web analytics
October 1, 2014 / 7 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



American Democracy as Masquerade

Louis Rene Beres

Louis Rene Beres

          Incomprehensibly, at their very deepest pertinent levels politics and government remain extraneous to what is most important. America’s vast ocean of personal addictions, now much rougher and more threatening than any conceivable national programs for reform, is deep enough to drown entire libraries of uplifting music and sacred poetry.

          In an earlier and foundational national history, both liberals and conservatives read Lucretius, Cicero, Grotius, Vattel, Locke, Hobbes, Montesquieu, Rousseau, and, later, Blackstone. Excluding the 18th-century English jurist, whose refined thoughts were to become the indisputable starting point of all American jurisprudence, Thomas Jefferson read them all.

I have been a university professor for more than 42 years. My students are much less interested in high thinking than in high net worth. Given an opportunity to earn impressive incomes without even continuing their formal education, an overwhelming majority would unhesitatingly grab at the offer.

How do I know this? I asked them.

In our later national history, some time shortly after the once-celebrated literary ascendancies of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, a spirit of true accomplishment earned high marks. Then, young people strove to rise “originally,” not by incessantly craving expensive and mostly unnecessary goods, but as confident proprietors of an exemplary American Self. Although Emerson and his fellow New England Transcendentalists taught that the flip side of high thinking must be “plain living,” our citizens typically seek private wealth above any other competing objectives.

With few exceptions, wealth is generally taken as our ultimate form of personal validation, as thoroughly incomparable evidence of “success.” Years ago, economist Adam Smith, now so often cited by “free market” advocates who don’t understand Smith’s 18th-century writings, concluded that wealth is most energetically sought not because of its intrinsic purchasing power but on account of its special capacity to elicit envy. Later, Emerson had expressed a similar idea, when he advised that “foolish reliance upon property” is the result of “a want of self-reliance.”

In the final analysis, the “warmth of the mass” promises each American crowd-citizen a concocted but still convenient defense against unbearable loneliness. Yet this seductive mass also defiles whatever is wondrous, gracious, and generous in this, or in any other society. Already anticipating this development, Charles Dickens observed, in 1842: “I do fear that the heaviest blow ever dealt at liberty will be dealt by this country [the U.S.], in the failure of its example to the earth.”

Dickens, of course, was spot on. We Americans have protected our political freedom from the most visible and insidious kinds of tyranny and oppression. For this, we deserve credit. At the same time, we have wittingly sacrificed our coequal obligation to become fulfilled persons. Openly deploring a life of any greater meaning and purpose than one of ritual accumulation, we shamelessly substitute reality shows for real literature, and, still more obsessively, confuse relentless social networking with happiness.

In our sorely blemished democracy, a system of governance driven by what “elite” political theorists have called the “iron law of oligarchy,” those individual Americans who would choose disciplined thought over “fitting-in” must accept “punishment.” Usually, this ironic sanction is delivered as some form of ostracism (social or professional), and also in some corollary forms of “aloneness.”

“The most radical division,” observed Jose Ortega y Gasset in 1930, “is that which splits humanity…. those who make great demands on themselves…and those who demand nothing special of themselves…”

Our democracy is a masquerade, because its current foundations are built upon sand. Now it is high time for camouflage in the inert American mass to yield to being-challenged-in-the-world. In essence, only those individuals who would still dare to reject an insistently demeaning amusement society can offer America its most enduring hope.

About the Author: Louis René Beres, strategic and military affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, is professor of Political Science at Purdue University. Educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), he lectures and publishes widely on international relations and international law and is the author of ten major books in the field. In Israel, Professor Beres was chair of Project Daniel.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

2 Responses to “American Democracy as Masquerade”

  1. It's sad that every election, there are campaigns to "get out the vote" or "rock the vote" with no direction telling potential voters that it's their obligation as conscious voters to educate themselves before voting. In their desire to win elections, America's political parties prefer voters to be ignorant to get into office and apathetic to stay in office, but eventually, we'll get a real monster in office that knows how to take advantage of the drones that are programmed to chant in unison. "The cattle are branded. They bed down behind gates. Trading sky and horizon for safety and grain."

  2. Sadly I agree R.Locust. Worldwide to the end time,and our Creator is not going to hold back .We our on the verge of a Nuc. final WW111. Watch and Pray.This WILL
    come to pass in our generation.Seek Truth in this deceived world. Find inner peace, help and guidance is there. ASK, ask-seek-knock.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
The Port of Long Beach
ZIM Shanghai Unloads at Port of Long Beach, No BDS Problems
Latest Indepth Stories
terrorists

Is the global community clear in its response to these extremist groups?

obama

Like our fabled character, Don Quixote, President Obama has constantly spawned his own reality.

Ayatollah Hossein-Kazamani Boroujerdi, in better times (left) and in his prison cell (right).

Boroujerdi was informed that “the pressures and tortures will increase until he has been destroyed.”

Senior Hamas and Fatah leaders in Gaza City on April 22. Hamas and Fatah signed a deal to establish a unity government, but since then little progress has been made.

Fatah: Hamas stole relief aid for Gaza and distributed it amongst its followers in mosques.

Can teenagers seriously be expected to behave properly when they are surrounded by so much suggestive material? Is it fair to expose them (and ourselves) to so much temptation and then tell them, “Just say no”?

Washington remains ignorant of the need to dismantle alliances with various Muslim countries.

Defeating IS requires bombing its strongholds and recognizing the violent nature of Islam.

Abbas again used the UN to attack Israel, distort history, and undermine prospects for peace.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority cannot even agree to move their clocks back on the same day.

Shemita is about relating to each other by temporarily eliminating gaps of wealth power & status

David transcended adversity to become a leader; Who are we to make excuses for a lack of greatness?

sympathy: Feeling sorrow or pity for another’s tribulations; Empathy:sharing an emotional experience

Last week the president announced a four-point plan. Unfortunately, there’s little buy-in from our European and Middle Eastern allies. Here’s my own four-point plan that may be more palatable to our allies.

Rosh Hashanah has an obvious connection to God’s Kingship. We constantly refer to Him during the Asseres Yemei Teshuvah as Melech/King. The nusach of the tefillah, referring to Rosh Hashanah as “a remembrance of the first day” (of Creation), implies a certain dimension of divine kingship operating at the time of Creation and replicated every […]

Yes, God judges, but His judgment is that of a loving father who longs for his child’s quick return.

Anti-Semitism has returned to the mainstream of European society and Israel has become its focus.

More Articles from Louis Rene Beres
Louis Rene Beres

President Obama’s core argument on a Middle East peace process is still founded on incorrect assumptions.

Louis Rene Beres

Once upon a time in America, every adult could recite at least some Spenglerian theory of decline.

President Obama’s core argument is still founded on incorrect assumptions.

Specific strategic lessons from the Bar Kokhba rebellion.

Still facing an effectively unhindered nuclear threat from Iran, Israel will soon need to choose between two strategic options.

For states, as for individuals, fear and reality go together naturally.

So much of the struggle between Israel and the Arabs continues to concern space.

An undifferentiated or across-the-board commitment to nuclear ambiguity could prove harmful to Israel’s’s overall security.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/american-democracy-as-masquerade/2014/01/09/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: