Whole Brain Catalog

The Mental Environment

Where our fate as humans will be decided.

Photo by Christophe Kutner, Party Monster 1, 2009

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Your mind, a clear mountain stream running burbling through the rocks. Until Pepsi stands up, unzips its billion-dollar ad budget, and takes a leak, staining it forever brown. Your brain, a verdant old-growth forest, until it dies the death of a thousand swooshes. Your soul, filled with the crystal fresh air of early morning, until Philip Morris blows in a cloud of its seductive smoke.

No. Mental environmentalism may be the most important notion of this new century, but the only way to start this discussion is by admitting the analogy is not exact. Whatever the mental environment is, it’s not a pristine wilderness untrammeled by people. It’s not the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or the Antarctic biosphere. No, the mental environment has been shaped by culture as long as we’ve been, well, human.

The mind is, among other things, a tool for collecting, storing, weighing images and ideas. Perhaps earlier in our primate evolution our brains worked differently, but for millions of years we have been shaping our own minds and the minds of those around us. Our mental environment is not the Yosemite of John Muir or Ansel Adams. It has always been more like Central Park, a landscaped reflection of human notions. Every generation, every community, has had a mental environment. The culture. The zeitgeist. It is that almost invisible fog of assumptions in which we live our lives, the set of images and ideas we barely notice because they are so common as to be both banal and overwhelming.

What’s more, this is not the first moment that our mental environment has been polluted. We’ve seen all kinds of toxins poured into the infostream. Check out a Leni Riefenstahl movie if you want to see what I mean. Try to imagine life during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. The state, the church have time and again become mentally oppressive until eventually a resistance emerged — a resistance that, from Martin Luther to Vaclav Havel, said at least in part: “We want our minds back.” Not all the way back: We’ve never owned our minds entirely. But more of our minds, in better shape.

Which brings us to the present moment, the moment that we have to deal with, the moment out of which we have to stage our singular resistance. The mental environment is under siege from a particularly difficult variety of pollution. To understand it, consider an analogy from the physical world, where carbon dioxide is threatening to warm the planet disastrously. Taken in small doses, carbon dioxide is not dangerous, just as the occasional commercial or billboard is hardly a problem. In fact, CO2 in small quantities isn’t anywhere near as dangerous as most chemicals, just as Ronald McDonald couldn’t do the same kind of damage as, say, Joseph Goebbels. But every act of a modern life releases carbon into the atmosphere. Spewed from the rear ends of a billion cars and factories and furnaces, this constant pollution now seems likely to raise global temperatures five degrees in this century, altering everything from rainfall to ice-melt to wind speed. Similarly, the modern consumer economy sends up an almost infinite blitz of information and enticement, till the air is so thick with it that every feature of our society is changed. In neither case is it pollution in the usual sense, easily cleaned with a smokestack filter or combated with a more wholesome image. Instead, it’s a volume problem. In the case of the so-called information society, it may be the largest psychological experiment in history.

Here’s another way of saying it: We are the first few generations to receive most of our sense of the world mediated rather than direct, to have it arrive through one screen or another instead of from contact with other human beings or with nature.

If the mental environment we live in has a single distinctive feature, the way that oxygen defines our atmosphere, it is self-absorption. That’s what a mental environment gone awry has produced; that is the toxic outcome of our era’s unique pollution. Some years ago, working on a book, I watched every word and image that came across the largest cable system in the world in a 24-hour period — more than 2,000 hours of ads and infomercials, music videos and sitcoms. If you boiled this stew down to its basic ingredient, this is what you found, repeated ad infinitum: You are the most important thing on Earth, the heaviest object in the universe. From the fawning flattery of the programming to the mind-messing nastiness of the commercials, it continually posited a world of extreme individualism. Even more than, say, violence, that’s the message that flows out the coaxial cable. Characters on television may turn violent to get what they want now, but it’s the what-they-want-now that lies nearer the heart of the problem.

This hyperindividualism is a relatively new phenomenon in our lives. For most of human history, people have put something else near the center — the tribe, the gods, the natural world. But a consumer society can’t tolerate that, because having something else at the center complicates consumption.

This appeal to us as individual fragments grows ever more powerful and precise. Most of the new technologies premise their appeal (especially to advertisers) on their ability to target with frightening accuracy our locations and our psyches.

