Autocracy or Democracy~Time to Choose Part 4 of 4

The following four posts are the scripts of four podcasts focused on defining an Autocracy versus a Democracy with the intent of providing knowledge to citizens for their consideration before voting because these ideologies will be choices in each local and national election.

In short, an Autocracy refers to a form of government in which a single individual holds absolute power and authority, making all major decisions without significant input from citizens. The autocrat (authoritarian) ruler has unchecked control over the legislative, executive and judicial branches, leading to limited political freedoms and a lack of checks and balances.

A Democracy is a system of government in which power is vested in the people through elected representatives. It ensures citizens’ participation in decision-making, and provides mechanisms for accountability (rule of law) and the peaceful transfer of power. Democratic societies uphold principles of equality, justice and the protection of minority rights. 

While the definitions seem simple, an Autocracy and Democracy are at opposite ends as to vision, mission and guiding principles. Each has the power to impact social-cultural-political outcomes, consequences and most crucial – the quality of life for generations.

Part 1 Provides the history and 20 major traits of an autocrat and autocracy and its ominous threat to American Democracy.
Part 2 Provides references focusing on the evolution of autocrats, regional autocracies, loss of identity as a grievance and how to mentor and defend Democracy.

Part 3: Deals with validating the truth versus conspiracy theories, hate metaphors, misinformation, radical acceptance of truth and the multigenerational trauma an autocracy leaves behind.

Part 4: Deals with the role of education in a democracy, marginally educated citizens, opportunities of worth, “Me Monster” narcissism, geopolitical implications and keeping democracy alive. 

Dr. Prosperi’s research and writings span some 50 years as an educator, workshop facilitator, consultant and researcher focusing on social-cultural-political constructs, agencies and multigenerational trauma with a focus on providing knowledge, historical context and, as he constantly emphasizes . . . trying to provide relevant language.  

GLORIA:  Welcome Jorge

JORGE: It’s been a pleasure to present this series and hopefully we have provided some insights – not only on the ideology of an autocracy but also our responsibilities as citizens living in a democracy.

GLORIA:  Before we begin, I’d like to ask you about an emphasis that you place on language. You stress the relevance and power of language as a major goal of all your work. Why is that?

JORGE:  Why the emphasis on language?  Let me begin by stating that I am a humble student of the power and influence that language has on all human life. 
Language is one of the marvelous human facilities made available by our incredibly complex brain that all too often is taken for granted. 
Imagine, each child throughout millenniums born with the inherent ability to learn any language from the first day of birth. 
I find this human capacity mind blowing – beyond amazing! And it begins as infants.
Also, all languages are pathways to knowing and understanding the culture of past and present societies. 
Let me quote Toni Morrison – a master in the use, meaning and purpose of language and regrettably, an author that has been banned in some school districts. The following Morrison quote is on the title page of our website

“There is no time for despair,
no place for self-pity,
no need for silence, no room for fear.
We speak, we write, we do language.
That is how civilizations heal.” – Toni Morrison

I would add – language defines who we are.  Think of President Obama and Donald Trump and how each of them uses language. 
After listening to each of these men what are we left with?   What knowledge, choices and challenges do they provide us as citizens through their language?  
Who among the two asks us to selflessly value, include and respect each other as citizens and human beings?
Who asks us to selfishly dismiss, divide and hate each other? 
How will the history of the language they use define each of these men?
I recently heard it mentioned that we should not only speak with eloquence but that we should also listen with eloquence. I’m still pondering the depths of that quote. 
Sorry for the length of the answer – but you asked a highly complex and relevant question directly connected to our topic today.  That is, coming to terms with the language of an autocracy versus the language of a democracy. 

GLORIA: So I think it’s safe to say that while words have power, language also has consequences.  And in previous podcasts you mince no words in stating that Republican Trumpism has all of the trappings of an autocracy and a direct threat to democracy.

JORGE:  We are far, far beyond mincing words Gloria – far beyond trying to find polite synonyms for what is a blatant autocratic ideology known as Republican Trumpism which is the opposite of American democracy.  

GLORIA:  I’ve recently heard the question that is echoed by many republicans – that is – Does the republican party exist in 2024 and if it does, what does it stand for?

JORGE:  The Republican Party in 2024 is no longer the party of the past – it is unrecognizable and perhaps now undefinable.  It seems as if Republican Trumpism is not a political party but has become a mania, a fixation – a cult – in other words – it has the trappings of an autocracy.

GLORIA:  So how do citizens deal with the duality of a party that only exists by name only?

