Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Democratic Politcs And The Absence Of Truthfulness Virtues, Allows Evil Men To Pursue Tyranny

"People talk of democratic politics as if it were some lofty Athenian ideal where things are debated and teased out to reveal some higher truth. All democratic politics is is one big long calculated scheme to find out "how can we make the views of those who disagree with us cease to count?".
The extreme case of this is of course killing the opposition ala the Khmer Rouge."
So writes Samizdata commenter "Jaded Voluntaryist" (which I presume is the updated pseudonym for the commenter formerly known as "Jaded Libertarian") in response to Natalie Solent's redux comparison of the British Green Party with the British National Party in a post aptly entitled "A Family Likeness".

I agree, but I would add a caveat which is that the hyper-cynical condition JV describes is the result, not of democratic politics per se, but of the decay of what Bernard Williams called "the virtues of truthfulness" over time. Democratic politics itself is not the cause of this, but rather, as Billy Beck highlights, the realization of evil men within that system of democratic politics that they can obtain power through the art of lying.

Here in Taiwan, the view of democracy which JV would describe as illusory, does indeed find easy traction among foreign obverservers - even myself...
In my defence, the reader must understand that there is, or at least, there seems to me to be a vast gulf in attitudes toward criticism and debate between people here in Taiwan and back home in Europe and America. This gulf reveals itself in the fact that Taiwanese people don't go for the "shut up" exclusionary tactics that people on the Left typically engage in (e.g. Michael Turton), but rather, they simply remain silent or avoid the pursuance of disagreement through their face-saving cultural reflex. The gulf is also indirectly observable through the fact that Taiwanese people often appear unfamiliar with the art of arguing as anything other than a prelude to social exclusion and/or violence.

Those virtues that distinguish the West may be waning, at least insofar as they make any sort of appearance in the democratic political system, but they are still struggling even to take root in cultures like that of Taiwan.

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