So far, the assaults on our mental environment have been mainly from the outside, but we are seeing sorties on the inside too. Already we see psychopharmacology rampant, the ranks of people who need such medicine swelled by a creeping malaise: a gradual redefinition of our foibles, of our tiny personal tragedies. There are pills for the camera-shy, for “shopper’s remorse,” for the stresses of personal bankruptcy — it’s getting crowded in the collective bummer tent. Before long, genetic engineers may well be able to literally tweak the brains of our children, offering them “extra intelligence” or perhaps docility, upgraded memory at the price of downgraded meaning. Improved individuals, at the price of whatever individuality should mean in its sweetest sense.

But. The human mind and heart are not dead yet; indeed there are signs that we’ve reached the moment of resistance, that a million Vaclav Havels, albeit often tongue-tied and unsure precisely of their mission, are rising from different corners to challenge this assault. If you ask me what I remember from the WTO battle in Seattle, it is not the sting of rubber bullets or the choke of gas; it is a jaunty balloon rising above the melee with this message painted on its side: “Wake Up Muggles.” If you’ve read Harry Potter, then you know: Muggles are all of us, living in a world of magic but unable to see it, focused as we are on television and mall. But we are waking, in sufficient numbers to ensure there will be the same kind of fight for the mental environment as there has been for the physical one. And, of course, the fights will overlap.

Mental environmentalists may well lose, just like their colleagues working in the physical world. Global warming may be too much to overcome, and so may genetic engineering or push media or the simple warm-bath skill of those designers and marketers who would sap our lives for their own advancement. But the fight itself holds tremendous possibility. The liberation from self-absorption comes most of all in the battle to help others and in the vision of a world that makes sense to our minds, a world where no single idea (“buy”) holds sway.

Forget monoculture, in our fields or in our heads; imagine instead a thousand different communities, adapted to the physical places they inhabit, sharing insight and difference, appreciating small scale and large heart. Where no musician sells 10 million copies, but 10 million musicians sing each night. Where we are freed from consumer identity and idolatry to be much more ourselves. Where we have our heads back.

Bill McKibben is the author of The End of Nature, The Age of Missing Information, and is the pioneer behind the 350.org movement. His latest book is Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

This essay was reprinted from Adbusters #38.

58 comments on the article “The Mental Environment”

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Annas I. Wibowo

The Sharee’ah has been portrayed as a mere set of brutal punishments by the media and the government to present Islam as a backward solution. The motivation behind this in the West is to immunize their own societies from Islam and as well to pressure the Muslim community to reject the return of Shariah via the Caliphate or pressure them to be silent about their demands. Even though the call for the Shariah is focused upon the Muslim world the West fears its return there and that is why it is being demonised today as the results of recent polls in Muslim countries indicating mass support for Shariah and Khilafah are still fresh in their minds. As for the Muslim response, far from being backward, we should use this opportunity to show non Muslims that the Shariah is not just a set of harsh punishments but a complete value based system that can address diverse problems like crime, poverty, education and healthcare and many other societal issues and challenges. This is also an excellent opportunity for the Muslim community to learn about their system and build their confidence in the Islamic political solution and amplify their call for the re-establishment of the Khilafah.

The sublime values of the Shariah - Why is the Shariah being attacked?

Is the Shariah only punishments?

The Shariah is a complete system of life and not only confined to a set of rules or punishments. The Shariah is in actuality composed of the following elements which emanate from the Islamic rational basis i.e. ‘Aqeedah. They are:

i. values
ii. rules and
iii. punishments

All three elements combine to bring peace and stability in society and so cannot be separated or depicted as merely a set of punishments. According to Ash-Shatibi, the great Maliki jurist who specialised in the theory of Shariah law: ‘The meaning of Shariah is the restriction of the legally capable (mukallafin) by prescribing limits in respect to their actions, statements and beliefs.’ (Muwafaqaat, v.1, p.88). According to ‘Allamah at-Tahaawuni, an expert on Islamic terminology: ‘The Shariah are the rules legislated (BY ALLAH SWT) for the servants whether they relate to the mode of actions or beliefs.’ (Kashaaf istilahaat al-funoon, under word ‘shariah’). So one can see the Shariah is not defined only in terms of punishments but as rules relating to actions and beliefs of people. Consequently, these rules are holistic and comprehensive. For ease of comprehension we have divided them into the aforementioned elements. To understand how Shariah effectively addresses society’s problems it is important to appreciate the operation of all three elements in relation to problems in society in a holistic manner. To illustrate this point let us see the holistic approach of Shariah with regards to crime which is a problem spiraling out of control in the West.

