DEMOCRACY IS SELF-GOVERNMENT
Harold W. Percival
THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES IS FOR THE PEOPLE
The Constitution of the United States is a unique exhibit of Intelligence concerning human affairs in its provisions for the determination by a free people of the kind of government they choose to have, and of their destiny as individuals and as a nation. The Constitution does not provide that there shall be no party government, or that there shall be party government by one of any number of parties. According to the Constitution the power is not to be with any party or person; the people are to have the power: to choose what they will to do, and what they will to have done in government. It was the hope of Washington and other statesmen that there might be no parties in the election of their representatives to government by the people. But party politics did get into government, and parties have continued in government. And, by habit, it is said that the two party system is the ideal for the people.
Party politics is a business, a profession, or a game, whichever the party politician wishes to make it as his occupation. Party politics in government is the game of party politicians; it is not government by the people. Party politicians in their game for government cannot give the people a square deal. In party government the good of the party comes first, then perhaps the good of the country, and the good of the people last. Party politicians are the “Ins” or the “Outs” of government. The people belong to the “Ins” or the “Outs.” Even when some of the “Ins” in government want to give the people a square deal, others of the “Ins” and nearly all of the “Outs” of government prevent it. The people cannot get men who will protect their interests, because those whom the people elect to office are selected by their parties and are pledged to their party. To care for the people before caring for the party is against the unwritten rules of all parties. It is generally supposed that the American government is a democracy; but it cannot be a true democracy. The people cannot have a true democracy as long as the game of party politics continues. Party politics is not democracy; it is opposed to democracy. Party politics encourages the people to believe that they have a democracy; but instead of having government by the people, the people have government by, and are governed by, a party, or by the boss of the party. Democracy is government by the people; that is, truly speaking, self-government. One part of self-government is that the people themselves should nominate, from the notable men before the public, those whom they consider to be the worthiest in character and the best qualified to fill the offices for which they are nominated. And from the nominees the people would elect in state and national elections the ones they believed to be the best qualified to govern.
Of course, the party politicians would not like that, because they would lose their jobs as party politicians, and because they would lose control of the people and break up their own game, and because they would lose their share of the profits from racketeering in grants and on public contracts and perquisites and court and other appointments, and so on and on without end. Nominations and elections of their representatives in government by the people themselves would bring the people and their government together and unite them in their common purpose and interest, that is, government by the people, and in the interests of all the people as one people—that would be true democratic government. Opposed to this, the party politicians separate the people into as many divisions as there are parties. Each party makes its platform and contrives its policies to attract and capture and hold the people who become its partisans. Parties and partisans have preferences and prejudices, and party and partisans attack each other, and there is an almost continual war between parties and their partisans. Instead of having a united people in government, party politics cause governmental war, which disrupts the people, and business, and results in endless waste in government, and increases expense to the people in all departments of life.
And who are the ones responsible for this dividing of the people into parties and setting them against each other? The people are the ones who are responsible. Why? Because, with few exceptions and without the people’s knowledge of the fact, the politicians and the government are representatives of the people. The very large majority of the people are themselves without self-control and do not wish to govern themselves. They would like others to arrange these things and to run the government for them, without being put to the trouble or expense of doing these things for themselves. They do not take the trouble to look into the characters of the men they elect to office: they listen to their fair words and generous promises; they are easily deceived because their cupidity encourages them to be beguiled, and their preferences and prejudices deceive them and kindle their passions; they have the gambling impulse and hope to get something for nothing and with little or no effort—they want a sure thing for nothing. The party politicians give them that sure thing; it is what they should have known they would get, but did not expect; and they have to pay the cost for what they get, with interest. Do the people learn? No! They start all over again. The people do not seem to learn, but what they do not learn they teach the politicians. So the politicians learn the game: the people are the game.
Party politicians are not all wicked and unscrupulous; they are human and of the people; their human nature urges them to use trickery to win the people as their game in party politics. The people have taught them that if they do not use trickery they will almost surely lose the game. Many of those who have lost in the game know this so they play the game to win the game. It would seem as though the people want to be saved by being deceived. But those who have tried to save the people by deceiving them have only deceived themselves.
Instead of continuing to teach the politicians how to win them by deceiving them, the people should now teach the politicians and those who aspire to government offices that they will no longer suffer themselves to be “the game” and “the spoils.”
The Royal Sport of Self-Control
The one sure way to stop the game of party politics and to learn what true democracy is, is for everyone or anyone to practice self-control and self-government instead of being controlled by politicians and other people. That seems easy, but it is not easy; it is the game of your life: “the fight of your life”—and for your life. And it takes a good sport, a true sport, to play the game and to win the fight. But the one who is sport enough to begin the game and keep at it discovers as he goes along that it is greater and truer and more satisfying than any other sport he has known or dreamed of. In other games of sport, one must train himself to catch, throw, run, jump, force, resist, restrain, parry, thrust, elude, pursue, grapple, endure, battle, and conquer. But self-control is different. In the ordinary sports you contend with outer competitors: in the sport of self-control the competitors are of yourself and are yourself. In other sports you contest the strength and understanding of others; in the sport of self-control the struggle is between the right and the wrong feelings and desires which are of yourself, and with your understanding how to adjust them. In all other sports you get weaker and lose the power of combat with increasing years; in the sport of self-control you gain in understanding and mastery with increase of years. Success in other sports largely depends on the favor or displeasure and on the judgment of others; but you are the judge of your success in self-control, without fear or favor of anyone. Other sports change with time and season; but interest in the sport of self-control is continued success through time and season. And self-control proves to the self-controlled that it is the royal sport on which all other sports depend.
