

It is becoming beyond urgent that progressive people look again at our current assumptions and beliefs and find some way of providing food, shelter, health care, education, freedom from violence… for the billions who are already suffering at the hands of those currently in power. We can already see that the people in power now are not capable of dealing with ever greater threats that will soon make today’s suffering pale in comparison – whether it is climate change, species extinction, nuclear proliferation, more pandemics…. By contrast, there are so many talented people on this planet who can help us through this dire time, and they are not the politicians.

As Osho describes this so clearly:

“Nothing is favorable to the politician; and as each day passes his death comes closer. He himself is responsible. He improved the weapons which can bring death to the whole world to such a point that there is no way of going back.

“Either there will be an ultimate war – which means death to all and everything – or a total change in the whole structure of human society. I am calling that change, meritocracy.” 1

Drowning in the crises of mismanaged pandemics, mismanaged economies, mismanaged social systems, we almost forget all the weapons the politicians have been piling up. Don’t!

“There is every possibility that by the end of this century the whole of humanity may commit suicide, a global war. And it is not very difficult to imagine its possibility, because the people who are in power, the people who have nuclear weapons, are so third rate. It seems that to be a successful politician you have to be absolutely unintelligent, fanatic, lying, promising continuously – knowing perfectly well that no promises are going to be fulfilled – cheating, using beautiful words and hiding ugly realities.” 8

And:

“Politicians have done enough harm….

“Democracy cannot be the highest possibility man can attain. It is good in comparison to other forms of government that have preceded it, but not something that can succeed it. I call that meritocracy.” 9

Osho addresses our pessimism that such changes might be possible:

“There is no need to be a pessimist, no need to feel frustrated. After so long a history of continuous failure, I can understand, it is natural. But it is not going to help.

“We have to find a way… we have to find out why old attempts have failed, and we have to work out new methods, new strategies. The youth of the whole world is in the same situation and is ready to change all old structures and make every change that helps humanity to become free.

“Freedom is such a spiritual necessity that without it man never attains his manhood. Liberation from dead superstitions, ideologies, dogmas is such a great necessity that once you are free of it you will feel as if you have got wings and you can fly into the sky.

“The load of the past is too heavy, and it is killing everybody. As far as I am concerned, I see it as a great opportunity. People change only when they come to the very brink of death; otherwise they don’t change. The politicians of the whole world, the theologians of the whole world, the religious leaders – all have brought you to the brink of death.

“Now the question is, either be ready to commit a global suicide or change the whole structure that has dominated you up to now. And very small changes are needed.” 4

 And in conclusion, Osho is clear what is possible, if only we have the courage to embrace change:

 “Then the people who are ruling now all over the world will be nowhere at all. Then you will find rulers well-trained, cultured, knowing the art and the science of politics, and always ready to go to the professors, to the scholars. And slowly it may be possible that they can approach the highest level of meritocracy – the intuitive people.

“If this is possible then we will have, for the first time, something that is really human – giving dignity to humanity, integrity to individuals.

“For the first time you will have some real democracy in the world.” 10

END

You can read also enjoy the first two parts of this series, “Democracy – The Primary Fatal Flaw,” and “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, From Bondage to Freedom, Talk #31 – Democracy Means Mediocracy
3  Osho, The Last Testament, Vol. 1, Talk #30 – Live It, Enjoy It
4  Osho, Socrates Poisoned Again after 25 Centuries, Talk #11 – Utopia Is Just around the Corner
5  Osho, The Last Testament, Vol. 4, Talk #24 (Currently not available.)
6  Osho, From Ignorance to Innocence, Talk #4 – Danger: Truth at Work
7  Osho, The Last Testament, Vol. 4, Talk #5 (Currently not available.)
8  Osho, From Unconsciousness to Consciousness, Talk #15 – Transformation, Not Consolation
9  Osho, The Hidden Splendor, Talk #7 – Spread Your Joy
10 Osho, From Misery to Enlightenment, Talk #7 – Politics Brings Out the Beast in You

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