The Values

Crime is rampant in western societies due to the values in society and not the superficial reasons that are cited such as homelessness, drug addiction, poverty, unemployment and low school attainment. Rather the real causes are freedom and the values of individualism and materialism that it spawns. Thus, even though the government has passed on average one law every three days since Labour came to power they have failed to be tough on crime or the causes of crime. However, the Shariah contains values which function as preventors of crime and the violation of peoples rights. The following are a few examples:

a) Taqwa (Fear of God): The first deterrent to crime is the individual himself and his conscience. That is why the Muslim, due to his A’qeedah, knows he is accountable to Allah (swt) before he is accountable to society. He knows that no leaf falls from a tree except that his Lord knows which leaf fell from which tree and what time. He (swt) said: ‘And with Him are the keys of the Ghaib (all that is hidden), none knows them but He. And He knows whatever there is in (or on) the earth and in the sea; not a leaf falls, but he knows it. There is not a grain in the darkness of the earth nor anything fresh or dry, but is written in a Clear Record.’ [TMQ 6:59] This belief deters him from engaging in many actions even though he may be able to escape the law which is a calculation that is frequently made in the West by many who would commit crimes; ie do it if you can get away with it. Hence, according to one newspaper report published 2nd September 2007 under the heading ‘The untouchables’ there were 3,000 crimes committed in 2007 by individuals who could not be convicted even though the evidence was there to secure a conviction. The problem was that these 3,000 crimes (of which 66 were sex offences) were committed by children of and under the age of 10! According to another statistic 6 out of 10 teenagers in poor areas in the UK think that crime pays. This is the type of society that the West is creating and the future is looking bleak if these statistics are anything to go by.

b) Morals: In the West it is not the law’s business to pry into the morals of the people, hence we see the immorality that leads to crimes such as rape. Islam states that morals such as trust (amanah) or justness (‘adl) are paramount. The Prophet (saw) said: ‘He has no faith the one who lacks trust.’(Musnad of Ahmed Ibn Hambal). The West pays lip service to these but undermines them by the other values of individualism which teaches selfishness and greed. That is why politicians in the West are the most distrusted of people in society even though their job description requires them to be the most upright and trustworthy.

c) Collective responsibility: In the West a Citizen is not legally obliged to stop crimes that are happening in front of them to the extent that one is not legally obliged to help even a drowning infant and if one does and it goes wrong somehow then that individual can be held to blame by the law. This is in stark contrast to Islam where Muslims are OBLIGED to forbid the munkar (evil) around them. The Allah (swt) informed: “(The believers whose lives Allah (SWT) has purchased are) those who repent to Allah (SWT), who worship Him, who praise Him, who fast (or go out in Allah (SWT)’s Cause), who bow down (in prayer), who prostrate themselves (in prayer), who enjoin (people) for Al-Ma’ruf (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam has ordained) and forbid (people) from Al-Munkar (i.e. disbelief, polytheism of all kinds and all that Islam has forbidden), and who observe the limits set by Allah (SWT). And give glad tidings to the believers.” [TMQ 9:112]

d) It is reported that during the reign of Umar b. al-Khattab (ra) a man came to a house and cried for water. The residents of that house failed to respond to his call and the man died. Umar then ordered the family to pay blood money (diyyah) to the man’s relatives. (Reported by Ahmad b. Hambal)

