One can’t divine the conditions in 2009 or in 2022 that it would take to overthrow the imams in Iran anymore than one could have predicted in the 1940s 'the when' of the waning of the Communists. Many knew the why of it. The murderous religion of Marxism made little sense except as a tool of resentment and couldn’t possibly last. The process was near its end even in the early 1960s, with popular books like, Bolshevism: Practice and Theory, The Exploitation Theory, Planned Chaos, The Counter-Revolution of Science, Atlas Shrugged, The Red Prussian, The Gulag Archipelago, Land Without Justice, Darkness at Noon, 1984, The Open Society and Its Enemies and many other works which revealed the egregious faults with Marxism, communism and totalitarian economies. What happened in Russia was an economic and intellectual collapse which with a small political shove, fell over. Everyone in the know knew it, the only question seemed, ‘How much more blood until then?’
If you let the imams and Marxists rule the world, the result would be similar; blood and ossification. If you gave them the political power they crave, they’d soon grow vampire incisors and beautiful smiles for the international press. Whether it was Reverend Pat Robertson, Noam Chomsky, Pope Benedict XVI, Ayatollah ali Khameni, Gladimir Putin, Dalai Lama or a Hindu mystic wannabe, there would be bottled-blood labeled Bordeaux. Without democracy, millions would be victims of democide. Bone-fattened earth and daffodils ploughed under in the spring. That’s the price of human folly.
Iran has one of the most unacceptable human rights records in the world. When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to the United Nations and talked to the American public, he sounded like Leonid Brezhnev in the last lights of the 1970s, that is, boldly lying, denying his oppressive regimes' record, hiding his intentions for nuclear advancement and smiling with a wink and a nod to the quickly diminishing group of avowed Marxists. Human rights for the theocracies are always a sham. If you kill homosexuals, how humane can you be? They’re the most nonviolent outsiders the world has ever seen, more likely to re-design your house than rape your daughters. For leftist ideologues it’s always the gulag or a shot to the back of the head on the stairways. If you hate meritocracy, how can you tolerate a middle-class society?
The up side in the theocracies and the communist dictatorships?
No surer way exists to discredit religion and extreme ideology in the world than to let the priests, imams and intellectuals run the show. They would become Stalinators. Their absolute corruption takes apparently no more than seven or eight years of power to evolve. Some like Vladimir Lenin or Ayatollah Rahollah Khomeini came to their jobs with hearts already completely equipped for mass executions.
Those beautiful buffoons from the extreme Left and the fundamentalist Right are useful in the only way they ever could be: as an example of the evil of politics in a closed society. Give them the jobs they lust after, that they so desire; a life in autocratic politics condemns them as morally inept before they even hold office. Let religious people and foolhardy professors see what their spiritual and ideological leaders are made of: murderous hearts just like all the others. No amount of words, prayers, poems or apologetics can wash away their stupidity.
What do the two groups have in common?
Hatred for democracy binds them together. They fear liberty and independent minds. They distrust the material world. Behind their senseless ideas about spiritual and dialectic worlds is the platonic certainty that the pedestrians are jay-walking, that the masses have no wisdom and that the real world is truly seen only by the virtuous. They’re platonists even if they don’t know it. It is the belief that we see the world as moles would. Platonism is the philosophy of nonmaterial mysticism. Frontal-lobe thinking is the whole extent of its chilling enterprise. Wishful thinking for the philosopher kings.
In Plato’s Republic, the philosopher kings would rule in a closed society; this is not so unlike a theocracy, except instead of religious rulers you would have philosopher rulers, for example, Marxists were sort of philosopher kings. The frontal lobe of the mind is given almost entirely to futurism or projection. It is what it mostly does. It projects another, often better, future for us. It is in effect, the creator of our idealism. While it makes us uniquely human, it also causes us to be romantic about government, state coercion and control of individuals by the nations, collectives, religions etc. Plato is the first thinker to systematically defend a closed society and make the other world (i.e.,Theory of the Forms) hidden from regular human comprehension.
The autocrat's view is that everyone wants to rule the world. However this is simply untrue, except for platonists. These true knowers today are the Right and Left who support closed societies and who at heart are anti-democratic.
The things that cannot be measured can’t be studied scientifically. You can’t measure such things as happiness, goodness or beauty in a scientific manner. Physics and mathematics can’t supply solutions to metaphysical problems. Some things are at the mercy of either philosophy or religion. The big issue for metaphysics is between these two choices, between empiricism and theology, Aristotle or Plato or in the context of this article, between Karl Popper and Henri Bergson’s approaches to government. Plato was the first philosopher to elaborately defend the closed society. Neoplatonism has caused Western Civilization incalculable harm. For 2000 years it has empowered religion, promoted magical thinking and viewed government idealistically.
Human beings are subjective and idealistic. We see what we are preconditioned to see, what we want to see. We supply the Kantian elements, the world as we know it is a self-construction. We must strive long and hard to be objective and realistic. The open society helps this transition from subjective to objective, from idealism to realism. Scepticism, refutation, criticism, reason, allow for slow non-violent changes in the social structure. Any political scientist who doesn’t believe in open societies should move to Iran to see the outcome of a closed society within a span of three decades, that is, if the USSR’s 75 year sample of brutality didn’t do it for them. Remember that at the height of Soviet slavery, 17.6 million citizens --10% of the population -- were estimated to be inside the gulag labor system -- 50 million passed through it altogether, their democide figure is between 75 and 100 million by some calculations.
Karl Popper’s negative definition of the open society, to grossly paraphrase it, is, Firing the bosses without bloodshed. It has the penultimate urgency of empowering the citizens even if they never use it. Henri Bergson’s definition of open society is more ideal and liberal. Democratic, yes, but dangerously positive in its assertions. Fifty thousand years of oppression and the free people of the world should start trusting the state now in this millennium? One wants to make clear, that the positive attraction to the state to arbitrate and even solve all human problems is extremely dangerous. Trusting the state, even in a democracy, is a risky gamble. Thousands of years of human experience teaches us, if we will listen, to limit the scope and size of the state.
Growth of knowledge should be aimed against governments, religions, authorities, power brokers and the enemies of pluralism and openness. Critical thinking needs freedom of thought. Undemocratic regimes stagnate. This is not about liberals, reformists, conservatives or even idealists. Closed societies can’t transform to a better more peaceful place by nonviolently absorbing criticisms from the dynamic social structures around them. The pursuit of truth requires the free press, unhindered elections and independent intellects. In democracies we stumble forward, in autocracies, we devolve.
You have no doubt heard the expression by Winston Churchill, ‘Democracy is the worst system in the world except all the others.’ Well, two cheers for democracy then. Why not three cheers? In democracies we stagger onward in our own inept way. However, in autocracies, there is bloodshed, closeness, and unacceptable levels of corruption, i.e., we devolve into a society of fear, envy and hate. Most importantly, Henri Bergson’s version is idealistic; Karl Popper’s is realistic. We can fire the leader without violence and that’s democracy’s most important attribute.
© 2022 - E. A. St. Amant