by John Kozy
February 4, 2011
John Kozy is a retired professor of philosophy and logic who writes
on social, political, and economic issues. After serving in the U.S.
Army during the Korean War, he spent 20 years as a university
professor and another 20 years working as a writer. He has published
a textbook in formal logic commercially, in academic journals and a
small number of commercial magazines, and has written a number of
guest editorials for newspapers. His on-line pieces can be found on
http://www.jkozy.com/ and he can be emailed from that site's
Ah, democracy, rule by the people, the promised path to just
government and the end of tyranny. What ever happened to it?
Finian Cunningham writes,
"From 1945-97, there was at least the
semblance that the British Labour Party in particular represented
the interests of the working and lower middle classes. But under the
'reforming' leadership of Tony Blair and his successor, Gordon
Brown, 'New Labour' has become indistinguishable from the other main
parties in terms of slavishly fawning over big business and the
Prior to the 1997 election, which brought Labour to
government, one senior Conservative smugly noted that, in terms of
economic policy, there was 'not a cigarette paper between' the
Thatcherite Tory Party and Blair's New Labour."
In America, this has
been the reality for decades. How many times have the people had to
choose between the least evil of two candidates? America has but one
political party - the Republicrat.
A recent report in the Guardian goes,
"While the US and Britain
slide towards oligarchy, the forced elections in Afghanistan and
Iraq have brought no good. The west's proudest export to the Islamic
world this past decade has been democracy. That is, not real
democracy, which is too complicated, but elections.
They have been
exported at the point of a gun and a missile to Iraq and
Afghanistan, to 'nation-build' these states and hence 'defeat
terror'. When apologists are challenged to show some good resulting
from the shambles, they invariably reply: 'It has given Iraqis and
Afghans freedom to vote.'"
But democracy has taken an even more sinister turn - fraud and the
rejection of results.
When Hamas won the election in the Gaza Strip by a large majority
the results were rejected by Fatah and the western nations that had
previously advocated that very election and had agreed to abide by
The AP reported that,
"Hassan Turabi, the leader of the Islamic
Popular Congress Party, said... his group would reject the
results of [the] vote [in the Sudan] and challenge them in court... Election observers say the vote fell short of international
The BBC writing on Iran's last election reported that,
Ahmadinejad... won some 62.6% of the vote in an election marked
by a high turnout of 85%, official figures show. Supporters of
pro-reform candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi have cried foul and clashed
with riot police in Tehran, despite a ban on public protests."
It was widely reported that the 2009 presidential election in
Afghanistan was characterized by lack of security, low voter turnout
and widespread ballot stuffing, intimidation, and other electoral
Two months later, under heavy U.S. and ally pressure, a
second round run-off vote between incumbent President Hamid Karzai
and his main rival Abdullah Abdullah was announced for November 7,
2009. However, Abdullah announced that he would no longer be
participating in the run-off because his demands for changes in the
electoral commission had not been met, and a "transparent election
is not possible."
When former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's Iraqiyya list won the
election in Iraq by two seats, Nouri Maliki mounted a legal
challenge and suggested that six of the winning candidates should be
disqualified because of alleged ties to the former Baath government.
And now Paul Craig Roberts writes,
"The hypocrisy of the US
government is yet again demonstrated in full bore force. The US
government invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, laid waste to much of the
countries including entire villages and towns, and massacred untold
numbers of civilians in order “to bring democracy” to Iraq and
Now after days of Egyptians in the streets demanding
'Mubarak must go,' the US government remains aligned with its puppet
Egyptian ruler, even suggesting that Mubarak, after running a police
state for three decades, is the appropriate person to implement
democracy in Egypt."
What is one to conclude from all of this? Is it that democracy is
wonderful so long as those already in power remain there?
This democratic dementia is the result of a long term trend.
Aristotle, one of the world's deepest thinkers, is often blamed for
defining mankind as rational even though he never did. He did,
however, consider mankind as rational, and he used that notion in an
example when writing about definition, which is, I suspect, the
source of the misbelieve.
That Aristotle chose to use the word man in this context suggests
that the notion of mankind as rational was quite common in classical
Greece, so common that no one would question it and sidetrack the
discussion about definition.
After all, Aristotle was a student of
Plato's and Plato's Dialogues provide us with a model of a rational
man - Socrates.
But most of the characters in
the Dialogues are not
rational to the extent that Socrates is. They are, however,
persuadable when presented with evidence and logical argument. And I
suspect that that's what Aristotle means when he writes, in the
Nicomachean Ethics, that human beings have a rational principle; he
means that human beings are persuadable.
The Greek notion of rationality, however, was quite different from
ours. In the phrase "zoon logikon" (animal-rational) "logikon" is
not exactly what we mean by "rational".
That term, to the Greeks,
refers to the power to think and other attributes needed to
distinguish humans from all other animals. At least one of these
attributes is believing, as, for instance, in the statement man is a
believing animal. So to the Greeks, a person whose mind is cluttered
with beliefs would be a zoon logikon.
The Greeks would have
distinguished such a person from a logical person, and at least
Plato and Aristotle valued a logical person more highly than the
merely rational. Not so today!
Today, at least in America, beliefs, which are often merely
unsupportable opinions, seem to be valued higher than knowledge
which is based on evidence and supported by logic. So, in a sense,
creedal man has replaced rational man. Belief has come to trump
knowledge. Mankind has become creedal, ideological.