The Rules

The laws in the West not only fail to deal with crime but contribute to its increase by the fact that they are based on values which are bringing society down in the first place. Laws in the West are legislated to facilitate individual freedom whilst ignoring the interests of society as a whole. Hence, greed, promiscuity, alcohol, and indecent behavior are all protected by the force of law. Is it any wonder that crime is rising in the West. In contrast the Shariah has prescribed rules which not only forbid the values which lead to crime but also forbid the avenues to crime. For example:

a) Sanctity of life and property: In the West a person is taken to the brink then he is told that an act is an offence. For example a person is allowed to take cannabis, get hooked on alcohol and gambling and then suddenly when he feels compelled to steal or kill to feed this addiction he is told such a action is a criminal offence. The Shariah in Islam stops the avenues to crime by forbidding and criminalizing not only the crime but also the causes of crime. He (swt) says: ‘O you who believe! Intoxicants, gambling…are an abomination of Shaitân’s handiwork. So completely avoid them in order that you may be successful.’ [TMQ 5:90]

b) Respect for the honor and dignity of women: In the West women are treated as sexual objects whose femininity is used to sell products and agitate the sexual instinct in an unregulated manner and then people are told rape is a crime. Is it any wonder that one in four women in the West has been raped or a rape has been attempted on her? The Shariah prescribed rules such as dress code for women, rules of non mixing in private space, lowering the gaze etc to protect the honour and dignity of women by prohibiting the means to its violation.

The Punishments

The Shariah, having laid down a set of values and rules has then prescribed a set of harsh punishments to protect these values and rules and deter people from violating them. The philosophy on which the Islamic penal system is based is the need to protect the society as a whole thereby protecting the individual as a result via harsh deterring punishments with a high evidential burden and due process to prevent the miscarriage of justice, unlike the barbaric lenient prison sentences we see in the West where murderers and rapists are let loose in society within a couple of years only to commit even more grave and heinous crimes. So punishments are deliberately harsh to prevent crime and send a message out to society that the values of life, property and chastity are sacrosanct. With regards to the death penalty He (swt) says: ‘And there is (a saving of) life for you in Al-Qisâs (the Law of Equality in punishment), O men of understanding.’ [TMQ 2:179] The Shariah protects life, religion, human dignity, property and the mind and such that it ensures stability and prosperity of society. The Prophet (saw) said: “A hadd acted upon in the earth is better for the place of the earth than it raining over them for forty mornings.” (Reported by Ibn Majah) The reference to the rain for forty mornings refers to abundance and the prospect of a good harvest in respect to which the Prophet (saw) says the Shariah is even better.

Conclusion

Muslim communities in the West need to appreciate the bigger picture of this attack on Shariah, understand why its happening now, learn the arguments to defend it as outlined above and continue supporting and voicing their demand for the re-establishment of the Khilafah in the Muslim lands which will implement the Shariah holistically with its values, rules and punishments.
http://www.hizb.org.uk/hizb/

Annas I. Wibowo

The Sharee’ah has been portrayed as a mere set of brutal punishments by the media and the government to present Islam as a backward solution. The motivation behind this in the West is to immunize their own societies from Islam and as well to pressure the Muslim community to reject the return of Shariah via the Caliphate or pressure them to be silent about their demands. Even though the call for the Shariah is focused upon the Muslim world the West fears its return there and that is why it is being demonised today as the results of recent polls in Muslim countries indicating mass support for Shariah and Khilafah are still fresh in their minds. As for the Muslim response, far from being backward, we should use this opportunity to show non Muslims that the Shariah is not just a set of harsh punishments but a complete value based system that can address diverse problems like crime, poverty, education and healthcare and many other societal issues and challenges. This is also an excellent opportunity for the Muslim community to learn about their system and build their confidence in the Islamic political solution and amplify their call for the re-establishment of the Khilafah.

The sublime values of the Shariah - Why is the Shariah being attacked?

Is the Shariah only punishments?

The Shariah is a complete system of life and not only confined to a set of rules or punishments. The Shariah is in actuality composed of the following elements which emanate from the Islamic rational basis i.e. ‘Aqeedah. They are:

i. values
ii. rules and
iii. punishments

All three elements combine to bring peace and stability in society and so cannot be separated or depicted as merely a set of punishments. According to Ash-Shatibi, the great Maliki jurist who specialised in the theory of Shariah law: ‘The meaning of Shariah is the restriction of the legally capable (mukallafin) by prescribing limits in respect to their actions, statements and beliefs.’ (Muwafaqaat, v.1, p.88). According to ‘Allamah at-Tahaawuni, an expert on Islamic terminology: ‘The Shariah are the rules legislated (BY ALLAH SWT) for the servants whether they relate to the mode of actions or beliefs.’ (Kashaaf istilahaat al-funoon, under word ‘shariah’). So one can see the Shariah is not defined only in terms of punishments but as rules relating to actions and beliefs of people. Consequently, these rules are holistic and comprehensive. For ease of comprehension we have divided them into the aforementioned elements. To understand how Shariah effectively addresses society’s problems it is important to appreciate the operation of all three elements in relation to problems in society in a holistic manner. To illustrate this point let us see the holistic approach of Shariah with regards to crime which is a problem spiraling out of control in the West.

