Two Types of Democracy
In this essay I want to describe two types of democracy: the democracy of the U.S. government, and the democracy of traditional Native American cultures.
The democracy of the U.S. government is supposed to be by the people, of the people, and for the people. However, since the U.S. is so big and complex, the U.S. government is composed of elected representatives, who make laws that they think the people who elected them want. However, this type of government has a weakness. This weakness is the fact that the government is based on competition and division. The nominees for office are chosen from the people and they have to fight for their office in contested elections. These elections create divisions between the people, divisions that can be deep and long lasting. And the winners of elections often do not care about the ideas and needs of those who have lost the elections.
In contrast, some Native American cultures developed democracies based on mutual respect and the attempt at reconciliation. These small societies were governed by a group of elders who made decisions for the well-being of their society. A typical democracy of this type would be composed of a group of elders who had authority and experience. If there was a problem within the society, the elders would get together and discuss the issue. Each elder would have a chance to speak and express his views. Then a decision would be made by the chief or the elders together as to what course of action would be taken. If there were disagreements among the people, the people would look for a resolution that did not divide the people into opposing parties.
Now, the Native American societies were not perfect. There were still conflicts within the groups and between different types of Native American societies. In fact, wartime bravery was usually an important virtue among Native American men. I don’t espouse the return to the past. My point is that the U.S. government can learn a lot from the Native American societies that lasted thousands of years. I want to emphasize, as well, that the divisions that have been created in the U.S. government and among the people might cause the country to eventually collapse due to a lack of trust between people. If people are not encouraged to look for a win-win solution, then people will tend to mistrust, hate, and even attack each other.
The seeds of destruction are deep within the systems of the world. The world’s systems are based upon separation, competition, and greed. Most people want to get and keep what they believe is theirs. Few people share, either because they don’t see the value in sharing, or because the system has made it too difficult to share.
From my perspective, I see two paths that can be taken by each individual. One path is the path of greed, selfishness, and physical self-preservation at all costs. The other path is one of trust, compassion, and the giving of self. The first path leads to division and destruction, while the second path leads to healing and oneness. The path we take depends on whether we believe that a good solution is possible for all beings, or we believe that one person must lose in order for another person to win. Personally, I believe that all can “win” if we expect this and look for a good solution in which everyone benefits.