Random Thoughts

Governments: Origins and Declines

There has always been an unresolved problem of how to structure government, ever since the first human societies invented agriculture to produce surplus necessities, to allow other human beings to indulge in arts and crafts, or other directly non-productive, or necessity for survival based occupations. This was the genesis of culture, a never before conceived engine of human development and progress. From the evolutionary standpoint, the development of speech and resultant communication, according to some evolutionary thinkers (on the basis of gossip), lead to the development of status, resulting in more access to female seduction and thus increased progeny with increased statistical chances of survival, is the basis of culture. The Lamarckian origin of culture allows a speaking individual to instruct progeny and warn them of the dangers of certain actions that a cow or lion are unable to do. The birth of culture and excess agricultural sufficiency, necessitated some organization to protect agriculture by appropriate irrigation projects and the development of military capability to resist aggressive hunter-gatherer societies from threatening the survival of more division of labor based conglomerations, with higher chances of survival based on the complexities of organization.

The Indian caste system despite its terrible modern consequences was perfectly in concordance with Adam Smith's first founding principles of economics of division of labor. There are ancient verses in the Rig Veda, proclaiming the fluidity of these socially beneficial divisions, before their rigidity led to ossified discrimination and the resultant indifference of a vast majority, as to who the rulers were, because it made no difference to their oppression or exploitation. This set the scenario for alien exploitation and conquest due to the marginalized majority population, whose dismal lot and miserable future were unrelated to who ruled.

From the time of the Licchavis, in ancient India to the era of Greek States after the overthrow of tyrants, a form of democracy prevailed despite the exclusion of slaves in Greece or the effective exclusion of Shudras in India. The lack of unity with divisive tendencies based on the evolutionary beneficial fears of strangers and xenophobia, which even today are evident in the development of any child in every culture, led to the inevitable wars and rivalry between the city states of Greece and India. A sort of amicable polity developed in India after the aggressive but later enlightened rule of Ashoka, just as it flourished in the then contemporary China.

There is a fundamental problem with a unified benevolent and considerate approach resulting in a utilitarian good for the greatest number. This is because human nature is selfish, greedy and corrupt, interested in individual benefit, progress and welfare to the detriment of the greater good, as Hobbes realized. It is this inherent weakness or flaw in human nature, that is the basis of evolution within the constraints of natural selection. And that lead to the failure of communism. This flaw is not immune to the ills of capitalism with its unequal opportunity, that led to the invention of god by humanity, tired and disgusted with the inequities, nepotism and corruption of current life. If that were not the case Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism would have succeeded beyond belief or borders, for they all aim to control and rein in desire, the primary root cause of evil. This is why Christianity, a religion never practiced by anyone other than its founder, has failed to take root in the heart of human beings.

As Richard Dawkins and other evolutionary pioneers have emphasized, natural selection works not at the species level but at the individual level or the gene level, where destructive behavior for personal survival, glorification and aggrandizement supercedes any altruistic ideal of the survival of the species. This is why Plato, a perspicacious, but cynical philosopher laid down undemocratic, oppressive and impossible ideals for the guardians of society destined to be philosopher-kings, but despite tyrannical roots, constrained to guard freedom for the rest. It is philosophically reminiscent of Godel's Theorem and other self-referentially false and logically fallacious arguments. Thus the quintessentially essential dilemma of Plato, "Who shall guard the guardians"? The Indian religions have taken their philosophy to a more practical evolutionary valid point of view. They believe that at some point in this life or even consistent with their philosophy of rebirth and metempschycosis, in another life, a thinking and defeated person, however ineducable or recalcitrant he be, cursed with individual or repeated mortality, will reach a point of satiation, where with bitter experience, futility or hopeful enlightenment, he will reach the point of "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam". Unfortunately, this is a futile hope because the mass of unenlightened people in any era far exceeds the minority of enlightened and constitute a recurring majority ad infinitem and ad nauseam, and the wisdom of experience is denied to the majority, who are further constrained by the immediate exigencies of survival, a far more motivating philosophy, and a dominating factor despite the strong religious underpinnings of India, however misguided, wrong or beneficial they may be.

The American experiment, guided by the most enlightened individuals for the era, was still tainted by the bias of the prevalent intellectuals, who necessarily were of the haves. Adams in his correspondence with Jefferson, a hypocrite by all contemporary and then prevalent standards, which flourished in him due to his infinite capacity for duplicity or self-deception substantially of his own grandiose but false making, emphasized that privilege was the curse of humanity and it stemmed from wealth, education and intellect in men and beauty or desirability in women. This is a sorry confession of the inequities for humanity and the subservient but desirable, passion poisoned weakness of men, combined with the ultimate goal of propagation of the individual by which women have been subjugated due to their less aggressive nature, common goal and the biological constraints, not to mention lack of freedom and uncaring aggression. Thus our genetic inheritance affects our nature unless we exercise the reins of control on our senses. Interestingly the Upnishadas and Plato share the kudos of this marvelous imagination and allegorical reference.

Thus democracy has the advantage over tyranny and totalitarian government, that it factors in the will of the people and curtails the rule of anyone. It is still cursed by the irremediable handicap of the basic stupidity, ignorance and indifference of the uneducated masses, who have neither the time, interest, intelligence or ability to decide and discriminate better. Even more so by the unprincipled selfishness of incumbents with their insurmountable privileges and gerrymandering manipulations. Present America is the best example of a self-centered, ignorant, poorly informed, uneducated and uncaring public, fooled by jingoistic lies, to connive at policies detrimental to their own future by a lying, dishonest and corrupt administration. Truly patriotism is the last resort of scoundrels!

Democracy, the best of the worst, as Churchill described it while hypocritically denying the same privilege to the British Empire in general and India in particular, is the best compromise. It still has built-in seeds of destruction due to the ignorance, apathy and idiocy of the masses. The loaded dice, which give the benefit of incumbency to the crooked and privileged, by manipulation of a corrupt, conniving and dishonestly self-serving concentrated media, a handmaiden to incumbent power are beyond the rectification of the masses. The resultant unlimited capacity to raise large sums of money from vested interests, due to the benefits of incumbency and the apathetic ignorant stupidity of the general public, all perpetuate a regime of corrupt, uncaring, self-serving politicians, irresponsible enough to lead the country to ruin, oblivious to decency or responsibility. Another pitfall is that a shrewd or aware electorate may vote themselves unlimited goodies with total irresponsibility creating the "Tragedy of the Commons".

India is the worst of all worlds, because despite its obsessive peeve with religion and decency, it has failed to put any principles in practice and has had a succession of governments bent on enriching privileged individuals at the cost of grave detriment to the nation, as the recent deals with Enron in Dabhol, and the privatization of the Delhi sewage and water supply prove.

There comes a time in every nation, where a hard choice is imperative and essential. America and India have difficulty making the right choice, but America has the capability to fight and wish differently. Unfortunately it suffers from the intoxicating blind Chutzpah, more than any other nation and thus destined to a fall from hubris and pride. A democratic government is irreversibly trapped to the destiny of demise, because a selfish, but informed public makes unacceptable fiscal demands, oblivious of national bankruptcy. An un-harassed by the voters, Democratic government, falls prey to the machinations, manipulation and plunder of corporate resources. The evolutionary dominant philosophy of enriching executives and Wall Street at the cost of the common debt and stockholders or social security recipients is the newest chapter of a Ponzi Scheme destined to succeed to the detriment of the proverbially stupid and uninformed American Public. 


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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