The Values

Crime is rampant in western societies due to the values in society and not the superficial reasons that are cited such as homelessness, drug addiction, poverty, unemployment and low school attainment. Rather the real causes are freedom and the values of individualism and materialism that it spawns. Thus, even though the government has passed on average one law every three days since Labour came to power they have failed to be tough on crime or the causes of crime. However, the Shariah contains values which function as preventors of crime and the violation of peoples rights. The following are a few examples:

a) Taqwa (Fear of God): The first deterrent to crime is the individual himself and his conscience. That is why the Muslim, due to his A’qeedah, knows he is accountable to Allah (swt) before he is accountable to society. He knows that no leaf falls from a tree except that his Lord knows which leaf fell from which tree and what time. He (swt) said: ‘And with Him are the keys of the Ghaib (all that is hidden), none knows them but He. And He knows whatever there is in (or on) the earth and in the sea; not a leaf falls, but he knows it. There is not a grain in the darkness of the earth nor anything fresh or dry, but is written in a Clear Record.’ [TMQ 6:59] This belief deters him from engaging in many actions even though he may be able to escape the law which is a calculation that is frequently made in the West by many who would commit crimes; ie do it if you can get away with it. Hence, according to one newspaper report published 2nd September 2007 under the heading ‘The untouchables’ there were 3,000 crimes committed in 2007 by individuals who could not be convicted even though the evidence was there to secure a conviction. The problem was that these 3,000 crimes (of which 66 were sex offences) were committed by children of and under the age of 10! According to another statistic 6 out of 10 teenagers in poor areas in the UK think that crime pays. This is the type of society that the West is creating and the future is looking bleak if these statistics are anything to go by.

b) Morals: In the West it is not the law’s business to pry into the morals of the people, hence we see the immorality that leads to crimes such as rape. Islam states that morals such as trust (amanah) or justness (‘adl) are paramount. The Prophet (saw) said: ‘He has no faith the one who lacks trust.’(Musnad of Ahmed Ibn Hambal). The West pays lip service to these but undermines them by the other values of individualism which teaches selfishness and greed. That is why politicians in the West are the most distrusted of people in society even though their job description requires them to be the most upright and trustworthy.

c) Collective responsibility: In the West a Citizen is not legally obliged to stop crimes that are happening in front of them to the extent that one is not legally obliged to help even a drowning infant and if one does and it goes wrong somehow then that individual can be held to blame by the law. This is in stark contrast to Islam where Muslims are OBLIGED to forbid the munkar (evil) around them. The Allah (swt) informed: “(The believers whose lives Allah (SWT) has purchased are) those who repent to Allah (SWT), who worship Him, who praise Him, who fast (or go out in Allah (SWT)’s Cause), who bow down (in prayer), who prostrate themselves (in prayer), who enjoin (people) for Al-Ma’ruf (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam has ordained) and forbid (people) from Al-Munkar (i.e. disbelief, polytheism of all kinds and all that Islam has forbidden), and who observe the limits set by Allah (SWT). And give glad tidings to the believers.” [TMQ 9:112]

d) It is reported that during the reign of Umar b. al-Khattab (ra) a man came to a house and cried for water. The residents of that house failed to respond to his call and the man died. Umar then ordered the family to pay blood money (diyyah) to the man’s relatives. (Reported by Ahmad b. Hambal)

