Confucian Democracy?

Herein, I will attempt to reason that on the face of it, Korean Confucianism is deleterious to the function of democracy. I will base this notion on what I have experienced interpersonally, in candid conversations and observations-living fifteen years among Koreans, providing witness to the daily lives of the Korean people and their general — and all encompassing — daily philosophy. This kind of observation matters-in my view-because a democracy depends on–and takes on the character of–her people.

Democracy is about honesty. It therefore requires a foundation-philosophy inherently supportive of–and in maintenance of–a culture of honesty.

The cause of democracy and its utilization –good or not– was and is ostensibly taken up to maintain a form of government in deterrence against despotism and its inherent corruptions, which hinge on–among other things–dishonesty.  

As we well know, as practiced in capitalist republican nation-states, democracy will incorporate dishonesty as long as vested interests are involved in her electoral processes and so long as she allows for secret executive privilege, but these examples of dishonesty in democracy are not critical to its function. They are examples of poor, or unsound democracy-as seen in the United States.

In the absence of democracy, there is one or another form of tyranny-supported-privilege, either from a foreign aggressor, an internal ruling class, and/or via self-imposed long-standing tradition-the benefits of which are cyclically enjoyed by different groups cycling through power. Korea has had them all, with the last one in effect now, which functions in a communal cohesion-abetted age and status-oriented hierarchy. None of these requires a culture of honesty, and the age-class system virtually depends on its opposite to maintain social harmony and respect. So lies and inequality are an integral component of Korean society-and thus directly or indirectly part of her democracy-because disenfranchisement is central to a non-egalitarian social system such as Confucianism, just as it is in normal imperial despotism (whence Korean Confucianism came);

As Rousseau reasoned well, it takes force to rule a people in order to create discipline, and next, duty-where privilege is taken over those people without a natural right to do so. But in Korean Confucianism, that right is a given that everyone either agrees to, or pretends to. If one is going to use such force-or assumed age and class-based power to rule the people or portions of them, he will have to lie to them in the extreme and/or apply inculcated syllogisms in legend and/or moorings about whatever securities and comforts he is to provide for them in the usurpation of their lives and labors-or the elimination of their choices and opportunities at certain junctures-to secure ‘comforts’ for them, “respect” (read [at least in many places] undue privilege) and (real) comforts for himself and his class–as his relationship with the disenfranchised necessarily must be an unequal relationship-or else there would be no benefit in ruling/disenfranchising them. 

The lies, and moorings will invariably involve the generation of myths, the maintained cohesion of the society by xenophobic exclusionism, and family dominance over marriage rights to accomplish it. One may also encounter false news in the historical arena and the twisting of facts, to lift the general moral of the people in general so as to bind them together in a team spirit that causes them to feel victorious in the company of countrymen, whilst isolated and put upon when alone. Loneliness, or loneness-in thought or company will therefore also be seen as “sad” and something to be discouraged.

To Be Continued…

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