- Is democracy worth holding on to?
For those who want to hold on to democracy it is important to remember that democracy─ the real democracy which rarely exists─ is the rule of the people. That does not necessarily mean, does not even often mean, the rule of what is right.
So then, what is ‘right’? Doesn’t the concept of ‘right’ vary from thinking person to thinking person? For example, some people might think it is fine to compare religions and then decide which applies to you, while others might prefer to take the faith approach and hang on unvaryingly to what they once accepted as correct. Which of them is ‘right’? What’s more, who is to decide?
It often seems as though ‘right’ as a definite circumscribed set of things exists only in the minds of the herd which accepts because they’re expected to accept without much thought.
Which seems to make democracy acceptable solely because it is the will of the majority, not because it is right.
For democracy to be ‘right’ the decisions of the majority need to be right as well. That might work in an educated society (although not necessarily so) such as Switzerland which is probably home to the ‘realest’ form of democracy on earth, but what of the less educated places, or the wildly less educated places such as Pakistan and India? Would you say it is right to persecute people because of their faith? That certainly appears to be the majority opinion in India and in Pakistan. Is it right to generally base one’s opinion on a narrow view of the world such as happens in these two countries? If such is the view of most of the people in these countries, then can any real democracy exist in countries like these?
The leadership of Pakistan appears struck by the problems faced by the newly elected President of the USA with regards to a handover from the previous government. That is valid. But will the leadership also take note of how important it is for the judiciary to be independent? An independent judiciary with judges free from persecution is the most important factor in a democracy. Without that there is chaos and no justice
So should democracy be sustained not because it is necessarily right, but because it makes people happy? Does democracy make people happy?
Sadly, that does not appear to be the case either.
Eric Weiner, a few years ago, studied that very question and speaks about Moldova, once part of the USSR. He found Moldova to be the epitome of the unhappiest set of people in the world. That is not because the country is not democratic, it is, or because Moldovia is poor– it is poor but not as poor as Bangladesh for instance, but because of certain cultural attitudes that ‘belittle the value of trust and friendship,’ values that ‘leave no space for the happiness of hope.’ So, an unhappy democracy. Is that an oxymoron?
Eric Weiner once again quotes Inglehart as saying that “to assume that democracy automatically makes people happy is to assume that the tail is wagging the dog.” Comparing China with the countries of the former USSR, the Chinese are apparently much happier than the Russians are. As for one of today’s apparently democratic countries, the USA, as per a 2019 Pew Research result, it came up with 58 percent of its people saying they were unhappy, specifically with the way democracy was functioning in their country. So no, the tail is definitely not wagging the dog.
So why is democracy such a big thing?
It is a big thing because there is no alternative. Yet democracy is in crisis, which must be addressed.
Arundhati Roy says: ‘The crisis of modern democracy is a profound one. Free elections, a free press and an independent judiciary mean little when the free market has reduced them to commodities available on sale to the highest bidder.’
Roy is, as always very right. But in this case she does not go far enough. There is that thing called the constitution that allocates power: who holds the power, and how much.
Think USA. One must keep doing that because that country has so pushed itself under everyone’s nose as the greatest democracy in the world. It had not reckoned with Donald Trump who arrived, it must be admitted, because of democracy. That in itself must be enough to push the whole concept into the ground, but one must not be as arbitrary as that. Yet it was Donald Trump who ensured that the Supreme Court was loaded with his personal appointees prior to the elections. Trump’s accusations of unfair elections have failed in every state, mainly because there was no proof to support the claim. He has claimed that his accusation should be heard by the US Supreme Court but himself accepts that this will be difficult to achieve. Probably, if there were a way to take matters to the Supreme Court Mr Trump may succeed in overturning the elections by means of his appointees in that Court.
Instead he has resorted to a pardoning and murdering spree before he is forced to leave office, executing death row inmates, and pardoning proven criminals who have claim to his friendship.
Why is this President, or any President, given the power to pardon and execute? How does that fit in with the capabilities of a man or woman who was elected to govern the country and who in Mr Trump’s case has no legal knowledge at all, who would be hard put to pronounce legal terms if it ever came to that. If a person is guilty of and has confessed to a crime, it is the law courts who must punish that person or let the person off. If a person is condemned to die, it is the law courts who must assess their behaviour and their crime, it is the law courts that must take steps to free them or carry on with a punishment.
A judge, be it in any country must be a neutral, well paid individual which puts him or her beyond bribery. He or she must not be a political appointee which completely negates the idea of neutrality. Any hint of such a thing should be considered a crime worth the highest punishment.
A person who contravenes the neutrality of the judiciary must be liable to the same punishment as awarded for treason. To uphold the independence of the judiciary, to strive for justice must be the supreme factor in any democracy.
And it is only a free press, and a public that is free to speak, that can ensure this.
The leadership of Pakistan appears struck by the problems faced by the newly elected President of the USA with regards to a handover from the previous government. That is valid. But will the leadership also take note of how important it is for the judiciary to be independent? An independent judiciary with judges free from persecution is the most important factor in a democracy. Without that there is chaos and no justice.