The Rules

The laws in the West not only fail to deal with crime but contribute to its increase by the fact that they are based on values which are bringing society down in the first place. Laws in the West are legislated to facilitate individual freedom whilst ignoring the interests of society as a whole. Hence, greed, promiscuity, alcohol, and indecent behavior are all protected by the force of law. Is it any wonder that crime is rising in the West. In contrast the Shariah has prescribed rules which not only forbid the values which lead to crime but also forbid the avenues to crime. For example:

a) Sanctity of life and property: In the West a person is taken to the brink then he is told that an act is an offence. For example a person is allowed to take cannabis, get hooked on alcohol and gambling and then suddenly when he feels compelled to steal or kill to feed this addiction he is told such a action is a criminal offence. The Shariah in Islam stops the avenues to crime by forbidding and criminalizing not only the crime but also the causes of crime. He (swt) says: ‘O you who believe! Intoxicants, gambling…are an abomination of Shaitân’s handiwork. So completely avoid them in order that you may be successful.’ [TMQ 5:90]

b) Respect for the honor and dignity of women: In the West women are treated as sexual objects whose femininity is used to sell products and agitate the sexual instinct in an unregulated manner and then people are told rape is a crime. Is it any wonder that one in four women in the West has been raped or a rape has been attempted on her? The Shariah prescribed rules such as dress code for women, rules of non mixing in private space, lowering the gaze etc to protect the honour and dignity of women by prohibiting the means to its violation.

The Punishments

The Shariah, having laid down a set of values and rules has then prescribed a set of harsh punishments to protect these values and rules and deter people from violating them. The philosophy on which the Islamic penal system is based is the need to protect the society as a whole thereby protecting the individual as a result via harsh deterring punishments with a high evidential burden and due process to prevent the miscarriage of justice, unlike the barbaric lenient prison sentences we see in the West where murderers and rapists are let loose in society within a couple of years only to commit even more grave and heinous crimes. So punishments are deliberately harsh to prevent crime and send a message out to society that the values of life, property and chastity are sacrosanct. With regards to the death penalty He (swt) says: ‘And there is (a saving of) life for you in Al-Qisâs (the Law of Equality in punishment), O men of understanding.’ [TMQ 2:179] The Shariah protects life, religion, human dignity, property and the mind and such that it ensures stability and prosperity of society. The Prophet (saw) said: “A hadd acted upon in the earth is better for the place of the earth than it raining over them for forty mornings.” (Reported by Ibn Majah) The reference to the rain for forty mornings refers to abundance and the prospect of a good harvest in respect to which the Prophet (saw) says the Shariah is even better.

Conclusion

Muslim communities in the West need to appreciate the bigger picture of this attack on Shariah, understand why its happening now, learn the arguments to defend it as outlined above and continue supporting and voicing their demand for the re-establishment of the Khilafah in the Muslim lands which will implement the Shariah holistically with its values, rules and punishments.
http://www.hizb.org.uk/hizb/

Anonymous

The view of humans inhering in the 'regime' you describe is a miserable one. Many of us do not share that view, as is our right. Humans aren't so bad or lame that we need to make ourselves subject to such a system to get along or have good lives or be good people. I do support your right to live as you want, as long as you don't try to impose it on me, but I will also feel sorry for people who fall under the sway of your regime -- I would say to those people: you're not that bad! Believe in people, believe in freedom, and we can work together to create a better world, one without manipulative concentrated power in any form (religious, economic, or otherwise), in other words, a world of True Democracy where people have the freedom and responsibility to create lives and societies in association with people who share their values.

Anonymous

The view of humans inhering in the 'regime' you describe is a miserable one. Many of us do not share that view, as is our right. Humans aren't so bad or lame that we need to make ourselves subject to such a system to get along or have good lives or be good people. I do support your right to live as you want, as long as you don't try to impose it on me, but I will also feel sorry for people who fall under the sway of your regime -- I would say to those people: you're not that bad! Believe in people, believe in freedom, and we can work together to create a better world, one without manipulative concentrated power in any form (religious, economic, or otherwise), in other words, a world of True Democracy where people have the freedom and responsibility to create lives and societies in association with people who share their values.

Annas I. Wibowo

However some argue that the problems that have arisen are due to bad implementation and a political class that has lost its bearings. Yet the problem of secular democracies originates not from bad implementation but shaky theoretical foundations. The view that laws become superior to other laws based on the number of people voting for them is as absurd as it is dangerous. We certainly don’t decide scientific progress based on the number of people who support a position, if we did then Galileo, Copernicus and the hundreds of scientists who spoke truth to power and who struggled against public opinion must have been wrong. We decide trials based on the quality of evidence not on the numerical superiority of witnesses on any particular side. If people, as they did in the 1930’s, vote for a populist leader who would later kill millions of Jews and start a world war, does this validate their choice just because they constituted a majority at a point in time. No it doesn’t.

