Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Random Wilde

Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man's original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress is made.


Morgan Daly said...

I think this statement may be true but I am more concerned with how it can be useful.

To what should we be disobedient?

To where does our obedience lie now?

I have been thinking about this myself, as you may have guessed, and I have this suggestion.

In Australia we have an oppositional governmental system. A party in power and a party in opposition to that power. SO in my thinking opposing the government is in actual fact being obedient to the system that governs it. So to be Disobedient would be to 'not oppose the government'. But instead, just get proactive, take respons-ability and just start building a better world.

Or something like that. It is an idea I am working on, so I am not yet god at explaining it. I just felt inspire to bring it up considering the quote and the fact that I made it to your site via I also particularly like the idea of your blog and have subscribed to your feed. Now I am off to read that paper that suggested.

Dale Carrico said...

Welcome, Morgan! This particular aphorism is drawn from Oscar Wilde's quirky often brilliant longer essay, "The Soul of Man Under Socialism," which provides quite a lot of context for the quotation.

I've been a fan of Oscar Wilde's work since I was a kid, and newcomers to the blog should know that The Random Wilde is a "regular feature" here, a place where I regularly offer up various Wildean jokes, paradoxes, eruptions of wit, usually without comment...

I don't necessarily agree with all of the Random Wildeanisms I post here, I don't necessarily even have a firm grasp on the full meaning of all of them. I just publish them here because I appreciate their humor, provocation, and, often, unexpectedly, their wisdom.

I love Wilde's anti-authoritarianism, but I would not affirm those moments when his anti-authoritarianism takes the form of a blanket repudiation of the very idea of government.

I consider legitimate accountable multilateral democratic governance indispensable to serious anti-authoritarianism, and so that when one discerns authoritarian concentrations of power in government this should mobilize projects to reform government, not abolish it. I don't know if that makes me a "friend" of "the system" or an "enemy" of it!

I think that part of the genius of the democratic idea as it is regularly implemented is that [1] elections create an institutional alternative to violent contests for power among elites, just as [2] the separation of powers and the multilateralism of civic society redirect inevitable conflict among public organizations into projects to improve the responsiveness and check the abuses of these organizations, just as [3] the tight coupling of taxation to representation helps assure that relatively more powerful people are still responsive to relatively less powerful people, etc. Like you suggest, though, these implementations often invite abuses, domesticate real opposition, frustrate reform in a mulch of endless complexities, etc.

Despite the fact that I am a champion of democracy I always hesitate to express that support in the form of a self-congratulatory affirmation of democracy as it has been accomplished so far, but rather affirm it as a struggle that will continue from now on. Gandhi once famously responded to a question about what he thought of western civilization by saying he thought it was a good idea. That's roughly the way I feel about democracy.

Morgan Daly said...

Thank you Dale for your response. I basically agree with you, espessially your last statement on Democracy.

For me I do not actually see DisObedience as an 'Anti' thing. By nature maybe it is but by use it should not be. I feel it can be used to get perspective on where you want to go, what you want to achieve. Disobedience will only be effective when you are for something, rather than against.

I would say that Wilde saw Disobedience as a tool. It may not be the only tool useful in making progress towards something, but history has shown us that it can sometime be a very useful tool. Does it not also have a role in Democracy?