Demonstrating Democracy

Pakistanis are, without exaggeration, the only people in the world to have misused the term democracy in every possible way. The latest definition of it (and one you can see on the rear windows of many cars in Clifton) is “democracy… is the best revenge”. Inane as this sentence is; it has become a slogan of the civil society of this country. It has also become the reason I fear for the future.

You see, when the most ‘democratic’ party of Pakistan does not believe in holding fair elections within the party itself; and leadership is actually passed on via wills, then you begin to think whether anybody even knows what democracy is. It’s not a slogan. It’s not a device to get the top chair. And for crying out loud, it is NOT the best revenge (against whom? For what?! ) It’s a lot simpler, and yet a bit more complex then what we’ve been taught by the media channels.

Democracy can be divided into two categories: Direct Democracy, and Representative democracy. To understand Direct Democracy, imagine having all 170 million people of Pakistan as members of the National Assembly. Now imagine, trying to come to a decision. Direct Democracy is rarely used in any political institution since it’s impractical, and inefficient and probably very noisy.

The second category is Representative Democracy. This is what TIP (and Pakistan) claims to be. Instead of including every individual in state decisions, the individuals elect people who will represent them in the assembly. This also means that if the guy you elect screws up, he’s accountable (as you are too, after all, why’d you vote for a nut?). This accountability is the very essence of democracy; though as Pakistanis, we probably don’t believe in it.

Other than accountability, there are 5 main principles of a democracy:

  1. Freedom of Debate, Speech and Opinion
  2. Open, Accountable and Diverse Media
  3. Economic Democracy for the People
  4. Equality before the Law
  5. Popular Governance, through Elections

1) Freedom of Debate, Speech and Opinion

In George Orwell’s ‘1984’, the government had a secret agency called the thought police to monitor any dissent among the people. But in a democracy, you can curse the government; hold insanely leftist views, hold insanely right views and until you do something unlawful, the government can’t do anything about it.

2) Open, Accountable and Diverse Media

Open and diverse is easily understandable, but accountable? This means that the media should actually take responsibility for whatever they show, or print and its subsequent effect on people. So you see, technically our media is anarchic (that means free to the point of lawless) rather then democratic.

3) Economic Democracy for the People

You would be surprised to know that capitalism and democracy go hand and hand. You can’t expect to have a socialist outlook on the economy and yet consider yourself a democrat. Economic democracy means empowering people with the means of creating and controlling their own money supply. This method of money creation gives great power to those private individuals and organizations that create the money. So if you see people screaming “Down with the rich! Empower the poor!” and “We want democracy!” in one breath, they’re hypocrites of the worst order.

4) Equality before the Law

Each citizen has an equal ability to seek and receive justice. Simple? Not really. For that you’d require honest judges, honest lawyers (ha!), and a law that states a trial shouldn’t last more than 2 months. Oh, and maybe a jury of honest civilians would also help.

5) Popular Governance, through Elections

Yup. Here is democracy as we know and love it. We (supposedly) elect our leaders according to their stance on foreign affairs, economy, internal affairs etc. In a Popular Democracy, the government is the servant of the people, not their master. Its job is to listen, respond and deliver to that which is demanded by the people.

But lets think for a bit, how much of what we demand is rational, and in the interest of the country? And the leaders we elect (in some cases repeatedly); is what they deliver what the country really needs?

Democracy ISN’T the ultimate governing system. It has flaws, and loopholes, and though uptil now it has been the most successful system, it is more because of the people who follow that system rather than the system itself. Honest people would even make a tyranny work for the best. Before we make it into our tagline, we should actually know what it is, and maybe then we can figure out how it works.

8 Replies to “Demonstrating Democracy”

  1. Well, democracy nowadays seems a nice ’emotional tool’ to grab voters. I beleive that we, being an emotional nation, can easily be and are decieved in the name of ‘so called democracy’.

    In order to understand the ture essence of ‘democratic system’, we need to equipe ourselves with adequate education since this is the only way to control our ever extreme emotions which we always uses to solve any issue.

    What usually happens is that we in the flow of emotional and sentimental game being played by our politicians continue enchanting the ‘democracy’ slogan rather than trying to understand the concept.

  2. @Hira

    Honest people would even make a tyranny work for the best.

    Yes, but the question remains; where do we get honest people who do not belong to the army, mad mullahs, crazy feudals or illiterate masses?

    @Rameez

    Sorry but I think there is no such thing as an emotional nation and a non-emotional one.

  3. @furhan
    umm i dunno yaar, maybe from where the Netherlands, Canada, and Belgium get theirs. Honesty is bred into people gradually. we teach our kids to take shortcuts, steal, and lie; how can they grow up to be honest?
    and technically furhan, there are armymen/women, mad mullahs (evangelists), crazy feudals (republicans :P) and illiterate masses in every country. but that doesn’t stop it from progressing. people need to set their vested interests aside (if possible) and actually think about the country first.

  4. @Furhan
    Why not?
    Emotional way of handling things comes from the old traditions, the culture and the life style. Generally the people of ‘developing’ nations are found emotional. Look at our literature, our art, our dramas, our teachers and our presentors. All these traits are inherrited. Indians, Pakistanis and the people of sub-continent are quite emotional and sensitive in their appraoches and that is seen by their behaviors and different reactions in different situations. It all depends upon the state of the society, the atmosphere in which he/she is brought upon, it all goes too long.

  5. First of all I would like to appreciate the article itself. It is a very well balanced, logically augmented and reasoned, and well written article. It is a delight in itself to observe that TIP too has its share of intellectual students.

    There have been times when I have also pondered a lot about any political system that might actually work for the Desi’s of the Indian subcontinent or for the blacks of Africa. I am not a racist, but it really seems to me that there is a biologically racist perspective to this matter. We are genetically different from the nations that have had successful experience with this system. Apart from genetics many physical factors, -climate being a big one- contribute to making the individuals what they are. I understand fairly well, that my suggestions are remote and far-fetched from the topic, but it would be grossly unscientific to do away with this reason altogether.

    I have a reference to a nice article, it touches upon a totally different issue, (the Prophet’s (sul’lum) insulting cartoons), but has a lot of very logical and convincing study of the different Western political ideologies. I hope that you will like it.

    http://islamicsystem.blogspot.com/2008/02/why-muslims-dont-laugh-at-insults-to.html

    Hisham

  6. @Rameez

    I just think we’re not as developed, and we have little control over our emotions, but it’s not like ours are exceptionally intense. we’re just not too developed from the inside, perhaps. But blaming everything on emotions just doesn’t feel too right. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but maybe I’m right. I don’t think it’s as simple as this.

  7. Education actually teaches you how to control your emotions and act wisely in different situations.

  8. Being an un-educated nation, yes! we are emotional however in my views their is something more than that. It is inherrited. I dont know what the future will be but we have act emotionally in the past 60 years.

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