One of modern history’s most famous enfant terribles, Winston Churchill is quoted:
“Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.”
– Winston Churchill
Or is it? I, as most European kids my generation, was raised in blind belief in democracy. Really, in retrospect it was some kind of a religion. A religion where there was only one dogma, and who ever would question it would be an outcast. A individual considered utterly insentient a waste of time to discussed with. Questioning democracy was unquestionable. And so it was to me, in a way, loving democracy and blindly defending it whenever possible was kind bred into me.
“Democracy is itself, a religious faith. For some it comes close to being the only formal religion they have.”
– E. B. White
Of course for a pretty good reason given what had happened in my country a mere half century ago. Democracy, I was made to understand, is a beautiful gift one has to cherish and take care of, for loosing it was the worst that could possibly happen and, certainly, the end to all freedom. Well, actually, the end to all the life I was used to.
Then came 9/11 and afterwards came the Patriot Act and alike bills all over the world. With it came the end of many privileges of democratic societiesand a widespread questioning of the extend to which “democratic” nations could still be considered democratic. The US for instance, where apparently elections were stolen from the elected president in order to bring another man to power. Where people were denied basic civil rights because of a crime they were merely suspected of or, even worse, just because of their skin colour or an interest group they belonged to. It came a time where zillions of people all over the world rallied for peacehowever remained unheard by their elected democratic leaders. Unthinkable things have happened during those last years and they have happened in front of all of our eyes. However for one reason or another suddenly no knight in shiny armour could be found to stand up for our all-holied democracy.
Whilst everybody who knows a little about education of children, knows that being a good rule model is the most important thing to do. Every parent knows he cannot make his kid obey rules he is seen ignoring. However no democratic leader I have seen doing the “free elections”-rally to Backwardistan your random challenged country lately could be bothered to be a good example of living democracy in his own nation. Let’s face it: People in the western world just don’t give a shit about democracy any longer. They don’t attend elections. They don’t engage in democracy or government (either because they can’t be bothered to or because their “elected” leaders can’t be bothered to). Yet all of this doesn’t prevent any of us for a split second of going of to every given “non-democratic” nation and praising democracy as if it alone was the guarantee for any given utopia you could imagine.
Might it be that it is a little daring to claim so wholeheartedly democracy was the only acceptable form of governmentfor all of the world’s nations regardless their culture? I mean … if we really do belief in democracy, why can’t we vote against it? And why don’t we grant that very right to every other given people? The only thing the 20th century’s global raid for democracy has produced, is a number of pseudo-democracies, where there are elections held with a known outcome. Where the party of possible leaders is so limited due to socialisation, ethnic structures etc. that it just doesn’t make any differencewho’s elected in the end. Is this really better for people then living with the way of government they had beforeand had possibly had working for millenia?
“The spirit of democracy cannot be imposed from without. It has to come from within.”
– M.K. Ghandi
For quite a bunch of countries democracy really seems to work pretty well. Or let’s say it provides the people with exactly that government they deserve. But where different ethnic or religious groups with different objectives and philosophies can be found sharing one nation it gets difficult. Then democracy is turned into as abstruse sets of rules as for who has to be represented in parliament through whom as can be seen in Lebanon. Positive discrimination still is discrimination, guys.
A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.
– Th. Jefferson
Perhaps this is one of the biggest issues of modern democracy: It works well for majorities, but if you’re a minority you’re screwed. Whilst there’s all that talk about democracy guaranteeing everybody’s freedom I just don’t get it where freedom is when, as a member of a minority group, I have to step back from my rights, my way of living, because the majority group has another philosophy towards it. Just think about this: If the whole world was really democratic as a single meta-nation we would be governed by Chinesefor Chinese are the most numerous and could elect their government as world government. Is that really desirable? Do you want your country to end up like Tibet just because its smaller then China?
Even if people don’t like it: Tending for democracy, freedom, all of that parcel we call “western” means questioning it. Looking for points of friction, for issues we have to care for. In a way those challenging democracy most are, in the end, its most important supporters.