Archive for November, 2011

November 10, 2011

How To: Democracy

by nkwilczy

A Professor today, towards the end of a class which had predominantly featured the Frontline Special “The Long Walk of Nelson Mandella” asked us how democracy could be “taught” to people inexperienced in its practice.

The words, though I know he did not mean them in such an abrasive way, struck me as thick in Western thoughts of cultural superiority; I had this vision of unwashed masses beseeching the wisdom of a “more experienced” people. I saw Kipling, and he asked me to share his burden.

But I know my Rousseau, so I tried to explain that a government of any sort, and especially a democracy, if it is to succeed it has to be tailored to the needs and customs of the people who practice it. Greek democracy did not look like German democracy, does not look like American democracy, and none of these look like Japanese, Brazilian, or Swedish democracy.

So I tried to go into details, about how you have to know the nuances of a culture, that the concepts must be translated into their intellectual pantheon building on what these hypothetical unwashed masses already know and believe. Most of all, that if what you seek to impose on these masses is an idea formulated by foreign academics without popular support, then what does democracy even really mean? It must build on the democratic tendencies of the culture and seek to combat the harmful civic tendencies, or else it fails to incorporate the ideas of the governed and fails primae facie to be a democracy.

Like many things I say, no one seemed to understand.

So, after a few moments of awkward silence he ended the class with the question, “Well, who would want the job of teaching these emerging countries about democracy.”

No one raised their hand and I was not surprised, it is hard enough to teach people in the United States about democracy.

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November 1, 2011

Honor Among

by nkwilczy

It was death, or the brig, or the stocks,
And I’m known for my skill picking locks,
So I said with a grin
As the stocks shut me in
“It’s just like a ship taking dock.”

In that spirit I sought to embark
Before night sent a trial or a lark
But there were rakes, there were whores,
And the crew went ashore,
And left me locked up in the park

I’ll vouch for my skill shooting spit
And my pick in my mouth it did sit
But when I tried for my hand
On the ground it did land
And my spirit enraged it was lit

So I shouted and started to holler,
And after about like an hour
A stranger arrives,
He was young, by his eyes,
Bade me quit if it was in my power.

So I asked him to hand me my pick,
But he thought it was some sort of trick,
“When I let you go
Then how should I know,
You won’t try to rob me as quick?”

“Crime perhaps is what got me here,
But I promise you no need for fear,
If you hand me my tool,
I swear we’ll be cool.
And I’ll make it right out of town clear.”

He took up the pick off the ground,
“I think that I’ll keep what I’ve found,”
I could use a martini,
But I am no Houdini
So I resumed with my thrashing around.

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