Self-control is a truly royal sport because it requires nobility of character to engage in and continue it. In all other sports you depend on your skill and strength for the conquering of others, and on the applause of the audience or of the world. Others have to lose for you to win. But in the sport of self-control you are your own adversary and your own audience; there is no other to cheer or to condemn. By losing, you win. And that is, yourself which you defeat is gladdened by being conquered because it is conscious of being in agreement with the right. You, as the conscious Doer of your feelings and desires in the body, know that your desires which are wrong are struggling for expression in thought and in act against the right. They cannot be destroyed or done away with, but they can and should be controlled and changed into right and law abiding feelings and desires; and, like children, they are more satisfied when properly controlled and governed than to be allowed to act as they please. You are the only one who can change them; no other one can do that for you. Many battles have to be fought before the wrong are brought under control and are made right. But when that is done you are victor in the fight and have won the game of self-control, in self-government.
You cannot be rewarded with a victor’s wreath, nor by a crown and scepter as symbols of authority and power. Those are outward masks, which have to do with others; they are foreign to the marks of character. The outward marks are sometimes worthy and great, but the marks of character are worthier and greater. The outward symbols are temporary, they will be lost. The marks of self-control on the character of the conscious Doer are not ephemeral, they cannot be lost; they will continue, with self-controlled and self-reliant character from life to life.
Feelings and Desires as the People
Well, what has the sport of self-control to do with party politics and democracy? It will be astonishing to realize how closely self-control and party politics are related to democracy. Everybody knows that the feelings and desires in one human are similar to the feelings and desires in all other human beings; that they differ only in number and degree of intensity and power, and in manner of expression, but not in kind. Yes, everybody who has thought on the subject knows that. But not everybody knows that feeling-and-desire serve as the sounding board for nature, which is the physical body; that, similarly, as feeling and desire are stirred by and respond to the tones from the strings of a violin, so all feelings and desires respond to the four senses of their bodies when they are controlled and attuned by the body-mind to the senses of the body in which they are, and to the objects of nature. The body-mind of the Doer is controlled by nature through the senses of the body in which it is.
The body-mind has led many of the feelings and desires residing in the body to believe that they are the senses and the body: and the feelings and desires are unable to be conscious that they are different from the body and its senses and sensations, so they respond to the pull of nature through its senses. That is why the feelings and desires which are moral are outraged by the feelings and desires which are controlled by the senses and which are led to commit all manner of immoralities.
The senses have no morals. The senses are impressed by force only; every impression by each sense is by force of nature. So the feelings and desires which are in agreement with the senses become estranged from the moral feelings and desires of the Doer to which they belong and make war on them. There is often riot and rebellion of the wrong, against the right desires in the body, concerning what to do and what not to do. That is the condition and state of every conscious Doer in every human body in the United States, and in every country in the world.
The feelings and desires of one human body are representative of every other Doer in every other human body. The difference between bodies is shown by the degree and manner in which one controls and manages his feelings and desires, or allows them to be controlled by the senses and to manage him. The difference in character and position of each one in the United States is the result of what each individual has done with his feelings and desires, or what he has allowed them to do with him.
Government of or by the Individual
Each human being is a government in himself, of whatever kind, by his feelings and desires and his thinking. Observe any human. What he appears to be or is, will tell you what he has done with his feelings and desires or what he has allowed them to do to him and with him. The body of each human is as a country to the feelings and desires, which are as the people who inhabit the country—and there is no limit to the number of feelings and desires that there may be in a human body. The feelings and desires are divided into many parties in the body of one who can think. There are different likes and dislikes, ideals and ambitions, appetites, cravings, hopes, virtues and vices, wishing to be expressed or satisfied. The question is, how will the government of the body comply with or refuse the various demands of these parties of feelings and desires. If the feelings and desires are governed by the senses, the ruling party as ambition or appetite or greed or lust will be allowed to do anything within the law; and the law of the senses is expediency. These senses are not moral.
As party follows party, or greed or ambition or vice or power, so is the government of the individual body. And as the people are ruled by the body-mind and senses, so all forms of government are representatives of the people and of the prevailing feelings and desires of government according to the senses. If the majority of the people of a nation disregard morals, the government of that nation will be ruled by the dictates of the senses, by force, because the senses have no morals, they are impressed by force only, or by that which it seems most expedient to do. The people and their governments change and die, because governments and people are ruled by force of the senses, more or less under the law of expediency.
The feelings and desires play party politics in the government of them, singly or in groups. The feelings and desires bargain for what they want and what they are willing to do to get what they want. Will they do wrong, and to what extent will they do wrong, to get what they want: or, will they refuse to do wrong? The feelings and desires in each one must themselves decide: which will yield to the senses and obey their law of force, outside oneself: and which will choose to act by the moral law and be governed by rightness and reason from within oneself?
Does the individual want to govern his feelings and desires and to bring order out of the disorder within him, or will he not care enough to do that and is he willing to follow where his senses lead? That is the question that each one should ask himself, and must himself answer. What he answers will not only determine his own future but it will be helping in some degree to determine the future for the people of the United States and their government. What the individual decrees for his own future, he is, according to his degree and character and position, decreeing as the future for the people of whom he is an individual, and to that degree he is making himself for the government.
Copyright 1980 by The Word Foundation, Inc.