JORGE:  We need to stop pretending – stop making excuses for the flagrant attacks on democracy and focus on the language and actions because one reflects the other.  
An autocracy is a constant attack on the truth – built on extremism and a pathological obsession to achieve absolute power at all cost and maintain that power at all cost.  
As citizens of a democracy, we need to call out the language and also scrutinize actions and behavior of politicians who speak and act as autocrats.
We as citizens are the ones who examine and approve the messages and actions before voting by way of two major fundamental principles – credibility and trust. 

GLORIA:  You also emphasize that a key component of knowing the differences between an autocracy and democracy is education. Please expand on this. 

JORGE:   Education should be the primary key component in defining, mentoring and protecting our democracy. 
An educated citizenry seeks validated knowledge of the past and present that can deter ignorance, misinformation, lies, prejudices and predispositions.  

GLORIA: Then how do we as a country make democracy a central focus of our educational process?

JORGE:  Learning about citizenship and democracy should be the central theme as a graduation requirement and the learning should not stop after graduating from high school.  Our citizenship, as adults only becomes more relevant and real given the power of our vote.

GLORIA:  Even though you are an educator, you blame the educational system in some of your writings as having failed citizens. Why this accusation?

JORGE:  It’s a painful accusation and reality.  As far as teaching citizenship within a democracy – our educational system has failed us.  
I don’t want to sound smug or condescending, but at best, we leave high school and college as “marginally educated citizens.” and therefore easy prey for autocrats to promote an autocracy. 
Let me be clear – I’m not saying marginally educated regarding our professions, our occupations – but marginally educated as citizens about our citizenship and democracy. 

GLORIA:  You haven’t been shy about casting fault on Americas educational system lacking accountability – and I may add – not just public schools. Let me quote you- “We let the founding fathers down regarding their expectations and our responsibilities in valuing, mentoring and protecting our citizenship and in turn our democracy.” Why do you take such an adamant stand?

JORGE:  As you stated, I blame all schools – not just public, included are private, independent, boarding, faith based, single gender and home schooling.
Colleges have also failed us – be they private, public colleges – the Ivy leagues included – along with colleges of education that are preparing future educators.  
We go through 12 years of school without emphasizing and focusing on citizenship and its connection to our democracy. 
By senior year – American history becomes blurred chapters lacking context – with students facing a different curriculum from district to district, from school to school, from classroom to classroom.  A jumbled mishmash of what it means to be an educated American citizen. 

GLORIA:  So what is a solution to what you call being “marginally educated citizens” on citizenship?”

JORGE:  My belief is that we need to build a national educational process, from pre-k through college that maps citizenship and democracy as a major vision and mission throughout the curriculum – which includes all subjects – even visual and performing arts as well as athletics. 
That should be our highest unified goal as a democratic society in the 21st century.  How do we keep an autocracy and autocrats at bay if we don’t have relevant knowledge, the history, the context and the tools? 

GLORIA: It seems that what you are asking for is that all citizens living in a democracy – at a minimum – become astutely aware that living in a democracy comes with responsibility and accountability. 

JORGE:  Yes, awareness is a powerful first step – but then awareness must turn into a credible belief and that belief into action. 
We need to take ownership of the meaning of what it means to live in a democracy. 
Does American democracy only mean getting a job, hoarding stuff, cluttering our lives with stuff and more stuff – consuming natural resources with the consequence of our planet becoming a waste disposal – a national garage sale?  
Or should we as citizens be focused on the quality of our lives – its value and opportunities of worth? and . . . not just for some, but for all?

GLORIA:  I noticed that you mentioned the concept of “opportunities of worth” rather than only opportunities. Can you expand on the value you place on the concept of “worth”.

JORGE: From my perspective, an opportunity is not an opportunity unless it has elements of worth. 
Let me provide some examples – the opportunity for all American children to attend school is a most worthy public opportunity. 
But that opportunity needs to have merit and be equitable for all students. 
We know that the opportunity of education has greater worth for some and not others as it relates to funding, facilities, class size, counseling, technology and curriculum.   
We could also debate the opportunities of worth regarding women’s rights and equity 
or opportunities of worth regarding employment 
or the worth of America’s health care for its citizens 
or the worth of the right to vote – the worth protected and made available without obstructions and barriers. 
Likewise, our citizenship and our democracy provides opportunities of worth to enhance the quality of our personal lives.

GLORIA:  You write that the vote is really the power of choice and that voting  literally bestows power to legislators that can enhance or suppress the worth of the quality of our lives of citizens. 

