The Glorious Revolution in 1688-1689 marked the beginning of modern English parliamentary democracy. It was called glorious because it achieved its goals without bloodshed in England. This struggle between the king and parliament ended in victory for the people. The new parliament separated the dominant institution of the day, the church, further from the process of government to reduce the church interference in government. A democracy relies on power-sharing arrangements, courts, legislatures and a free and independent media to check executive power. Since these institutions obstruct the free reign of populists, they are often subjected to blistering attack. This is especially the case with the right-wing variety of populism that is spreading across the U.S. and Western and Eastern Europe. Populism calls for kicking out the political establishment, but it doesn’t specify what should replace it. Some describe the Enlightenment as beginning with England’s Glorious Revolution.
The Enlightenment writers were concerned about the inequality of the existing system and introduced questioning and critical thinking to replace the dead weight of tradition, and challenge the blind faith in institutions. The philosophers wanted to understand the rationale behind inequality, were particularly interested if there were natural reasons for it, or if inequality came wholly from social conventions. The process of corporate expansion across borders creates rapid change in many communities with subsequent negative consequences for workers. The fact that there is little international regulation has dire consequences for the safety of the people and the environment. Multinational corporations are responsible for the removal of traditional government accountability to a fixed population for much of politics. This creates a lack of ability of those affected by decisions to protect their legitimate rights and interests. The new corporate values of globalization normalize through a doublespeak, selling commercialization and free market choices as democracy.
During the first 20 years of this century, the political, economic and financial elites who brought you the euro crisis, the war in Iraq, the Great Recession of 2008, growing inequality and middle-class income stagnation have made some very serious mistakes, of very enduring consequences, with very startling impunity. Trump perfected the ‘know nothing’ façade of the Republican party to directly appeal to white working-class communities that have a ‘long tradition of hostility towards knowledge.’ Have no doubt neoliberalism serves the interest of financial capital and globalized elites in the redistribution of wealth upwards. The popular lexicon has adopted the term of ‘fake news’ and attributed it to Trump, yet it should be attributed to neoliberalism. Trump supporters now live in a media bubble, getting their news from sources that play to their identity-politics desires, which means that even if you offer them a better deal, they won’t hear about it, or believe it if told.
In the 1980s, school systems lowered educational standards to protect children from failure. The world would be saved from crime, drug abuse and under-achieving through bolstering self-esteem. This self-esteem movement has had a significant impact – in order to ensure positive self-esteem education standards were significantly lowered, creating a milieu for extreme individualism. When there is too much self-esteem there are problems of self-tolerance, entitlement and narcissism. This person demands automatic and full compliance with his/her expectations. The cult of self-esteem that was created in schools provides a pool of individuals in the 21st century who view the world from an emotional rather than a rational perspective, supporting extreme individualism and allowing personal feelings to overcome the distinction between right and wrong. This person is addicted to the attention of others for admiration, applause and admiration. Behind this façade they only care about appearances.
Psychopathy is a personality disorder that cuts off those who are affected by it from the emotional reality of others. The core of this pathology is the inability to put oneself into someone’s shoes. Empathy is the seat of conscience, and without it comes an incapacity for love. These candidates are just symptoms of a system run by corporations, which is now revealing the full fledge of pathology incorporated in the United States. When a society lacks understanding of the depth of its darkness, this unaccounted power sees no bounds for its pursuit of a single vision. Those who are devoid of empathy hide their lack of internal structure in a façade of normalcy. By emulating good human attributes, these unknown members of society prey on the rest. They have found the best way to mask their vice by infiltrating governments and directly altering the definition of the norm.
Despite its alleged commitment to market competition, the neoliberal economic agenda instead brought the decline of competition and the rise of close to monopoly power in vast swaths of the economy: pharmaceuticals, telecom, airlines, agriculture, banking, industrials, retail, utilities, and even beer. The U.S. government is highly responsive to the policy preferences of the wealthiest people, corporations, and trade associations – and that it is largely unresponsive to the views of ordinary people. But neoliberalism rejects both the medieval approach of having fixed social classes based on wealth and power and the modern approach of having a single, shared civic identity based on participation in a democratic community. Neoliberalism is the dominant ideology that supports the economic elite. As an answer to the problems of deregulation, privatization, liberalization, and austerity, it offers more of the same or, at best, incremental and technocratic “nudges.”
“Happiness is the feeling that power increases – that resistance is being overcome”, says Nietzsche, and moral concepts are merely façades of the power elite, while happiness is a kind of control one has over their surroundings. In a democracy every citizen has certain basic rights that the state cannot take away from them. People should question the decisions of the government, but not reject government authority. The measure of a successful society is the happiness of its people. Once the voters understand the extent of economic inequality in today’s system, they will possess the knowledge to recognize the need for change. However, democracy remains the best human weapon so far invented for guarding against the ‘illusion of certainty’ and breaking up truth-camouflaged monopolies of power, and create a successful society. It is necessary to return to laws based on equality of persons rather than laws of the market.
Mishra observes, “The new horizons of individual desire and fear opened up by the neoliberal economy do not favor democracy or human rights.” Laissez-faire capitalism Ayn Rand argues, is the only system that protects individual rights. Freedom has nothing to do with democracy or speech or individual rights. Today, for neoliberals in general, and Republicans in particular it is about the freedom of the markets and the elites who control those markets. Republican social policies tend to oppose extensive government regulations, government-funded social programs, affirmative action, and policies aimed at strengthening the power of workers. As the pandemic has demonstrated, however, it is not the existential dangers, but rather everyday economic activities that reveal the collective, connected character of modern life beneath the individualist façade of rights and contracts. Carl Jung says, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.”
In America the crumbling façade of democracy has laid bare the weakness of the Republican Party with its full-throated support of small government and minimal regulations of neoliberalism. To distract voters, they embrace the uncertain populist policies of division and misinformation. Fox News tells viewers they are the only reliable source of political information – re-enforcing the alt-right propaganda in social media. At CPAC they do not debate policy, rather embrace a symbol – Donald Trump as the force to move forward with. Trump in true populist form, sans policies, attacks the “Washington elites” as the problem. On the other hand, the Democratic party is still able to maintain the façade of democracy and hide their neoliberal tendencies from the majority of their supporters. However, there are cracks in this façade as progressives press the so-called Democratic establishment to separate the neoliberal institution from the process of government.
The Enlightenment brought political modernization to the West, in terms of introducing democratic values and institutions and the creation of modern, liberal democracies. In America the Republican Party is no longer a viable choice for democracy. It remains in the hands of the 1% and their proxies and refuses to budge from neoliberal policies. It must be allowed to fail. During the Reagan era the wealthy were mostly funding Republicans. The Democrats needed to move to the right to secure funding from the wealthy, to start winning again. However, in order to restore democracy in America it will be necessary to throw off neoliberal policies of wage suppression, deregulation, and tax cuts; and once again put political power in the hands of the American working class. It is necessary to wipe out the last vestiges of Trumpism, as well as neoliberalism in the Democratic Party to restore democracy in America. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It’s seeing through the façade of pretense.