Friday, 11 September 2015

In the Throes of Democracy

Democracy, as defined, is ‘a system of governance in which power is vested in the people, who rule either directly or through freely elected representatives’.

Let us dissect this definition for the purposes of understanding it better. What does democracy really mean?

At the outset, it is the power that the people possess to govern the state. However, since such a large number of people cannot possibly decide upon all matters of state regulation simultaneously, their powers are delegated to a few individuals, group-by-group. Constituencies are formed from which one candidate is elected by the people to then represent them in the legislative assemblies.

The main point that I am going to jump into right away is quite simple- the power belongs to the people. Representatives of all constituencies are just that- representatives. It is their responsibility to fulfil the wishes and solve the problems that the people of their constituency face. The people, who hold the real power, delegate that power to someone they believe is capable of voicing their concerns on a provincial or national level.

It is a simple question of logic- when does one delegate a task to another? It may be to promote efficiency, it may be because the power exists but the person(s) who hold it are unfit to exercise it. The real question then emerges- when should one not delegate their powers? Does it not seem counter-intuitive to delegate your power and authority to somebody who is doing poorly at handling his/her responsibilities? Why should you continue to give your authority to somebody else to exercise on your behalf if they are doing next to nothing on your behalf?

Democracy is not explained as ‘relinquishing your power and authority to somebody who will arbitrarily decide how to proceed in matters of state governance’. It is explained as ‘delegating your power and authority (which vests in the people, and the people only) to freely elected representatives to act on your behest’.

It is a matter of reflection- how much are we actually being represented? How well is this current system of delegating powers going? It does not seem to be going very well, if I may be allowed to comment.
The problem I see is that hardly anybody realises that they possess the power, and that the ‘leaders’ that they are so afraid of, are subject to them, not the other way around.

Why is it that the people of a nation are held to be unimportant in decisions of war and peace? Why is it that the ‘foreign policy’ of a nation (whatever that is supposed to mean) takes precedence over the wishes of the people? What is observable is that a nation’s elected representatives would rather uphold the ‘foreign policy’ of precedent governments rather than to hear the wishes of the people. I will go slightly off topic but will still remain relevant when I ask: how is a nation’s foreign policy any different from ordinary social customs that have been passed down generations? The day we say ‘this is how it is, period’ is the day we effectively halt further progress.

Why is it that the allocation of financial or material resources is decided arbitrarily without consulting the people? For instance, why is the military budget being increased while the budget for the education sector is being cut down? Why are there no long-term policies being implemented for the growth of the economy, education, energy and healthcare sectors?

One can safely assume that most people living in democratic nations are rather unhappy with the state of affairs. The level of unhappiness is perhaps more in developed countries because they understand their rights and see them being infringed. In developing nations such as ours, people are not even aware of the rights they possess.

The question that remains now, my friends, is whether you will continue to live with this continuous disregard of your position of power, or will you check how the power given by you is being used? It is rather silly to give your power to somebody willingly just to have them use it against your interests.

Democracy has become the benchmark for all nations of the world to live up to. Yet nobody asks ‘why is democracy the best way?’ There are compelling arguments against dictatorships because then the people have absolutely no right to governance. I concur. However, until the world does not realise that Plato’s idea of a democratic aristocracy is perhaps the ideal way to go, it can suffice to ask ‘how democratic is democracy, really?’

If democracy is portrayed as the saviour of all nations and people in the world, how is it that the people consider themselves powerless? Does the very definition of democracy not say ‘a system of governance in which power is vested in the people’? Where is this power exercised? If democracy is my ability to cast a vote every few years, then I would willingly shun democracy as a sub-standard, superficial and rather manipulative empty title. Saying that I have any practical rights by virtue of democracy is to say I can open and close the window shutter on an airplane. It is such a meaningless act when looked at in conjunction with the entire working of the airplane.

This is not meant to be a ‘Democracy vs. Autocracy’ argument. It is an analysis of how democratic democracy really is, if at all! The meaning of this is simple- if we are being sold the concept of democracy, are we in fact buying damaged goods?