The very word “democracy” (people power) rooted in Greek was the real give away. This is why throughout the ages from Socrates to Jefferson, from Plato to John Stuart Mill the concept of mob rule and the tyranny of the majority was the fear. This phrase “tyranny of the majority” was originally quoted in Alexis de Tocqueville in his book ‘Democracy in America’ and was then picked up by Mill in his work ‘On Liberty’. The concern was that laws would not be decided on the basis of societal benefit by the majority but would instead be rooted in self interest, emotional passions and parochialism, an attempt to usurp the rights of the minority. As Thomas Jefferson stated “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine”. Plato and Aristotle were especially hostile to the tenets of democracy. Through their influential works, after the rediscovery of classics during renaissance, Sparta's political stability was praised while the Periclean democracy was described as a system of rule, where the less well born, the mob (as a collective tyrant) or the poorer classes, were holding power. Mill's solutions had an even more radical suggestion to majority tyranny and that was to have proportional representation with extra votes for the rich and the well educated to balance out the votes of the less educated majority. Winston Churchill also joked that the main argument against democracy was a ten-minute conversation with the average voter.

Acknowledging the weakness of this fundamental flaw, Western societies have sought to mitigate some of the harsher effects of a ‘mob rule’ by a variety of constitutional and political checks. In the US the presence of a Supreme Court, a supermajority before any constitutional changes can be made and the presence of multiple checks and balances have been applied, but at the expense of core democratic principles as well as causing a plethora of other problems. Gridlock, corruption, the disproportionate control exercised by special interest groups and short term electoral considerations trumping long term challenges are just some indictments of modern day democracies. The recent expenses and lobbying scandals in the UK are symptomatic of a political class who have forgotten what serving the public should be about. Secular democracy, with its basis of popular sovereignty, has yet to be challenged effectively as until now both left and right have not engaged in any debate about the suitability of secular democracy. Most Western leaders believe that democracy is the nirvana of modern political systems that secular democratic values are universal. However as Pat Buchanan correctly observes, "democracy-worship suggests a childlike belief in the wisdom and goodness of the people." A majority of people today would bring back the death penalty (for crimes such as paedophilia and rape), most people believe that the influx of asylum seekers increases crime, a majority of Americans in the south in the nineteenth century supported slavery and a majority of the German people elected Hitler and supported the Nuremburg laws in the 1930s. America’s founding fathers no more trusted the people than they did absolute monarchs. Hence the need for multiple checks and balances - an electoral college, a Supreme Court, an elected Senate to watch over the House of Representatives and the veto power of a President. Democracy, contrary to what most people think, is not even mentioned in the US constitution and that was no oversight.

Thomas Jefferson made it very clear what he thought about leaving it to the people when he said: “Hear no more of trust in men, but rather bind them down from mischief with the chains of the constitution”. How can democracy with its central tenet of popular sovereignty be seriously considered by the Muslim world when the very founding fathers of the US constitution were so dismissive of it?

The Islamic ethos ensures that society is more evenly balanced between material, moral, humanitarian and spiritual values. Politicians have to have a strong foundation rooted in values that are strongly correlated with helping the needs of their citizens. It is, in the end, only an atmosphere of God-consciousness allied with divinely inspired rules that govern the detailed institutions that can ensure a more effective political system.

Annas I. Wibowo

However some argue that the problems that have arisen are due to bad implementation and a political class that has lost its bearings. Yet the problem of secular democracies originates not from bad implementation but shaky theoretical foundations. The view that laws become superior to other laws based on the number of people voting for them is as absurd as it is dangerous. We certainly don’t decide scientific progress based on the number of people who support a position, if we did then Galileo, Copernicus and the hundreds of scientists who spoke truth to power and who struggled against public opinion must have been wrong. We decide trials based on the quality of evidence not on the numerical superiority of witnesses on any particular side. If people, as they did in the 1930’s, vote for a populist leader who would later kill millions of Jews and start a world war, does this validate their choice just because they constituted a majority at a point in time. No it doesn’t.

