A Bad Trend for Democracy
Blogdai doesn't like the trend.
We have all been so fat and happy with our democratic lives over the years that we've totally neglected the next generation of citizens who should be required to pick up the mantle of democratic responsibility. We've failed to instill in our younger citizens the understanding that democracy must always pay an homage to past sacrifices and that freedom isn't a "free-for-all" where anything goes as long as you tag it with a democratic label. Gone is the sense of responsibility towards your fellow citizens; especially those with whom you disagree.
The new trend in democracy is none other than good old fashioned mob rule. Form a group and impose your will. Build spontaneous momentum by any means and call it "the will of the people."
It is troubling when a young person's first experience with democracy is a street protest. Street protests are autocratic in nature: prone to neither the compromises nor the debates incumbent in true democratic discourse.
Throughout the world we are witnessing the gradual hijacking of some very civil and advanced concepts to help justify actions of simple street mobs. Concepts like "democracy," the "will of the people," the "struggle for freedom" and "equal representation" are brandished as rallying cries by those seeking world acceptance for their narrow agendas.
Mobs are not democratic. In Thailand: Angry mobs took to the streets to demand the resignation of prime minister Thaksin and to boycott elections. Thaksin, well-supported in rural areas of Thailand, won the election anyway but chose to step aside to avoid mob chaos. True, Thaksin owes the people of Thailand a big apology for years of corruption, but should the fear of impending anarchy have been the deciding factor in his resignation? What about those rural citizens who constituted Thaksin's winning majority? Was it fair to let an angry crowd in Bangkok take away their democratic choice?
Nepal's mobs were different. Whipped up and used by differing parties as grist for their personal agendas, a nation's youth took to the streets to define their view of the democratic process in a very narrow fashion. Real democratic compromise was never considered by the protesting parties in Nepal. There was never a sense of working out differences or even talking to the opposition. It was all about ramming home a singular simplistic idea: The King must go. Sadly, Nepal abandoned any attempt at democracy by not talking to the King. Now we will never know if a peaceful, democratic solution would have been possible through dialogue. No, like Thailand, it was the gathering momentum of street protests that ruled the day.
Taking to the streets is almost always a sign of minority frustration. If one's minority viewpoint is not acknowledged in a democracy, one has the right to a peaceful demonstration that challenges those in the majority to validate that viewpoint. Why is this ok? Because perhaps, through information, the majority opinion might be eventually swayed in the direction of the minority. A classic example of this are the current immigration debates and protests being conducted in the U.S. People are being alerted about bad, one-sided or non-existent immigration practices now, almost daily; but always, there is respect for the democratic process.
Majorities don't protest.
To claim that Nepal's street protests somehow represented the "will of the people of Nepal" is pure hyperbole. These protests represented the interests of the 7-party alliance, not the majority. In fact, without elections, how does one know exactly where the majority opinion lies? Majorities are keepers of the democratic process-- they represent and maintain the system. When duly elected representatives fail in this charge, they are replaced through elections. If these representatives fail so completely that they refuse to even conduct elections, a higher authority must be called upon to keep the peace and restore order. The rest of the world gets international peace-keepers to do this, Nepal has a King.
Protests and the immediate gratification of mob rule now leave Nepal more unstable than ever. Already we are seeing this redefined democracy losing it's hold when people like Bam Dev Guatam threaten to take to the streets if a constituent assembly is not elected IMMEDIATELY. How sad. This shows a complete lack of faith in what was acheived by the protests and a complete lack of trust for the motivations of those rushed in to run the new parliament. The parties are once again returning to their bickering ways.
There is no rule of law.
Where will street dissent end? Will all disputes now be settled through street action? As we have seen, it takes very little to whip up emotional sentiments and bring people to the streets. Is Nepal now a society of protesters? If so, then the Alliance has completely eliminated the rule of law as a means of keeping order in society and insuring that the will of the majority be respected and the rights of the minority not forgotten.
Democracies use the process of debate, election and discussion to determine which individuals are fit to lead and can be trusted with implementing the needs of those they represent. Constant brinkmanship and the threat of civil disruption robs free citizens of their right to progress and familiarize themselves with their representatives. As we have seen, protests often take on lives and themes that are quite different from their original intent. Constant street violence keeps a society from achieving national unity. Because of this, it is essential that democratic societies commit themselves to the peaceful resolution of disputes. We now have no precedent for this in Nepal.
This is anarchy.
And what of democracy? Democracy is NOT a natural freestanding concept that spontaneously flourishes when people are left alone to their own devises. Democracy does NOT give people the right to say and do as they please at the expense of others and most definitely, democracy will NOT prosper without constant supervision, revision, adaptation, citizen participation, active legislation insured to promote its survival, rule of law, respect for the rights of viewpoints outside of the majority, equal representation under the law, the equal application of the law to all citizens regardless of caste or social standing; and the occasional personal discomfort and sacrifice required of each individual citizen for the public good.
The important thing is to believe in the system. Constant protests show you don't believe in anything but your next protest. In a democracy, the only real thing that all citizens are required to posess in common is faith in the democratic process. We all get screwed under a democracy from time to time, but we try to take some solace in the fact that it could happen to any one of us. It's our payment for living in a democratic society--our dues, if you will.
Democracy may just be more about what you don't get than what you DO get. One has to learn to lose an argument or two under a democracy. At the very least, one has to learn to compromise.
There are no absolutes in a democracy.