Here’s the Thing about Democracy

Hello everybody,

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.

yours,

Migdalit

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5 comments

  1. Hey Sweets,

    good point, BUT if you start questioning democracy you also have to question any other form of government for its fitnes to be applied 🙂

    I really think a ‘live’ democracy, one where people are really interested in what their politicians do and in which those elected representatives do what they are elected for, governing their people and doing so FOR their people, is the best possible way of governing.

    And yes you are right, most states are far from that ideal! How could that be changed? I’d say establish a political education in school, but it should be lively and interesting and not dull and boring! You have to start early to show the kids what politics should be about, let them grow into democracy! I think what really kills democracy are those people who don’t even bother to show up at election’s day! Those are the people who give away their POWER, give into the hands of those who, just for showing they are displeased, vote such wannabe heroes as the bighead with his piercing blue eyes… I always ask myself then, why do thos displeased people do not vote for other parties, like the Yellows with Heide, or the Greens? Why do they always choose the right wing instead?

    As with other lessons in school it should be interesting, it should awaken the kid’s natural curiosity! As with many things in our country, it has to start within the family and school!

    I guess my parents- and grandparents generation were just too glad that Hitler was gone that they loved automatically the new arrived democracy, especially my ancestors who lived in West Germany and had even siblings who were stuck in the former DDR.

    BUT many structures of parenting and teaching were still from far back, from the beginning of the last century that nobody ever really questioned their elected leaders.

    Since the educational system later only knew autoritäre und antiautoritäre Erziehung, which both are extremes which simply do not quite work! it came as it had to, my generation and more so yours became tired of politics and other important issues.

    Now it seems times and ways of thinking are slowly changing again, maybe even to the better?! But we have to change the system in which our children are educated! That’s the crux of matters in my opinion.

    I try to show my Twos to use their own minds but also to keep questioning, even if they drive me mad with it 😉 They shall take a closer look at just anything which interests them, poke at it, question it try to understand it. I hope I can keep their curiosity alive and I wish they will have teachers with the same ideas 😀

    *hugs & kisses*
    Ava’

  2. Good morning hon’,

    of course you have to question every other form of government as well.

    I do agree with you that educating our children to _live_ democracy is a crucial point with preserving it. Ghandi’s quote about democracy having to come from within is just as true as regards people who have grown up in democracy.

    However, I think you’re doing a really good job teaching your kids so far!

    And I’d really be interested in what do you think about the majority-minority issue for it’s kinda going round in my mind lately.

    love

    Mig

  3. Shalom Sweets,

    remember one of our last RL discussions on teenager and young adults being too tired of politics to even care? I guess it is changing again! You know I read the http://www.nachrichten.at and over the last couple of days quite many of the so called Jungwähler wrote comments on HC Strache (who likes to be shown as a comic super hero called Stra.Che these days) which made my day.

    And about this majority- minority issue of yours, I do not think it is a matter of color, race or religion but a matter of interests. The majority will always be made of interests or money, like the oil industry.

    That is why I think that we should start as early as possible to awaken the political interest in our children. To teach them it is not a matter of skin colour, race, origin or religion but a matter of political, social, economical and ecological interests and that it is always about being a HUMAN, a sentinent, caring and loving being!

    *hugs & kisses*
    Ava’

  4. Nice post. My country, Indonesia, had just held president election today. I didn’t vote because I’ve been questioning democracy itself. Most of people know not about sophisticated how-to-run-a-nation things, yet, they have the same rights to determine this country’s future. I think this is a mistake. It’s way too vulnerable to error since things determined by quantity, not quality.

    p.s: sorry if my english bad since I don’t use english in daily life :p

  5. Aloha, Mig!

    I was glad to run across your post, for I have similar concerns about the future of democratic governance. I think that we not only have to question democratic ideals, but we must think about where we are heading, i.e., we must go “beyond democracy” as it now exists. In other words, we must ask: What is the next stage in the evolution of democracy? For a starting point, see my blog post:

    http://synocracy.wordpress.com/2009/11/22/what-is-synocracy/

    And, it is an evolutionary process as I point out in another post at the following link and in subsequent followup posts.

    http://synocracy.wordpress.com/2009/11/26/evolution-of-democracy-part-i/

    There is a lot of interesting thinking about this issue that is beginning to emerge. By the way, I liked Churchill’s tongue in cheek quote.

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