Democracy (1992) – Leonard Cohen

Back when Cohen released Democracy I was just out of high school and learning to fly from the nest. If someone had asked me what Democracy was I may have scolded them for eating into my time trying to serenade women about earth angels and how I didn’t like ‘algebra’. Ironically, I would embark on an Arts degree majoring in Political Systems. I hadn’t even heard of Leonard Cohen until a decade later when I saw his name peppered on a Dylan music discussion board. I turned to my neighbour an Irish brick-labourer-music enthusiast seeking advice about Leonard and he told me in no uncertain terms – ‘not to to touch him with a bargepole, because he was a manic-depressive‘. So, I held off, but I eventually succumbed to his music. I find myself still learning about him.

Democracy is the third song to appear from Cohen’s The Future album here. As stated in the previous entry Closing Time the album was written at the time the Berlin Wall had fallen and Cohen said he wrote 60 verses for Democracy adding:

‘..and everyone was saying democracy is coming to the east. And I was like that gloomy fellow who always turns up at a party to ruin the orgy or somethingIt’s a song of deep intimacy and affirmation of the experiment of democracy in this country. That this is really where the experiment is unfolding. This is really where the races confront one another, where the classes, where the genders, where even the sexual orientations confront one another. This is the real laboratory of democracy‘.

It’s coming (Democracy) to America first
The cradle of the best and of the worst
It’s here they got the range
And the machinery for change
And it’s here they got the spiritual thirst
It’s here the family’s broken
And it’s here the lonely say
That the heart has got to open
In a fundamental way
Democracy is coming to the USA

The ‘real laboratory’ test of Democracy as Cohen put it, is playing out right now. The polarisation effects he alluded to in his comments between races, genders and sexual orientation is turning this watered down term called Democracy into a fallacy in our current epoch. I refer back to the Future of War article I wrote about the US Navy . The presenter of the US Navy authorised video stated the following:

I just had a four star general tell me that the cyber domain and specifically the human elements – that being us affected within that cyber domain is one of the 5 most important components to modern warfare…I believe the biggest threat right now is division. They are going to find the division within our society and they are going to try and amplify it. I would like to submit for your consideration a countermeasure….a way to get through this modern bombardment; this new battle-space that we haven’t considered before. I think if they are going to divide us, I think the way to get around this is proactive intentional unity….if we just extend patience and political grace but also to those we disagree these manoeuvrers in the cyber domain meant to divide us simply will not work. Political grace, the art of disagreeing well. This is the ultimate countermeasure.

Political Grace‘ is sorely lacking in the laboratory experiment conducted by the mainstream media, multinational corporations and social media platforms. The Daniel Schmachtenber quote in his discussion with Brett Weinstein continues to impress me:

‘Porn and online dating is to intimate relationships what Facebook and Twitter is to tribal bonding’

I’ll leave the last words to the Jewish singer-songwriter trained as a poet and ordained as a Buddhist monk and speaks to our time with astonishing prescience. This was a verse from one of the 60 verses that didn’t make the final cut:

First we killed the Lord and then we stole the blues.
This gutter people always in the news,
But who really gets to laugh behind the black man’s back
When he makes his little crack about the Jews?
Who really gets to profit and who really gets to pay?
Who really rides the slavery ship right into Charleston Bay?
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Below I have added the original video of the song and below that an outstanding Live version subtitled in Spanish.

1. Brain Pickings: There Is a Crack in Everything, That’s How the Light Gets In: Leonard Cohen on Democracy and Its Redemptions.

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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