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Is Democracy Dying

Is Democracy Dying

CONTEXT:

  • When democratically elected governments cease to be held accountable by a society weakened by poor health, low morale and joblessness, demagogues are prone to blindness and ineptitude.

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KEY DETAILS:

  • The old question has a new urgency because global surveys are everywhere reporting dipping confidence in democracy and marked jumps in citizens’ frustrations with government corruption and incompetence.

  • Young people are the least satisfied with democracy — much more disaffected than previous generations at the same age.

  • Most worrying are the survey findings for India, which is fast developing a reputation as the world’s largest failing democracy.

    • In its Democracy Report 2020, Sweden’s V-Dem Institute noted that India “has almost lost its status as a democracy”.

    • It ranked India below Sierra Leone, Guatemala and Hungary.

DEMOCIDE:

  • Democide is the murder of any person or people by their government, including genocide, politicide and mass murder.

    • Democide is not necessarily the elimination of entire cultural groups but rather groups within the country that the government feels need to be eradicated for political reasons and due to claimed future threats.

  • Democide is usually a slow-motion and messy process.

    • Wild rumours and talk of conspiracies flourish.

    • Street protests and outbreaks of uncontrolled violence happen.

    • Fears of civil unrest spread.

    • The armed forces grow agitated.

    • Emergency rule is declared but things eventually come to the boil.

    • As the government totters, the army moves from its barracks onto the streets to quell unrest and take control.

    • Democracy is finally buried in a grave it slowly dug for itself. As the government totters, the army moves from its barracks onto the streets to quell unrest and take control.

  • During the past generation, around three-quarters of democracies met their end in these ways.

    • The military coup d’états against the elected governments of Egypt (2013), Thailand (2014), Myanmar and Tunisia (2021) are obvious examples.

DARK SIDE OF DEMOCRACY:

  • When a constitution promises its citizens justice, liberty and equality, the splintering and shattering of social life induce a sense of legal powerlessness among citizens.

  • The judiciary becomes vulnerable to

    • cynicism

    • political meddling

    •  state capture

  • Massive imbalances of wealth, chronic violence, famine and unevenly distributed life chances also make a mockery of the ethical principle that in a democracy people can live as citizen partners of equal social worth.

  • If democracy is the self-government of social equals who freely choose their representatives, then large-scale social suffering renders the democratic principle utterly utopian. Or it turns into a grotesque farce.

  • People’s dignity is destroyed by

    • Domestic violence

    • rotten health care

    • widespread feelings of social unhappiness

    • daily shortages of food and housing

  • When famished children cry themselves to sleep at night, when millions of women feel unsafe and multitudes of migrant workers living on slave wages are forced to flee for their lives in a medical emergency,

    • The victims are unlikely to believe themselves worthy of rights, or capable as citizens of fighting for their own entitlements, or for the rights of others. 

  • The brute fact is social indignity undermines citizens’ capacity to take an active interest in public affairs, and to check and humble and wallop the powerful.

    • Citizens are forced to put up with state and corporate restrictions on basic public freedoms.

    • They must get used to big money, surveillance, baton charges, preventive detentions, and police killings.

CITIZEN DISEMPOWERMENT:

  • Citizen disempowerment encourages boasting and bluster among powerful leaders who stop caring about the niceties of public integrity and power-sharing.

    • They grow convinced they can turn lead into gold. But their hubris has costs.

  • When democratically elected governments cease to be held accountable by a society weakened by poor health, low morale, and joblessness, demagogues are prone to blindness and ineptitude.

    • They make careless, foolish, and incompetent decisions that reinforce social inequities.

    • They license big market and government players — poligarchs — to decide things.

    • Those who exercise power in government ministries, corporations, and public/private projects aren’t subject to democratic rules of public accountability.

    • Like weeds in an untended garden, corruption flourishes.

    • Almost everybody must pay bribes to access basic public services.

    • The powerful stop caring about the niceties of public integrity. Institutional democracy failure happens.

WHAT REALLY DEMOCRACY IS?

  • Democracy is much more than pressing a button or marking a box on a ballot paper.

    • It goes beyond the mathematical certitude of election results and majority rule.

    • It’s not reducible to lawful rule through independent courts or attending local public meetings and watching breaking news stories scrawled across a screen.

    • Democracy is a whole way of life.

    • It is freedom from

      • hunger

      • humiliation

      • violence

    • Democracy is public disgust for callous employers who mistreat workers paid a pittance for unblocking stinking sewers and scraping faeces from latrines.

    • Democracy is saying no to every form of human and non-human indignity.

    • It is respect for women, tenderness with children, and access to jobs that bring satisfaction and sufficient reward to live comfortably.

  • In a healthy democracy, citizens are not forced to travel in buses and trains like livestock, wade through dirty water from overrunning sewers, or breathe poisonous air.

    • Democracy is public and private respect for different ways of living.

    • It is humility: The willingness to admit that impermanence renders all life vulnerable, that in the end nobody is invincible, and that ordinary live are never ordinary.

    • Democracy is equal access to decent medical care and sympathy for those who have fallen behind.

    • It’s the rejection of the dogma that things can’t be changed because they’re “naturally” fixed in stone.

    • Democracy is thus insubordination: The refusal to put up with everyday forms of snobbery and toad-eating, idolatry and lying.

WAY FORWARD:

  • Until and unless we don’t realise the real sense of Democracy we can’t live with dignity. It is the need of hour to strengthen the voice of public against Democide which takes away the rights of the people. Only with people’s participation it can be achieved.

SOURCE: Indian Express