'My name is of no importance' -- that phrase both a bit of melodramatic literary purple prose, perhaps, but a fitting salvo with which to begin this soothsayer's truth, though hardly soothing.
"It ain't what they call you, it's what you answer to.
” Uttered by a name of note--W.C. Fields.
Today, here, now, what does the thusly otherwise anonymous individual answer to?
Given that it is ever the 'means' to any end which define truthful reply to his rhetorical question, democracy means freedom to both be heard and left alone. And, in either instance, the ability of anyone in any society to enjoy either or both of those states consists in the measure of one's relative material wealth.
Consider, then, the state of American democracy's relationship to one's financial status.
Early in its revolutionary history the very revolution was a highly relative phenomenon---i.e., relatively well-positioned by wealth's almost identical twin, power. In the exercise of this form of wealth fundamental--and fundamentally flawed--documents were authored by relatively privileged Caucasian men aimed at the establishment of what was then termed 'commonwealth', itself a potent concept, derived 'from the old meaning of "wealth", which is "well-being", and is itself a loose translation of the Latin res publica (republic). The term literally meant "common well-being".' [Wikipedia]
In the central document of this commonwealth was and is the U.S. Constitution which, in its Preamble, embodies this, along with the common defense, as perfectible objectives of the new nation state.
And in pursuit of that 'more perfect Union' what have we collectively achieved when answering the sardonic Mr. Fields' query?
In this moment we may objectively report at least two competing rhetorical (in the ancient sense of using powerful words artfully and with compelling rhythmic resonance with the 'common' man) answers in this commonwealth:
One, the Progressive, seeking to restore--many would argue, revolt--the nation in such a way that financial wealth be distributed according to transparently fair ways and means of a marketplace free of gross speculation by a relative few at the risk of disadvantaging the many;
Two, the Libertarian, seeking both a return to necessarily limited government at a scale known at the commonwealth's founding AND a free market of things and ideas unregulated by such a governing apparatus.
Let's pause for a moment in our attempt to learn to what each of us answers ...and ask ourselves: 'Was this democratic republic ever consistent with the relative fairness for all embodied in these ideal concepts?'
Einstein, father of the science of relativity and largely apolitical, taught us that the problems of any system cannot be solved by using the same system that created them.
In keeping with this Einsteinian formula, then, let's return to the pragmatic Mr. Fields.
'A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money.' If nothing else, this man of a now distant time before television, certainly knew how to employ the sound byte. As the trendy reporters of today would say, let's unpack this little utterance for its utter..something.
It's posited here and now that this captures the essence of our existential angst and its (ahem) resolution--with the tiny exception of Paris Hilton and her ilk, the biggest oligarch billionaire began not so.
One reasoned answer--perhaps even wise--has but little to do with governments big or small, or even relative financial assets but, rather, a relatively (sorry) simple yet profound self-examination suggested by the cynical Mr. Fields.
For all you fellow fans of the late Douglas Adams of 'Hitchhiker' fame, no, it's not 42.
Rather, it's about your pets; that's right, your cat, dog, parakeet, Python (not Monty, though he did influence this writer) or hamster. Whatever you had/have.
[By the way, it was only said OF Fields that he hated babies and dogs.]
The answer is mores, the derivative source of so-called morals.
If a society's mores---its majority customs, habits--answer to those self-destructive full-time goals of fame/fortune--by definition democracy cannot survive in any way but nominally.
So, then, back to your pet; how many times have you, yes, you, excused yourself or others for that regretted something said/unsaid/done/undone? You used this formula: 'Only human'=absolution. Phew.
And when your pet was in distress? Yep. 'Only humane', that $400 vet bill; thank goodness they were open all hours.
Yes, it seems simple...but it's not simplistic; atheists included, the question now, then, always must be and, therefore, is if we're to have a society and not a corporation with common and preferred shareholders, to what do we answer?
W. C. Fields
William Claude Dukenfield, better known as W. C. Fields, was an American comedian, actor, juggler and writer. Born: January 29, 1880, Darby, Pennsylvania, United States, Died: December 25, 1946, Pasadena, California, United States | Photo: Rocky Sawyer | Link | W. C. Fields, Comedian, Actor, Juggler, Writer, Icon, Nose, Cigar, Smoke, Cigarette,