JORGE:  Yes, we hand over power and control with our vote.  
Elected legislators are bestowed with the power to either become catalyst enhancing the quality of life for citizens or obstruct and deny opportunities of worth.
This is why I believe that a democracy challenges each of us, before we vote, to look beyond ourselves. 
Our vote echoes far beyond our personal circumstances and zip codes. 
A primary value and worth of living in a democracy is recognizing that our citizenship is intertwined with our humanity that binds all of us.

GLORIA:  The language used to describe autocrats is self-centered, narcissistic, pathological liars, hateful, bitter, selfish, mean-spirited, dysfunctional and psychologically damaged human beings. Are such descriptions of autocrats  exaggerations?

JORGE:  No, not at all. The first three podcasts on this topic provide the historical validation for such definitions.
It’s history that defines, identifies and provides such descriptors.  
Autocrats are currently out in the open, telling us who they are in the present tense unashamedly and openly publicizing their lies and showing us their fraudulent schemes, articulating anti-democratic extremist language and actions. 
To answer your question directly, autocrats historically have demonstrated a pathological narcissistic personality – what I call the self-serving “Me Monster”.  

GLORIA:  You use the term the “Me Monster” to emphasize the narcissism that you say is a central trait of an autocrat and a major component of an autocratic ideology.  Can you expand on this?  

JORGE:  Yes, narcissism is a component of an autocracy and autocrats.
My understanding by way of the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of Social Workers and the American Psychoanalytic Association is that a diagnosis of narcissism requires five or more symptoms and traits. 

GLORIA: I think it’s important to mention that you emphasize to citizens to do their own research in order to identify traits and symptoms of current politicians in office, running for office or a political party that fits such a pathology.   

JORGE:  That’s correct. Citizens should identify politicians in office or running for office who demonstrate narcissistic personality traits and characteristics. Allow me to share some narcissistic traits: number 1

  1. The person has a grandiose sense of self-importance that requires constant, excessive admiration, a constant stream of attention, approval and recognition. # 2
  2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, delusions of grandeur, being recognized as superior and takes credit for the success of others. # 3
  3. Shows arrogance, comes across as conceited with pompous behavior or attitude. Aways wanting to be the center of attention. # 4
  4. Is envious, jealous and spiteful of others who have earned legitimate public respect, admiration and affection. Shows no semblance of humility. # 5
  5. A narcissist expects special favors of others to do their bidding without questioning.  # 6
  6. Takes advantage of others to get what they want. Will exploit others to achieve their own ends.  # 7
  7. Has a sense of deserved entitlement and privilege to treat others unfairly. # 8
  8. Believes that laws, rules and norms don’t apply to them.  # 9

GLORIA: Before moving on to number 9 – I think that number 8 is significant given the current political reality. What do you say to die-hard believers that the politicians they favor, even though found guilty of fraud, liable and misdemeanors think of themselves to be above the law?  

JORGE:  Again, this gets into the analysis of absolute thinking and the willingness to believe and support an individual through blind faith regardless of validated proof to the contrary. I would caution citizens and remind them that loyalty should be earned not force fed or demanded. 

GORIA:  Please continue. 

JORGE: # 9

  1. A narcissist has difficulty managing their emotions and behavior when confronted with validated facts that expose guilt or wrong doing. # 10
  2. Lacks empathy, has an inability or unwillingness to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.  # 11

GLORIA: Personally, I feel that the capacity to feel and demonstrate empathy should be a major trait in a leader given the number of issues and events that deal with tragedies leaving citizens feeling hopeless and desperate. 

JORGE:  I could not agree more. Empathy is the trait that I believe most parents try to model and teach and I believe is core to our humanity and living in a democracy . . . to continue with # 11

  1. Has difficulty handling criticism – does not apologize or take responsibility for their actions. # 12
  2. Reacts with contempt by belittling other people to make themselves appear superior. # 13
  3. Demonstrates a manipulative behavior to be in control, to impress and/or exploit self-serving outcomes. # 14
  4. Withdraws from or avoids situations in which they might fail. # 15
  5. Hides feelings of insecurity, shame, humiliation and fear of being exposed as a failure and a fraud. 

GLORIA:  So what you are asking listeners to do is to identify current politicians in office or politicians running for office that reflect such narcissistic tendencies and to do this before voting.
But let me push back – the average citizen is not a psychiatrist or psychologist. And we don’t have psychological assessments regarding the mental health of candidates or members of a political party. 