The very word “democracy” (people power) rooted in Greek was the real give away. This is why throughout the ages from Socrates to Jefferson, from Plato to John Stuart Mill the concept of mob rule and the tyranny of the majority was the fear. This phrase “tyranny of the majority” was originally quoted in Alexis de Tocqueville in his book ‘Democracy in America’ and was then picked up by Mill in his work ‘On Liberty’. The concern was that laws would not be decided on the basis of societal benefit by the majority but would instead be rooted in self interest, emotional passions and parochialism, an attempt to usurp the rights of the minority. As Thomas Jefferson stated “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine”. Plato and Aristotle were especially hostile to the tenets of democracy. Through their influential works, after the rediscovery of classics during renaissance, Sparta's political stability was praised while the Periclean democracy was described as a system of rule, where the less well born, the mob (as a collective tyrant) or the poorer classes, were holding power. Mill's solutions had an even more radical suggestion to majority tyranny and that was to have proportional representation with extra votes for the rich and the well educated to balance out the votes of the less educated majority. Winston Churchill also joked that the main argument against democracy was a ten-minute conversation with the average voter.

Acknowledging the weakness of this fundamental flaw, Western societies have sought to mitigate some of the harsher effects of a ‘mob rule’ by a variety of constitutional and political checks. In the US the presence of a Supreme Court, a supermajority before any constitutional changes can be made and the presence of multiple checks and balances have been applied, but at the expense of core democratic principles as well as causing a plethora of other problems. Gridlock, corruption, the disproportionate control exercised by special interest groups and short term electoral considerations trumping long term challenges are just some indictments of modern day democracies. The recent expenses and lobbying scandals in the UK are symptomatic of a political class who have forgotten what serving the public should be about. Secular democracy, with its basis of popular sovereignty, has yet to be challenged effectively as until now both left and right have not engaged in any debate about the suitability of secular democracy. Most Western leaders believe that democracy is the nirvana of modern political systems that secular democratic values are universal. However as Pat Buchanan correctly observes, "democracy-worship suggests a childlike belief in the wisdom and goodness of the people." A majority of people today would bring back the death penalty (for crimes such as paedophilia and rape), most people believe that the influx of asylum seekers increases crime, a majority of Americans in the south in the nineteenth century supported slavery and a majority of the German people elected Hitler and supported the Nuremburg laws in the 1930s. America’s founding fathers no more trusted the people than they did absolute monarchs. Hence the need for multiple checks and balances - an electoral college, a Supreme Court, an elected Senate to watch over the House of Representatives and the veto power of a President. Democracy, contrary to what most people think, is not even mentioned in the US constitution and that was no oversight.

Thomas Jefferson made it very clear what he thought about leaving it to the people when he said: “Hear no more of trust in men, but rather bind them down from mischief with the chains of the constitution”. How can democracy with its central tenet of popular sovereignty be seriously considered by the Muslim world when the very founding fathers of the US constitution were so dismissive of it?

The Islamic ethos ensures that society is more evenly balanced between material, moral, humanitarian and spiritual values. Politicians have to have a strong foundation rooted in values that are strongly correlated with helping the needs of their citizens. It is, in the end, only an atmosphere of God-consciousness allied with divinely inspired rules that govern the detailed institutions that can ensure a more effective political system.

Annas I. Wibowo

The above statements are from here:
http://www.khilafah.com/index.php/multimedia/books/9326-book-democracy-in-crisis

http://www.khilafah.com/images/images/PDF/Books/Democracy_in_crisis_may2010.pdf

Annas I. Wibowo

The above statements are from here:
http://www.khilafah.com/index.php/multimedia/books/9326-book-democracy-in-crisis

http://www.khilafah.com/images/images/PDF/Books/Democracy_in_crisis_may2010.pdf

Anonymous

I'll take democratic mob rule over fantasy-based authoritarianism every time.
You're not going to convince or convert people who read AdBusters by sticking these long quotes in comments sections. Maybe you should put more consideration into where you use your effort...

Anonymous

I'll take democratic mob rule over fantasy-based authoritarianism every time.
You're not going to convince or convert people who read AdBusters by sticking these long quotes in comments sections. Maybe you should put more consideration into where you use your effort...

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