The democratic way of life



The fragile democratic way of living within patriarchal predominance

“The man/animal disjunction is so deep in our culture that we forget that we are at the same time and indissolubly animal and human” (Edgar Morin).

Humberto Maturana maintains that “only the emergence of democracy was in fact a threat to patriarchy”. Democracy represents, according to him, a nostalgia for the matristic way of life that erupted within patriarchal life. In his words, democracy is “a rupture in our patriarchal European culture. It emerges from our matristic nostalgia for the life in mutual respect and dignity that is denied by a life centered on appropriation, authority and control”. Therefore, its impossibility of realization throughout history.

In other words, the imperial sociability that is supported by the patriarchal culture limits and prevents the realization of the democratic sociability that is a manifestation of the matristic culture, still present in the human way of life. Thus, the emergence of democracy, even though it was always denied by patriarchy, represents a rescue of matristic culture, an attempt to make the way of life of the ancient pre-patriarchal European culture prevalent again.

The first experiences of democracy in the Greek agoras (public spaces where issues of interest to society were debated and resolved) that emerged within the patriarchal dynamics represented, according to Humberto Maturana, “a wedge that opened a crack in our patriarchal culture”. Democracy emerges, in this way, in opposition to the patriarchal culture, which starts to accept it, but within its logic of appropriation and domination, that is, limiting and denying it.

This same dynamic also occurs in science and philosophy, as Maturana observes: “both democracy and science are matristic ruptures in the network of patriarchal conversations, both face continuous patriarchal opposition. This totally destroys them, or distorts them, submerging them in a kind of hierarchical philosophical formalism”.

There are many examples throughout history showing how fragile the democratic way of life is within patriarchal predominance. The first experience of democracy that is known, the Athenian one, was ended by Emperor Alexander the Great of Macedonia (338 BC). Already in the Roman Republic, democracy was interrupted by Augustus (27 BC), the powerful patriarch who became famous by the name of Emperor Caesar Divi Filius (Emperor Caesar, Son of the Divine).

Now in contemporary times, both democracy and the nation-state – the latter arising from the “State of Reason” of the Eurocentric Enlightenment – ​​are threatened by sophisticated imperial forms of the new world high tech emanating from Silicon Valley. This is how democracy has been suppressed at various times in history. A phenomenon that manifests itself today in a very worrying way, because, with the State weakened by the interest of megacorporations, a growing wave of militarization and violence tends to convulse more and more societies and countries.

The growing decline of democratic regimes around the world is perhaps an indication that representative democracy has reached its exhaustion stage. In this perspective, what we are probably experiencing in the current moment of change of historical epoch is the gradual destruction of that democracy inaugurated in the Roman Republic, a democracy imposed “from above”, of low intensity, as the sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos says. Thus, we observe, on the one hand, the uprooting of a democratic way of life from the base that supported it, the patriarchal culture, and, on the other, the difficult, gradual and imperceptible attempt to root a democracy based on the common, the everyday life, conviviality, the network society, which characterizes the current times.

As the writer and psychotherapist Humberto Mariotti, one of the authors who have dedicated himself to this approach here in Brazil, says, “the indispensable energy for the development of democracy cannot come 'from above'. It needs to be born horizontally, on the plane where people meet, talk and understand each other in a natural way”.

The former professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Peter Senge, who also intuited this need for a democracy of everyday life in a very simple way, was one of the few thinkers in the field of administration who dedicated himself to the study of social systems and saw the need for our hierarchical patriarchal organizations to reinvent themselves as “Learning Organization”, becoming an expression of communities that learn to deal with their reality as they create visions of the future in a shared way, through permanent dialogue between its members. For Senge, “democracy is an ongoing collective process in which we learn to live with one another – far more than a set of nurturing values ​​or simple mechanisms such as elections and voting. It is something you do and not something you inherit. And until this learning process penetrates the main institutions of society, it is premature to call our society democratic”.

Patriarchy represents, therefore, the expression of a worldview that is based on a system of beliefs and values ​​that favors the notion of hierarchy, appropriation, competition, domination and control. Among its various negative implications on our way of life, perhaps the most damaging is the way it forges the idea we have of ourselves, leading people to the terrible conditioning that they are immature and, therefore, incapable of self-management. With this alienation from themselves, they are “naturally” prone to look for authorities “more capable” of leading their lives and, thus, elect the myths and saviors of the homeland. As Spinoza says, “the people only freely transfer to the king the power that they do not completely dominate”.

The fact is that patriarchal culture only tolerates coexisting with democracy to the point where it starts to threaten it. That is, the democracy we experience in practice is, above all, a democratic way of life according to the hegemonic worldview, therefore, a way of social coexistence appropriated and manipulated by the patriarchal culture that sustains the techno-economist worldview, which today it is represented by neoliberalism, in symbiosis with the tyranny of technology.

