Day: August 16, 2008

Democracy and the Contagion theory

I am not your friendly thinker, I am a rebel whose only cause is rebellion. In this post, I hope to devastate the rationale behind democracy but, at the same time, offer no solution as to what should be a better style of government. I’ll be using mainly the contagion theory with some spices of my own to show why democracy, which is said to be the government of the majority, leaves the majority unsatisfied.

What is the contagion theory? The contagion theory is a theory of crowd behaviour which says that a crowd causes people to act in a certain way.

This contains a short introduction of what the contagion and other crowd theories are all about. Why do I support the contagion theory? Its because this is the only theory that does not overlook the individual while looking at a crowd. Other theories, especially the convergence theory, tend to believe that crowds are formed by same kind of individuals which results in a loss of their constituents. Also, I can’t see how crowds are formed by the same kind of individuals. It’s a common case but not a generally true one. Crowds can assemble due to a common motive but after the assembling is over, the crowds’ hypnotic effect takes over and some irrational decisions are taken, in many cases.

I like the emergent-norm theory for its a compromise, but what it really is, is the contagion theory. The only role of the convergence theory is limited to the assembling of the crowd.

Now we come to the topic of the post. Democracy: what is it? “Democracy is a system of government by which political sovereignty is retained by the people and exercised directly by citizens” –says aunt Wiki. In the times of today, democracy is carried out by the representatives of the people divided on the basis of population, landmass etc. These representatives are chosen by way of electronic media, print media, rallies, and/or direct contact with the people of the ‘constituency’. The most common of all of it is direct contact or first-person rallies.

Direct contact has the additional advantage of biasing the people using crowd neurosis. The speaker, who is usually (or becomes one due to his position of power) an influential person can direct the crowd to see his paradigm (rather the one he wants them to see). Also, intentionally, in the crowd are some of his own workers and they help to bias local areas of the crowd in favor of the speaker. How this is possible, the Contagion theory tells us. So, what happens is that a general bias starts to assume in the crowd and rationale is usually forgotten. Literate persons and free-thinkers fall don’t fall into this trap easily, but, for them, is the electronic and print media. The rallies and direct contacts are usually for those easily influenced and they easily fall into this trap. What happens after such a meeting is that rationales are forgotten and mob mentality prevails.

How the candidates are elected is an even more local phenomenon and it occurs after the rallies are over and people wait for the voting day. The contestant who has created a stronger network of after-rally shaping, wins more bias towards himself. This occurs through interaction within the public, interaction with the network and other media that is still available to them and all these constitute the after-rally shaping. This, according to me, is the most important stage and most votes are won in this time. A crowd shapes its constituents and what the after-rally shaping is the crowd taking a decision, not the individuals. So, clearly, the vote of the individuals is lost and a crowd vote happens. Some common examples of this effect are how a family usually supports the same party, even its children, though they don’t know what its all about, and how people of a particular community support the same group: like the Bengal section supporting the Left, for no apparent rational reason, and how the same party, despite its earlier failures, wins over and over again in the same constituency. These observations are quite general and there are many examples of people diverging in behavior from the above mentioned ones.

(Everyone needs a crowd. It’s the Dionysian state of meaningful existence, even though it’s not in too much of a fashion right now, but even the Apollonian principle’s following proves that collapse of boundaries is what happens and what gives true joy and justifies existence. These are my derivations from the Nietzschean theories from ‘The Birth of Tragedy’ and maybe ignored totally.)

Till now we know that votes are generally irrational and motivated by the crowd. So what happens after an election? A general dissatisfaction. Because people have voted for what they really never stood for. An average voter regains his individuality very slowly (maybe, because of denial) and when he does it he finds that what is happening now is wrong and he’s not satisfied with all that’s happened after the vote. He’s still in a state of denial and may refuse to accept that he was biased while voting. This can happen to the most rational thinkers, even.

Who wins the election? The majority. And who is most generally dissatisfied? The majority and the minority, both. Democracy has and almost always goes wrong. The present government of USA is an example. It’s not uncommon for pacifists to choose a fascist government just because at the time of election, the crowd was biased and an irrational decision was taken. It may be noted that bribery, force and other means are also counted as means of generating bias. So, both partial and ideal democracy fail, and they fail a bit too often (this failure may also be a general prevalent mob mentality and not an absolute one).

This is almost all I want to say. I may not have been too clear, but I shouldn’t say so, it may destroy whatever little bias I could generate in the reader. Bias, of course everywhere, means making one see someone else’s point of view.