Is Democracy Dying?

April 23, 2018

 

Pull up a chair, sit back and enjoy a Bachelor Pad Double IPA from Twin Sails Brewing. A limited release filled with Citra, Mosaic and Simcoe hops, this one came off with tropical fruit notes and perhaps a bit of pine in there. Everything's great! The beer is cold and delicious. Alright now hold on.

“...The fundamental problem facing American democracy remains extreme partisan division—one fueled not just by policy differences but by deeper sources of resentment, including racial and religious differences. America’s great polarization preceded the Trump presidency, and it is very likely to endure beyond it.” - Steven Levitsky

This year has brought to light many remarkable books and ideas for me. Society as a whole seems to be propelling us down this uncertain path. Trump, Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, Identity Politics, Gun Violence, etc. The issues are fundamentally important and yet it becomes hard to see the signal amongst the noise. Do you pick a side and firmly defend or do you step back and show indifference.

George Bernard Shaw once noted that "The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that's the essence of inhumanity." Indifference feels easy and yet without coming to the table, we see the slow creep of intolerance build on both sides.

This book (How Democracies Die) has done a thorough examination of many of the world's past societies and how they have crept, or lept, towards totalitarianism with charismatic leaders and a society ripe for change either through disillusionment or this painful divide we see today. Jordan Peterson argues endlessly about the need to end this bickering over small differences and recognize the shared humanity and I took away from this book that this message is critical for ensuring that democracy remains firmly in place.

The U.S., as an outside observer, is a flashpoint for many of these different ideas all vying for our attention and all equally important. The divisiveness, however, becomes a tool to be used to divide people further. To put people in camps of us vs. them. It becomes a stepping stone to allow democracy to shift in a darker direction. As we all watch this develop, I was left with the notion that we must continue to be proactive in our push for those representing us to do just that; represent us. As individuals, we need to step back from the rage and anger we feel and try to present balanced arguments to each other so that point of views can begin to shift. As we shall see, I'm not sure what works better. Everyone working to calm each other down or trying to yell over top of one another. Indifference seems to sprout from the latter.

This book is a good starting point for understanding the nature of democracies that have toppled in the past and gives insight into the patterns that are developing under Trump. It's scary.

They point out the four guideposts that would indicate democracy is at risk: 1. The leader shows only a weak commitment to democratic rules. 2. He or she denies the legitimacy of opponents. 3. He or she tolerates violence. 4. He or she shows some willingness to curb civil liberties or the media.

Depending on your view of Trump, you and this book would argue that all of these examples have been shown to be true. The opposition may argue that these are drummed up by leftist writers who are working to disrupt the administration. I'm Canadian so I have no direct stake but I sure don't want the world to blow up or our neighbours to the South to decide to go totalitarian and look for more living space...


Thoughts from anyone else out there who has read this one?

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