Personal Musings

This blog is intended to be just a jumble of thoughts that hit me and need not necessarily mean anything.

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Location: Kerala, India

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Friday, July 21, 2006

Democracy: Is it worth it?

There has been lots of support for spreading democracy in the world. Nations have been attacked, internal tumults have taken place; all in the hope of making a nation democratic. There have been Afghanistan, Iraq, Nepal, just to name a few. But no one has asked the real question; "Is it worth it?"

The preceding events in many of the countries have been exquisite. There have been instances when everyone agreed democracy is the right solution. I am not here to argue against the flow of events and their appropriateness. For that there are other blogs.

Also the question has to be understood in te right perspective. I am not saying that these countries don’t deserve democracy. I am not even suggesting that other democracies are not worth. It is true that many nations have developed with the help of democracy. But the underlying question is whether the changes needed to convert a nation to democracy really justify the ends. Is democracy so nice that it deserves to be spread in all parts of the world?

Let me start with my understanding of democracy. Democracy, as is being said, "is a government of the people, by the people, for the people". The main idea behind democracy is that the land must be ruled by the people according to their demands. Since a simple voting mechanism is being used, it is always so that the opinion of the majority will be followed. It is assumed that the majority will be sensitive enough abut the minorities apprehensions and will not do anything that will hurt the minorities. Democracy is the informed choice of a people to actively pursue the form of government that they shall follow with common consensus to help the people of the state live in the best possible way being carried forward by the people themselves.

I am not going to delve into the plus points of democracy to much. Yes; democracy seems to be the right thing for any place. what else is better than people themselves decide how they want to be ruled. After all, all the decisions are made by the people themselves. I am not going to talk about other good things about democracy. My main emphasis in this article is to point out the weaknesses of democracy.

By definition, democracy wants each person to be able to make informed choices. But how many democratic nations have above 95% of literacy? Even places that boast of high literacy rates, the functional literacy rate is still found to be less. (People interested to verify the validity of the above statements can use google. My words are based on findings from the various reports of NGOs in India and Latin America read in various news sites). The fact is that more than 35 % of population is functionally illiterate by the best estimates. I mean most people cant read and interpret what they read correctly. OK, there is still a vast majority who are still functionally literate. Will they be not enough to handle democracy well?

Here comes the next stumbling block. An average person is a highly prejudiced. The prejudice may be on something as silly as creationism or evolutionism; or something even more vague. People are led to believe things based on what others say. They will always be relying on self-serving people for gathering their knowledge. Even if someone is having the best of reasoning capabilities, still they can easily be subjected to propaganda. A quick glance through the various referendums is enough to understand this. There have been referendums passed and stopped because of pure propaganda. The issue of European parliament is itself a good example. People have voted for the wring reasons. My point is, there is usually no informed choice in practical democracy, simply because a nation is made up of individuals with all their follies.

Man, even from his earliest days, have always followed a leader. In very few cultures there have been mechanisms where the entire group of people sit and work out their problems rationally. I am sorry to say that the modern culture is not among them. Its almost always just the words of a few chosen that always get undertaken, whether they are right or not. May be once or twice their choices may be opposed. But in almost all the cases, it will be the rule of few even in a dempocratic setup. In effect, we dont have people making decisions, but only a few individuals.

Even in this modern age, discussions in their truest sense rarely takes place resulting in common consensus. Usually consensus has been used to mean that the current stand is the result of negotiations. Even if someone comes up with a nice policy by accident, by the time the policy is announced, it will be diluted enough by these negotiators leaving the policy almost worthless. So is democracy truely "is a government of the people, by the people, for the people"

[to be continued.]



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