Tuesday, October 14, 2008

On Democracy


"Ever since ancient Greek times there have been two views as to the way of producing true beliefs, and two corresponding views as to the best form of government. Although these two connected controversies have existed over two thousand years, they are as vigorous in the present day as at any former period. The two ways of producing what are deemed to be true beliefs may be distinguished as the way of authority, and the way of discussion and investigation. Similarly the two forms of government are that of authority and that of discussion followed by a majority decision. Where the way of authority is adopted as the method of producing true beliefs, certain opinions are inculcated as having been proclaimed by the wise and good: those who controvert those opinions are held to be foolish or wicked or both, and are subjected to penalties which have varied in kind and in severity according to the age and the country. Sometime the supporters of orthodoxy rely wholly on tradition, but in most cases there is a sacred book with which it is impious to disagree. In Christian countries men were burnt for questioning the official interpretation of the Bible; in Mohammedan countries it was very rash to thrown doubt on any part of the Koran; in modern Russia, you risk liquidation if you disagree with Marx or Engels as expounded by the Kremlin. In all such cases the government upholds a collection of dogmas, and spreads belief in them, not by argument or appeal to evidence, but by shielding the young from contact with adverse opinions, by censoring literature, and by punishing, usually by death, such heretics as nevertheless have the temerity to proclaim their subversive views. As a rule, under such a system, the government, having the habit of authority, becomes gradually more and more tyrannical until, in the end, it is brought to destruction in a fierce revolution."

Bertrand Russel, 'A Scientist's Plea For Democracy' (1947)

6 comments:

Miranda Tan said...

This gave me shivers down my spine.

Joe Rakyat said...

REJECT RACIAL POLITICS - REJECT ISA - REJECT MAHATHIRISM

Fear rears its ugly head again
United we stand, divided we fall
Cruel tyrants seek to inflict pain
Knights we must be, all for one and one for all.

Yonder tyrants rise once more
Only we can stem this evil tide
United we must stand to guard the door.

Murderous forces swiftly gather
Angry, lustful devils seeking revenge
How true that vultures of the same feather
Always sit and feed around a stench
Take courage my friend, we will overcome this sorrow
Hold strong with Truth as our defender
In times of tyrants, we must fight for tomorrow
Roar like lions, smash the devils — TO ARMS! NO SURRENDER.

RitchieLow said...

Here in bolehland, we throw dissenting voices into jail under ISA (ikut suka saya) and dereliction of duty in parliament (satu hantu oun tak ada). See http://blog.limkitsiang.com/2008/10/14/parliament-13-october-2008-revise-2009-budget/

Anonymous said...

I hope a 'fierce revolution' is not the only way out for countries like Myanmar now.
And I hope we are not going in the same direction, what with the noose tightening insidiously around what left of our liberties.
CPK

xenobiologista said...

I don't know if he's implying that the Greeks were rational and democratic and the Jews (and by extension, Christians and Muslims) were theocratic and tyrannical. But if you read Plato's Republic, he had some pretty scary ideas about how society should be run too. Divided into "gold", "silver" and I can't remember if the lowest tier was copper or bronze, with the gold people in charge of everything and the bronze people essentially coolies with no say.

ChengHo said...

the basic principal of democracy Majority Rule..