By definition, a democracy can only function if its basis is a demos (δῆμος ), a group of ordinary people who share the same language and general values. There is no modern English word or phrase that describes exactly the same thing.
The closest approximation is probably “ethnic group”, but even that does not quite catch it, since the word “ethnic” derives from nother Greek word, ethnos (έθνος), which means, “people of the same race or nationality who share a distinctive culture”. Demos, in contrast, means “the common people; the populace”. In an ancient Greek context it could be used pejoratively, to depict the populace as base, as a rabble. This sense is still preserved in the word “demotic”.
Up until the early 20th century, the word “nation” was a good approximation for “demos”. In the Bible, a nation was a collection of tribes that shared a common culture. In the 18th and 19th centuries, during the rise of nationalism, in Europe, the word meant the same thing.
But not any longer. Nowadays the concept of a nation is in disrepute, and the preferred political form which has replaced it is despotic rather than democratic: people are to be bound together by allegiance to a common ruler or oligarchy, whose rule they are not permitted to dispute.
In the comments on Fjordman’s most recent post, the Dutch blogger Kleinverzet had some cogent things to say about the demos:
You argue that a functioning democracy consists of a well defined, identifiable demos and a ruling class that is loyal to this demos.
Thus the solution should be centered around restoration of the demos and forging a class of rulers that are loyal to it.
Present developments notwithstanding, I think that a sense of national, or ethnic, identity is still present in much of Europe. Latently in many, existent nonetheless.
The ruling classes of today, the ones that are knee-deep into the European political project, are in trouble. And they know it. Around Europe (and it is quite surprising to see this trend so massively) parties that are not considered ‘mainstream politics’ are gaining popularity. In the usual MSM commentary this is blamed on the increasingly fickle, short attention-spanned voters. But I think it might be an indication that more and more people are recognizing that ‘traditional’ political parties do not represent the people anymore.
Vlaams Belang in Belgium, Wilder’s PVV and the Socialist Party in the Netherlands, the Kascinski twins in Poland, Front National and MPF in France. For better or for worse, people are more and more turning to parties that still project a sense of interest in preserving the nation state.
I say ‘projecting’, because I am not sure whether there is a truly democratic heart to the principles of for instance the FN in France or the SP in the Netherlands.
If the potential is there (as it seems to be), it can be mobilized. First and foremost that would mean telling the population that a measure of nationalism (or patriotism, maybe that’s a less loaded term) is nothing to be ashamed of. Educate the people that to ensure freedom a nation state is indispensable, as is some national identity. What we need (back) is national self-esteem. Knowing what we are worth, not just because of personal merits, but also because of the values and mores we have internalized in being brought up in a country*.
If that notion of national self-esteem is back, the voters will inevitably vote for rulers that represent that new-found self-esteem.
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*Of course, as the apostle said: “Examine all things; hold fast that which is good”
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But is it possible to reclaim the demos? Are we too far gone to recover it?
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The 20th century saw a systematic effort to eradicate the demos and the traditional cultures that supported it. First, under Socialism in all its despotic variants, it was necessary to disempower or exterminate the ruling class and the bourgeoisie, and to destroy capitalism. Then the bastard child of Socialism, which we call Multiculturalism, found it necessary to eliminate all the vestiges of the separate nation-states, and replace them with a hodge-podge of selected cultural elements that had been run through a blender, leaving an amorphous group of people to be ruled, naturally, by the elite theorists of Multiculturalism themselves.
This process can be traced back through Rorty, Marcuse, Gramsci, Lenin, Marx, the French Revolution, and Rousseau, or even further back. The common denominator that all these theories share was the discrediting of the ruling classes of the existing nation-states. If you belonged to the progressive elite, it was self-evidently necessary to overthrow the traditional hierarchy and replace it with a ruling group selected from amongst people like yourself, people who had come to an enlightened understanding of what needed to be inflicted on the masses — for their own good, of course.
For Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini, the necessity was to eradicate bourgeois capitalism through means of varying brutality, and replace it with a structure that was firmly connected to the State.
For the panjandrums of Multiculturalism, the necessity was to eradicate the demos itself. Towards this end they launched a systematic discrediting of their own traditional culture, accompanied by the mass importation of Third World immigrants into the heart of Western societies.
So the task that is before us now, as Kleinverzet said so succinctly, is to forge a class of rulers that are loyal to the demos. But before we undertake it, we face the even more daunting task of reconstructing the demos.
There are countries — for example Finland — where the basis for the demos is more or less intact. And Denmark, except for its recently imported immigrants, has a well-functioning demos that is capable of reasserting itself.
But other European countries are not so fortunate. Sweden, the Netherlands, Britain, and France have been so damaged by the combination of cultural self-destructiveness and mass immigration that it may be too late for the demos to be resuscitated prior to a descent into fratricidal anarchy.
And what about the United States? We, too, have (or had until recently) a common culture, based on a common language, a widely shared religious faith, and shared values. But we are even more loosely connected to it than are our European cousins, since our national founding myth welcomes all newcomers and repudiates traditional aristocratic hierarchies.
At one time each individual state may have approximated a demos. In 1789 Connecticut and South Carolina were quite distinct polities; hence the necessity of a federal structure. But the ensuing centuries have seen the federal behemoth rampage unchecked through the rights and traditions of the individual states. Add to that the customary mobility of the American populace, and the groundwork for the homogenized Multicultural nanny-state has been laid.
What we have wrought over the last hundred years or so will be quite difficult to dislodge.
Consider what we are aiming to restore: large groups of culturally homogeneous people collected into a well-defined geographic area. How is this to be accomplished in such places as Rotterdam, or metropolitan Paris, or Skåne, or Arizona? What will cause each group in these places to separate itself into a demos?
Such population transfers have occurred in the past only by force, through either slaughter or forced migration. We’ve seen where this road leads in Bosnia and Kosovo.
On the other hand, the end result must necessarily come — the Multicultural element is unstable and will eventually decay by one means or another, and then ethnic homogeneity will reassert itself.
One of the main impediments to the restoration of the demos is the disrepute into which its defining characteristics have fallen.
What, after all, is a “demos”?
- It is a collection of people like me, who speak the way I do, who engage in many of the same customary behaviors.
- We tend to find those who are very different from us to be outlandish or alarming, depending on the circumstances.
- We welcome the stranger among us as long as he accommodates himself to our ways, and accepts without the complaint our tendency to regard him with amused contempt until he is fully assimilated.
- We argue viciously among ourselves over relatively trivial matters of doctrine or practice, yet will take up arms and fight in ferocious unity when we are threatened.
- We consider our little corner of the planet to be the most beautiful, commodious, and enlightened of all places, and can back up our assertion with ample historical evidence.
Does the above list help give you an idea of the depth of the problem?
For well over a century the very ideational basis of the demos has been systematically discredited by the educated and erudite among its most privileged elite.
In a millennium or two whatever survives of our culture may look back upon such people and see them as a deranged anomaly. But, for now, because of their iconoclasm we are in the midst of a ruthless cultural war, one whose gnarled branches are only just beginning to bear their bitter fruit.
|It’s a dangerous opportunity.|