In light of the growing social and political tensions in Israel, Gadi Taub, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Public Policy and the Department of Communications at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, as well as a political commentator and author, published an op-ed article in the Israeli newspaper Maariv. Prof. Taub argues that the phenomenon of powerful elite groups attempting to impose their governance on the people, often against the people’s democratic choice, is not unique to Israel. Taub writes that judges, public officials, NGOs, central and federal banks, as well as international forums are leading the effort to impose their governance. At the end of the day, Taub concludes, this struggle comes at the expense of democracy, even when it is fought purportedly in the name of democracy and for its sake.
Among the most conspicuous institutions that Prof. Taub describes as denying power from the people is the European Union (EU). At face value, the EU is a democratic entity where every citizen of Europe is represented through the European Parliament. In practice, however, the institutions that make the decisions are the European Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), and the European Central Bank (ECB), whose representatives are not elected by the citizens of Europe themselves but by governments. The European Parliament is not entitled to make rules, but only to confirm or reject the laws presented to it by the European Commission.
If this description gives the impression that the European Union is not really a democracy, that impression is correct. However, it is not only the EU that serves as a facade for democracy. Every institution is like that. Democracy, as such, does not exist, and never really existed. Some form of it existed in ancient Greece, where multiple city-states lived in what became known as “direct democracies.”
Today’s democracies, however, are “representative democracies,” and the representatives serve only those to whom they owe their seats. Their goal is to maintain and, if possible, increase their power. They tout slogans such as “democracy,” “justice,” “freedom,” and “equality,” but their only ambition is to dig their nails deeper into the state’s institutions and federal budgets. They couldn’t care less if, in the process, they will deny everyone else the justice, freedom, equality, and all the other lofty values they proclaim to cherish.
The parties to the power struggle are all aware of their quackery, but the general public is not, and people naively participate in the “democratic” process thinking that their votes matter. Every so often, parties switch chairs between opposition and coalition, but it is all part of the game, and, as we can see, nothing really changes.
Since there is no real democracy, and even when there was one, such as in ancient Greece, it did not benefit the majority of people, but only the elite, I think we should focus not on the type of regime we have, but on the people who constitute it, namely ourselves. In my opinion, what matters is not how the government treats the people, but how we treat each other.
Our current societies are built on the premise that we are aliens toward each other. It assumes that we do not trust each other, that we want to hurt each other if we can, exploit each other, and deceive each other. As a result, we build police forces, courthouses, and restraining regulations meant to prevent us from destroying our society. But because at the end of the day, the police, judges, and regulators are all made of the same self-centered material that all of us are made of, the “democratic” societies with their lofty aspirations are collapsing just as every regime has in the past.
Therefore, to build a sustainable governance that benefits the people, we must first change the people, and only then the government and mode of governance will change for the better. If we establish our relationships on mutual responsibility and concern for one another, we will not exploit, deceive, or steal from one another.
In short, everything depends on education. We need to teach ourselves about our mutual dependence, and that if we hurt others, it hurts us. In fact, we need to learn it in such depth that we will not only know it, but feel it in our bones. If we begin an educational process where we learn about that, our rulers will act according to these values, and we will not need to worry about corruption or exploitation.
Perhaps brotherly love sounds far-fetched and credulous today, but everyone intellectually understands that we are all dependent on each other. Now we need to bring it to our awareness to the point that we will feel compelled to act on it. This will start us off in the right direction.