JORGE:  You are right, BUT. . .  we do have verifiable documented history, and we hear the language and witness behaviors of candidates and their political party on a daily basis.
We have a tsunami of videos, tweets, facebook accounts, documents, court filings, evidence and facts. 
And each citizen can do their own fact finding. 
We live in the 21st century. Autocrats can’t hide.
These connivers and charlatans are on the record – some under oath and some fearing and refusing to testify in public and under oath.  Why?
Why not comply with subpoenas and testify in public under oath?  
Why take the fifth amendment rather than answer questions in public – under oath?
You see, it’s easy to spew lies on X, Truth Social or a friendly cable network – but it all becomes tangibly real upon testifying in a court of law – in front of a judge, in front of a jury under oath. 
But as citizens of a democracy, as voters, we are the jury, listening and weighing the evidence on a daily basis and with our vote, we – as citizens – determine the verdict. 

GLORIA: So then, do you believe the personality of an autocrat always coincide with the ideology of an autocracy? 

JORGE:  I think yes as both the person and their ideology are intertwined . . . . Lest we forget that an autocracy is a pathology of causes and effects using the psychology of emotions to drive absolute radical extreme thinking and behavior such as deceit, hatefulness, bitterness, revenge and violence. 

GLORIA:  How do  we as citizens determine who is an autocrat?

JORGE:  As citizens we use the power of observation – we become astute qualitative researchers.  We fact check and pursue the truth.
We decode language and witness behavior – intentions – we identify the enablers and supporters and what they represent.
We pay attention to the autocratic language of resentment and bitterness that is ever present with an emphasis on pessimism and cynicism.
We become aware of autocrats that promote the politics of grievances meant to exhaust and fatigue citizens without providing realistic solutions. 

GLORIA:  You often mention to listen critically to the language politicians use.
For example, is the language condescending, pandering, based on generalities? What should citizens be doing to assure credibility and trust?

JORGE:  We should ask critical probing questions. For example:
Is there any semblance of tangible hope in autocratic language and actions?  
Is there any language and action in an autocracy focused on enhancing the quality of life for each citizen – regardless of party affiliation? 
Is the message inclusive or exclusive? 
Does it unify or divide?
Who is invited to the table of discourse and who is left out by design?
Who are the obstructionists and dividers? 
In contrast, who is asking for unity, pro-active collaboration, compromise and consensus?
We use our common sense, our emotional intelligence, our conscience – our sense of morality and focus on the ethics of intentions, decisions and actions of right and wrong.  

GLORIA:  While your articles and podcasts warn Americans of the dangers that an autocracy poses to the United Sates, can you speak to how an autocratic America will impact other democratic countries?  

JORGE:  Yes, our vote also determines our national security.  The geopolitical complexities of our world is not a video game or a reality TV show. 
Global tensions and conflicts are real and a matter of life and death on a daily basis. 
Leadership matters and needs to be mature, experienced, knowledgeable, astute in geopolitical foreign affairs, levelheaded and collaborative with allies.  
American citizens need to educate themselves regarding the complexities of our world.

GLORIA:  I think that what we are witnessing with the war in Ukraine and in Israel are prime examples.

JORGE:  Yes, we have witnessed Russia mercilessly invade Ukraine and autocratic countries coming to the aid of Russia against Ukraine. 
The turmoil between Israel and Hamas in Gaza involves not only Israel and Palestine but Iran, Qatar, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, as well as European democracies and autocracies such as Russia, China and North Korea.
Keep in mind that autocrats tend to support other autocrats forming alliances. 
Autocrats model and admire other autocrats and favor their goals and most of all, worship their absolute power.

GLORIA:  It seems that what you are asking American citizens to do is to keep one eye on the USA and another on the global political matrix which can be a challenge. 

JORGE:  Yes, geopolitical matrix has always been a daunting task for Americans – that is – to remain focused on America’s influence in the world – and in turn – how the actions of other countries impact the US and its allies.
There are major world organizations that autocrats (foreign and domestic) – try to dismantle that are crucial to maintaining peace and protect human rights.  

GLORIA:  You’re referring to NATO and the UN? 

JORGE:  Yes, the United Nations was founded in 1945 and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization known as NAT0 founded in 1949 both after WWII. The US led the way in creating both organizations. 
American citizens should know these organization not only by name but their history and current functions in keeping autocratic nations in check so that countries can remain sovereign, prevent conflict, negotiate peace treaties and prosecute crimes against humanity.  
Autocrats favor isolation and separation but neither is an option – never was.

GLORIA:  You paint a reality that is not only complex but also highly dangerous but not recognized as such by many Americans. Can you speak to the dangers that exist? 