Ideological groups, however, consist of true believers who cannot be
persuaded. When an ideology is adopted, it is as though evidence and
logic are no longer needed. The ideology contains an answer to every
question, a solution to every problem. Evidence, logic, even truth
In doing so, however, mankind has divided itself into impersuasible
groups that clash with each other. Ordinarily, people consider such
groups to be religious. Where their ideologies differ, for instance,
Moslems and Christians will never agree. People holding incompatible
notions cannot agree. Sooner or later, the result is either a
religious war or total separation.
But antagonistic groups arise
everywhere ideology is used to guide human behavior. Capitalists and
Socialists will never agree; Capitalism and Socialism are
incompatible ideologies. Neither will Democrats (who truly represent
the people) and Republicans (who represent the commercial class) or
environmentalists and exploitationists.
Every ideology becomes a
religion, and every religion has its own solution to every problem.
Because mankind has abandoned knowledge for belief, peace on earth
has become an impossible dream.
Even logical enterprises like science have become creeds. Just as
Christians believe that the second coming will solve all of
mankind's problems, many now believe that technology will.
one knows that; it's a mere belief.
When the results of technology
are examined, it becomes obvious that technology is at least as
harmful as it is beneficial.
It, after all, has given mankind
weapons of massive destruction which may be used to annihilate
everyone. It has also given mankind the means that enable
governments to watch everyone. Technology has provided governments
with totalitarian tools that are more effective than any mankind has
Plato and Aristotle surely must have known how important belief was
even in the minds of their fellow Greeks and the deleterious effects
of it. So, both Plato and Aristotle sought to replace belief in
people's minds with knowledge which is what every Platonic dialog
Plato and Aristotle knew that only when mankind adopts
evidence and logic can people become persuasible, and only
persuasion can remove the ideological conflicts that divide mankind
into antagonistic groups.
Recently, Christopher Hitchens and Tony Blair debated the question,
Can religion be a force for good in the world?
On the one hand, Hitchens stated that we don't need divine permission to know what
good action is, but he also stated that we can't rely on people to
be innately good. So then what standard do we rely on? He never
Blair, on the other hand, argued that we shouldn't blame religion
solely for the world's problems. So then, what is it about human
nature that causes some people, in the name of religious and
political systems, to do bad things? This question is also never
Blair admitted that some people have committed evil
in the name of
religion, but this has been completely outweighed by its goods. Hitchens continually denounced religion as fostering a mentality
that makes "good people do unkind things."
The question debated was never resolved because both debaters argue
from their beliefs. Each debater talks past the other.
But the most
interesting part of the debate came when instead of making a closing
statement, Blair and Hitchens decided to take one last question:
'Which of your opponent's arguments do you find most convincing?'
Blair answered first.
"I think that the most convincing argument is
- and the argument that people of faith have got to deal with is
actually the argument Christopher has just made - which is that the
bad that is done in the name of religion is intrinsically grounded
in the scripture of religion. That is the single most difficult
He must have had in mind the Torah's exhortations to
exterminate whole nations, men, women and children and other similar
"The remark Tony made that I most agreed with this
evening, I'll just hope that doesn't sound too minimal, was when he
said that if religion was to disappear, things would by no means, as
it were, automatically be okay."
In the end, Blair recognized that religious ideologies in the form
of scripture contain evil aspects.
Hitchens, on the other hand,
admits that the elimination of religion alone will not make mankind
Both, of course, are true, but both also fail to see that the
elimination of belief and its replacement by truth arrived at by
evidence and logical argument is the only way to resolve the
question, for otherwise, neither side can persuade the other.
Without the willingness of people to accept only logical evidence
based on fact or agreed upon assumptions, no one will ever persuade
anyone of anything. It is this unwillingness based on unquestionable
ideologies that makes persuasion impossible.
The topic of this debate could just as well have been either of the
And the answer to the
original and these two is no.
Only knowledge sought and applied in
moral ways can effectively be a force for good in the world.
Recently, members of Congress and the President have been at odds
over compromising which seems difficult to achieve. The Republicans
are willing to accept something the Democrats want only if the
Republicans get all of what they want, which is a paradigm case of
an ideological conflict. Nothing good can come of it.
good can come from compromise either.
Combining some of the beliefs
derived from two antagonistic ideologies always results in
unworkable policies. For instance, when the right opposes social
programs that the left advocates and a compromise occurs in which
the right accepts some limited social programs and the left accepts
the limitations, the result is inadequate and ineffective policy.
The same is true of most of the social problems that afflict America
today. All attempted solutions are compromised into ineffectiveness.
This won't change until the ideologies are abandoned and problem
solving relies on evidence and logic.
In all cases religion, in the
wide sense of ideology, can never improve mankind's condition.
This addiction to opinion, each person being entitled to his own,
and the unwarranted notion that those who fight for their beliefs
are "principled" is why democracies teeter between antagonistic
belief systems and are unable to resolve any social problems.
party strives to repeal the policies enacted by the other which
paralyzes the political process. The problem is worldwide. Democracy
itself is falling into this ideological abyss. When elections are
held the losers now routinely reject the outcome yelling "fraud"!
Often it leads to demonstrations and violence. When people reject
the grounds for persuasion, conflict is the inevitable result.
Democracy cannot function when people are not persuasible.