More often than not, my best thoughts are not my own. This one came to me while reading Mark Martinez‘s book on free market capitalism called “The Myth of the Free Market”. He titled one of the sections “Democracy is for those that are not sure they are right.” This resonated with my thoughts on the importance of pluralism. I had been thinking this though, just never quite so succinctly.
As a pluralist, I am deeply suspicious of fundamentalists of any stripe.
I am thoroughly convinced that there are very few things in human experience that encompass only one correct truth. That is not to say that every idea and opinion is of equal validity, far from it. Rather, this means that, especially when you are passionately convinced of the validity of something you’re doing or believe in, it is important to entertain the possibility that you may be wrong. It is a certain skepticism that really gives out beliefs and values their worth. If you hold something to be true, test it, question it. If your belief is correct, it will hold up to scrutiny. If it proves to be false, you can disabuse yourself of the illusion, we all entertain illusions from time to time, and change your perspective.
Not questioning and not allowing questioning by others is the mark of an intellectual coward and someone who, deep down, is aware of the shakiness of their beliefs. Democracy, in my mind, is not meant to achieve a singular way of organizing ourselves as groups. 9 times out of 10, those offering “the way” will lead you to fascism, communist tyranny or some other fundamentalist, totalitarian dictatorship. Rather, it is a system that should force us to recognize our differences, accept that they will continue to exist and reach some kind of compromise that will leave the vast majority only somewhat disappointed.
Only through the recognition and acceptance of our diversity can we truly accept our responsibility towards one another. A society belongs to all of its members, not just to those in power. A healthy economy is the result of the efforts of all its participants and not just those making the most. A democracy does not just belong to those that are in the right but also those that are in the wrong.