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Disciplined Democracy

George G Clark, 28 July 2008

"It is not by accident that we come by our 'common sense'. People who think freely and independently are quick to realise how they have been taught to imprison and enslave themselves. In breaking free they become the champions of un-common sense. May their thoughts be clear, fruitful and infectious." [George Clark, 2002]

Discipline is what causes you to behave this way rather than that. In a democracy there are rules about how to behave. In a well disciplined democracy there will be forms of both external and internal discipline and these can be thought of as more or less right or wrong. The following box suggests four main patterns:

  Right Wrong
Internal Discipline Freely chosen Culturally absorbed
External Discipline Negotiated Imposed

Right internal discipline is freely chosen. This suggests a cool review of the options and a rational/emotional choice about which one to run with. BUT what are the causes and conditions for your choosing one option over another? (see next example)

Wrong internal discipline is culturally absorbed. We are social animals. We absorb the culture in which we are raised. This remains hidden till we are exposed to people from different cultures. This can lead to fanatical behaviour. In these post-modern times we must learn to live with cultural relativism and its attendant uncertainties.

Wrong external discipline is imposed. "Do it this way." "Why?" "Because I tell you." The power relationship can be within the family, community, tribe, nation, and so on. It tends to lead to unthinking obedience which is rarely ideal in the long term.

Right external discipline is negotiated. IF we are to be social animals living in a pluralist democracy where the rights of the individual are to be respected THEN coercion must be at least 'reasonable' and at best negotiated. The watchwords would be consultation, participation and ownership.

"Cultural influences have set up the assumptions about the mind, the body, and the universe with which we begin; pose the questions we ask; influence the facts we seek; determine the interpretations we give these facts; and direct our reaction to these interpretations and conclusions."
[Gunnar Myrdal]
"Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."
[Sir Winston Churchill]
"If those in charge of our society - politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television - can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves."
[Howard Zinn]

"Mastering others is strength.
Mastering yourself is true power."
[Lao Tzu]

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