revised and updated on 9/7/2021 at 9:20 a.m.
Democracy entails the cultivation of a critical citizenry, what the ancient Greeks referred to as paideia—a body politic characterized by citizens who are inquisitive, who reach their own independent judgements on issues and ideas through thoughtful, evaluative reflection and processing of information, who do not conform to the stances or opinions of others, but rather, reach their own conclusions through autonomous analysis of variegated considerations, who think for themselves, trust themselves, and rely on themselves; moreover, the noble tradition of paideia incorporates the vital importance for the citizenry to exhibit upstanding moral character and virtue. This involves that fundamental concept of justice—valuing the dignity of all people, being open to cross-cultural perspectives, behaving with a cosmopolitan mentality, heeding and taking into consideration voices of difference, and most importantly, upholding the two greatest commandments. Democracy furthermore entails the utilization of courageous speech, what the ancient Greeks referred to as parrhesia, which can be characterized by standing up and boldly speaking the truth, even if it goes against the grain, mustering up the confidence to speak truth to power while staring in the face of corrupt, mendacious, and powerful political institutions, utilizing speech to burrow down to the heart of issues in order to expose truth, to disseminate knowledge and wisdom.
With an informed and critical citizenry (paideia) engaged in robust and meaningful democratic exchange (parrhesia), the totality of the polity (demos) can collectively carry out governance (kratos) in the mode of civic genius. Democracy comes from the Greek roots demos, the people, and kratos, govern.
Civic genius is the collaborative, collective democratic undertaking of forging the identity of who we are as a nation, as we the people—establishing with clarity the roots of our ideological creeds, outlining our long and complex shared history, celebrating our melting pot of ethnic and cultural heritages, conscientiously giving testimony to, working through, and mourning our nation’s traumas, determining our nation’s place in the international order, sharing pride in our nation’s virtues and accomplishments while also taking stock of the litany of our nation’s ills and woes... together as a people, engaging in constructive, respectful democratic discourse in which we flesh out and come to a mutual understanding in regards to our nation’s collective consciousness, in which, through inquiry, dialogue, reflection, and debate and compromise where debate and compromise are needed, we shed light on this communal phenomenon of what it means to be a U.S. citizen. The act of civic genius goes even farther than that venture. Through robust, respectful, constructive democratic exchange, we the people, come to identify our predominate values, our top priorities, our most paramount initiatives and endeavors. And we the people determine how we ought to function as a nation, as a cohesive unit, as a living machine of living parts—what kinds of policies we ought to endorse, what type of legislation is appropriate, how we can manage and overcome our nation's problems to ultimately develop into a more safe, prosperous, conscientious, and domestically and internationally responsible nation, how we can blossom in harmony and interconnectedness while learning from and empathizing with our fellow citizens, transforming into more fulfilled, ethical, and well-rounded citizens due to our democratic interactions, and how we can create a more peaceful, peace-oriented, and peace-centered human family, by opening our arms as a peoples to greater global cooperation, collaboration, and community, along with a greater global mentality and ethos, while cultivating more faithful peace of mind. All in all, in partaking in the act of civic genius, we, as a peoples, envision and create what U.S. life and U.S. society ought to entail.
In a nutshell, how democracy theoretically can straightforwardly be understood in the U.S. is a paideia utilizing parrhesia to collectively carry out civic genius.
by Ryan Ventriloquist
Thank you for reading what I have shared with you here in this publication. I am sincerely grateful for your engagement in this democratic exchange of which I am presiding over. I ask you to take some concerted time to mull over this piece of writing and then to say your thoughts by responding to the following prompts (hence, Mullsay the Zine). And with as much earnestness and yearning, I ask you to read through carefully and consider the thoughts, ideas, affect, desires, concerns, and considerations of the various people who also put forth comments. If you have input you wish to offer that is not related to what I guide you through in prompts, I invite you to share it in the comments section that is located below the prompts. Please keep in mind, in democratic dialogue, it is of essential importance to be respectful and kind, thoughtful and peace-oriented.
In an ideal democracy, the citizenry participates in an active and engaged manner with the governing institutions, lending their voices to those institutions, along with all of the thoughtfulness infused with those voices—which is informed through critical self-examination, inward and outward reflection, spiritual insight, dialogue amongst one another and their comrades in all parts of the world, education, creative endeavors, observations, the media apparatus of the public sphere, their travels from here to there, and their overall inquisitive psychological-corporeal-frames (selves). Central to an ideal democracy is talk. The citizens talk amongst one another and with the governing institutions.
What are some modes by which citizens can inform one another in a meaningful way?
What are some ways that citizens can become more informed?
What are some ways in which this dynamic of an informed citizenry impacting the governing body in a thoughtful way can be brought out more richly in the U.S.?
by Ryan Ventriloquist
And I invite you to mull over additional thoughts related to this essay and offer your input in the comments section below.
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