This appropriation of democracy takes place through what Humberto Maturana calls “recurrent conversations that deny democracy”. The book The passions of the Ego: complexity, politics and solidarity (Palas Athena), by Mariotti, whose reading I recommend for anyone who wants to delve deeper into the implications of patriarchal culture in the most diverse areas of individual and social life, reinforces these denying discourses of democracy identified by Maturana.

Next, I present, with a brief description, a list of such conversations, some of them added by Mariotti, which encompasses the various forms of appropriation of the democratic process with the aim of delimiting the space of politics to the liking of the patriarchy and thus maintaining a system of domination and control under the mantle of a society that claims to be democratic.

- Democracy seen as a means to conquer power, in which political power constitutes an end in itself and not a means of providing improvements to the community and, thus, democracy only represents a way of legitimizing authority and, in many cases, authoritarianism;

- Democracy seen as a means of restricting freedom of information and opinion, in which ways are sought to make it difficult for ordinary people to have access to information and knowledge, preventing them from thinking for themselves and, consequently, from better managing their lives and also the lives of their communities;

- Democracy seen as justifying social exclusion, in which it is tried to justify that the excluded themselves are to blame for their situation of exclusion due to their inability to enter the market, seen as “democratically” accessible to all;

- Democracy seen as a means of opposing the rights of the individual to those of society, in which democracy consists of a mere instrument for regulating conflicts of interest, feeding a dynamic of oppositions, and not as a way of living together supported by self-respect and dignity, which comes about through mutual trust and respect;

- Democracy seen as justifying draconian law and order, in which these fulfill the role not of instruments for preventing social disagreements, but of repressing claims against the instituted oppressive culture, thus ensuring the liberal ideology based on material progress, accumulation and predatory competition;

– Democracy seen as justifying control and conflict, in which dialogue, consensus and understanding are replaced by power, control and confrontation, as standard tools of democracy for resolving differences;

– Democracy seen as justifying hierarchy, authority and obedience, where such attributes are considered virtues of the democratic process, as only they have the ability to guarantee order in social relations;

– Democratic disagreement seen as an invariable form of struggle for power, which leads people to think linearly in terms of ally/adversary, situation/opposition, feeding the idea that democracy is reduced to a struggle for power and not as being a cooperative way of coexistence with those who think differently;

– Democracy seen as justifying “competitiveness” and the idea of ​​progress, in which material progress, control of nature and the accumulation and retention of goods are reinforced as essential values ​​for human life, with democracy being the space of competition for whether to achieve such purposes;

– Democracy seen as justifying immediacy, which is reflected in the need to impose points of view before they are submitted, evaluated and changed by the community, that is, democracy is based on distrust and appropriation of the truth;

– Democracy seen as justifying repetition, in which democracy is prevented from perfecting itself, although there is a rhetoric that says the opposite and, therefore, it is seen as a finished product destined for a homogenized public, such as an industrial assembly line ;

– Democracy seen as the lesser of evils, supported by the idea attributed to the conservative politician and British statesman Winston Churchill that democracy is the least imperfect of political systems, which weakens it and makes it manipulable, often for authoritarian purposes;

– Democracy seen as a “competitive advantage”, very common in electoral campaigns, the arena in which one seeks to justify by means of statistics which candidate is the “most democratic”, a practice that reduces democracy to numbers.

This is the list of behaviors that represent the patriarchal way of capturing democracy, adopted throughout its history, and that sustain the structures of power and domination, the main one being the State itself. Therefore, the association of the State with the Leviathan (1651) by Thomas Hobbes, the absolute sovereign guarantor of contract and social order at any cost. This patriarchal State seems to have clashed with the current historical context and with a good part of the new generations of the current internet era, whose experience of the world had little contact with deprivation, limits and oppression in their childhood and youth, which is why they are little identified. with the patriarchal nature of the state. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why manipulations that deny democracy are no longer being tolerated today, which is reflected in the current disenchantment and discredit with politics, democracy and State institutions.

Here is the contradiction that democracy has always faced throughout history and that was very well expressed by Maturana: “as a form of matristic coexistence in the midst of a patriarchal culture that opposes it and constitutively denies it, democracy cannot be stabilized nor defended: it can only be lived. The defense of democracy – indeed, the defense of any political system – necessarily leads to tyranny”.

For this reason, we remain under the chains of the negating forces of democracy, this time by the tyranny of capital in interaction with the algorithms, which are degrading politics and collapsing our institutions, in a State that has already been transmuted into the form of a Corporation State. And what is more serious is that this global phenomenon tends, more and more, to lead us towards a civilization of surveillance that will probably only be satisfied when it can completely dispense with the presence of the nation-state as we know it today.

*Antonio Sales Rios Neto, a federal civil servant, is a writer and political and cultural activist.


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