JORGE:  The reality and truth is that we live in a highly complicated entangled world.  
I think of our geopolitical world as a global web with strands of democracies, autocracies, constitutional monarchies, dictatorships and republics – all connected. 
When one of the strands of the web begins to quiver – all other strands feel the reverberations.  
Like it or not – we are all connected and will continue to be.
Aside from this, keep in mind that there are currently 9 countries with nuclear weapons. 
The United States and Russia possess roughly 90% of these weapons, followed by France, China, England, Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea. 

GLORIA:  I tend to dread the global cataclysmic consequences of irresponsible and incompetent leaders who may use nuclear weapons to remain in power. 
The movie Oppenheimer provided a harsh glimpse of the moral and ethical questions and backstories that nuclear weapons impose on all of us as to the destruction of millions of lives while at the same time jeopardizing the natural environment and impacting the lives of future generations with long-term catastrophic results and consequences.  

JORGE:  And that devastation has now been multiplied.  The warheads on just one, just ONE nuclear-armed submarine has seven times the destructive power of all the bombs dropped during World War II, including the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan. 
This should be a sobering thought to keep in mind when we vote. Who do we want to be in control of such power and choices? 

GLORIA:  Do you think that these facts have been seriously considered by citizens when they vote?

JORGE:  As a benevolent skeptic, I believe that most American citizens want a leader who is sane, responsible, competent and will make rational decisions. We must vote for courageous leaders who will provide honesty and transparency, even when delivering news that is politically unpopular and uncomfortable. I believe citizens want to know the truth. 

GLORIA:  You state that an autocracy is the antithesis of a democracy and that the two should be constantly compared and contrasted by citizens.  After dealing with the pandemic, loss of jobs, deaths and challenges it caused, along with the daily grind and busy lives of citizens, I’ll ask again – aren’t you asking for the impossible? Are you being realistic asking citizens to make time to do their homework regarding their citizenship?

JORGE:  Yes – that is my expectation – absolutely! This is what we must demand of each other. 
I do not apologize for asking fellow citizens to address our civic responsibilities – regardless of our social-cultural-economic status, despite our job title, ethnicity, religion, race, religion and zip code. 
We, as adult citizens must mentor and protect our citizenship and the power of choice – the power of the vote. 
That process needs to become a daily pro-active habit — not by happenstance every two or four years.  

GLORIA: So what are some major considerations all citizens need to keep in mind before voting? 

JORGE:  We need to remember the struggles to keep Democracy alive. We need, not only to remember, but embrace the guiding principle that Americans fought for since 1776 –  
fought for and died for during those painful years of our civil war – a civil war that was a choice between validating a people’s humanity or the choice to continue to dehumanize
fought for so women could have the right to vote 
fought for during world war II to defeat Nazism  –  
fought for to realize the civil rights acts of the 1960s – 
fought for so that all citizens could have access to voting rights without obstruction, fear and intimidation. 
The history of each struggle is a constant reminder of our ethical and moral responsibilities as citizens.
Our vote defines who we are, our beliefs, our ideology, and the way we choose to live.

GLORIA:  As we come to the end of this podcast, what is your final message to our  listeners as fellow citizens. 

JORGE:  A democracy is not about a wannabe king or a “Me Monster” – or a political party built on fear, lies, paranoia and criminality –  but rather a democracy is about our constitution, rule of law and the will of people as citizens – all of us – not just some of us. 
I believe, heart in hand, that there is a selflessness required to live within a democracy. 
A democracy challenges us to realize that we are not only human beings by name, but calls on us to pursue the essence of our humanness.
In contrast, an autocracy is a yoke of doom and gloom – it is the burden and a  constant state of depression – an autocracy suppresses and enslaves rather than liberates and empowers. 
Imagine our lives empowered to pursue opportunities of worth – making what is said to be the impossible possible without needless obstructions and distractions.
The power of each voice, each choice – each vote can literally determine the value, worth and quality of our lives and that of our children in the 21st century.  

GLORIA:  We end part IV of Autocracy versus Democracy with Dr. Prosperi’s challenge to each of us to do our civic duty and due diligence as citizens – that is – make time and put forth the effort to scrutinize candidates and political party ideology because the outcomes and consequences of the power endowed is a matter of choice. 

It’s been a sincere pleasure to extend the conversation on this subject.  I urge our audience to go to to become familiar with the complex dimensions of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. On the website there are articles specifically focusing on autocracy and democracy.  

As always, sincere thanks to Alan Contino Executive Producer and Chief Engineer of Delirium Networks and to Nancy Gage and Anthony Baez for the graphic designs on the website and podcast — and lastly our thanks to each of you for joining us —  I am Gloria Lopata Prosperi and you have been listening to Counter-Voices.

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