Thursday, June 08, 2017

Democracy and Its Enemies

Democracy is endangered, from itself. Or, more specifically, myths about democracy is now threatening the continuation of the democratic system.

Myth, such as that modern democracy is a top-down product, something that enlightened aristocrats gave to the masses. This narrative is sustained by all sorts of symbols, like Magna Carta, that make democracy a gift of the few to the many.That there would have been no democracy without the King's severed head in Place De La Concorde. The point is that it is not something that was handed out; it was fought for, and earned by the many from the few.

This understanding is relevant today as democracy faces an encroachment from special interests, particularly in the aftermath of the 2007 Financial Crisis. The Great Recession has not, as one would like to believe, loosened the grasps of special interests on policy; quite the contrary, it has strengthened it. The policy of loose regulation has continued, just that Banks and Financial Institutions have now earned guarantees of the tax payers so that next crisis would affect the treasuries rather than Banks. To bring about such a radical change in Finance, democracy had to be undermined; and it has been.

So, when we look for Islamic Radicals as enemies of democracy, we are looking at the wrong place. Democracy's threats are from inside, very much from the Anglo-Saxon politics. There are indeed the strongmen in Russia, India or Philippines, corrupt overlords in African countries or the perverse theocracies in Iran and Saudi Arabia, all of whom want to get rid of democratic institutions and go back in time. But their hands are strengthened by the corrosion of democracy from the inside. And, for this, I shall point to three things in particular.

First, the politics of identity, which the Conservative parties of various countries embraced, either with opportunism or with conviction. The smart political analysts 'segmented' the electorate, playing out messages that they may want to hear. At a time when the promise of middle class life evaporates, and many people are living precariously (giving rise to the word, Precariat, to mean a life on the precipice of becoming proletarians), this neat political strategy of talking about identity at the expense of inequality had paid dividend. But it bankrupted democracy, as there is no one debate on big issues anymore, and therefore no change; democracy has become a big bazaar of special interests.

Second, the primacy of rhetoric, the rise of the suave, the smooth-talking and the good-looking, helped by the power of the video, relegated action to the background. In Ancient Greece, if someone spoke too well, he might have been banished from the city, so that he did not influence others by his oratory to take the wrong course of action; in contrast, the rhetorical celebration of Rome soon perverted the Republic into an Empire. However much we swoon over a Trudeau or a Macron, the style-over-substance democracy is more like a movie, make-believe and disconnected.

Third, the popular exclusion, which the Conservative factions try to achieve endlessly, by tinkering voter registration requirements, redistricting and all that. Many parties want a democratic fa├žade without people really voting, or at least, without the underclasses and the young voting. There is an 'anti-politics' machine at work, with a deeply political agenda: It seeks to keep people busy with day-to-day life, mortgages, taxes, new possessions and celebrity cultures, and out of political engagement. However, this means the young people protest on the streets rather than engaging in politics, and the collective disengagement keeps rising, putting democracy in danger.

Democracy's biggest enemy, therefore, does not come from outside it; it is its own contradictions. The Bankers' State that we live in keeps using its democratic chimera to achieve its anti-people agenda, and encouraged in our sectarian cocoons, we keep voting against any plausible collective interests. But the last word perhaps belong to Abraham Lincoln: "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you can not fool all the people all the time."
You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
Read more at:
You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
Read more at:
You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
Read more at:

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