Democracy is a political ideology through which most of the modern states are governed. It is said to be the way ancient Greeks (a hub of intellectuals) elected their rulers. It is said to be a political system where opinion of so-called masses does matter. Broadly speaking, there are two types of democracy:
- Direct/popular democracy
- Representative/Parliamentary democracy
Direct democracy is when all people have their say in electing supreme authority of the state or in any other decision that directly affects the state. For instance, referendums truly express such sort of democracy. Parliamentary democracy is when ordinary people elect electorates who represent different political parties. These electorates further elect supreme authority of the state i.e. President or Prime Minister.
The so-called of the people, by the people, for the people, democracy is ‘tyranny of majority’. It is called so as it underestimates the will of those who go in favor of political candidates who end up being defeated. The decision of majority is imposed over others regardless of what meagre difference actually separates two opinions. For instance, it considers the will of only 51% of the people, and disregards the other 49% which is a huge chunk of people. Recent US elections and Brexit are enough to prove the representation of the masses in a parliamentary democracy and a referendum. In US elections of 2016, the popular vote distribution was 48% to 46% in favor of Donald Trump and against Hilary Clinton (Telegraph 2016). In England, 52% voted for Brexit in contrast to 48% who were against it (BBC 2017) . As opinions of the defeated get no significance, would it be wrong to say the vote of minority is utter waste in a democracy as the opinion of the underestimated is not taken under consideration. Elections under a democratic system draw open lines between those whose wills matter and those whose wills are discounted. In this way, democracy seems problematic in both ways: popular and parliamentary.
In a parliamentary democracy, winning party politicians are considered as the representatives of the people and the state. While in fact, their place is of a pity in driving a state. They are there just to face criticism of the masses. They play role of middlemen in democracy who feels happy after spending a lot of money for fame and power. While the real power lies in hands of the bureaucrats whom people hardly interact with. Democracy does well to create the illusion of people being ruled by politicians while, in fact, they are ruled by bureaucrats. Bureaucrats, more or less, remain same under different governments.
In a democratic system, candidates who represent state in parliaments are usually well-to-do elites who have resources to partake in elections. So, everybody, as it is claimed, cannot equally become a part of a democratic process. Masses are there just for being ruled.
Politics/democracy doesn’t work alone in any state to influence lives of the citizens. In fact, it goes hand in hand with economic, cultural and other ideological underpinnings. Capitalism, liberalism, feminism, human rights activism and globalization represent the economic, ideological and cultural aspects of democracy. Ideas like these seem fascinating only if they are focused on from a theoretical perspective. Practically, they all are problematic.
Capitalism is private ownership of resources and in a capitalist state everyone can own wealth without any restrictions. It is said to be an economic system that benefits everyone-rich and poor. In fact, reality is the other way around. How can anybody own wealth and earn money from capital if he/she is deeply ingrained in poverty where only food, cloth and shelter seem to be the supreme concerns? Capitalism benefits only those who do well at sustenance levels. It just helps bourgeoise assembling more wealth. It reinforces exploitation and marginalization of proletariats. Trade unions play key in creating the illusion of better wages, living conditions and health of the working classes. Workers forget about their other concerns after having a few dollars rise in wages while bourgeoisie never mind this rise as their revenue increases by millions. This can be one of the ways that hinders Marxist Revolution from coming.
Liberalism puts emphasis on liberty of individuals and free market. Liberals argue everybody everywhere should have freedom of expression as well as freedom of business. While both seem to be utopian. Freedom of expression is lauded only when it encompasses certain beliefs, otherwise some beliefs are suppressed under the label of hate speech. The point is who decides what’s good or bad regarding any speech. The answer is not that simple. It is implied through media that good is all utopian ideas that helps powerful nations to manipulate global citizens. Hate speech is when a powerful individual, nation, idea or belief is criticized. Or when some ideology goes against a certain utopian world.
Free market is the opening of borders for so-called economic intermingling of the world. Nation-states trade with other nation-states to improve their trade ratios (exports: imports). Everybody is welcomed to produce anything and sell it internally and externally to earn profits. The problem is when there is a clear hierarchy among nation-states (First, Second and Third World), how is it possible for poor states to cope with the monopoly of foreign producers who produce commodities cheaply? So, rich states keep exploiting poor states who keep relying on foreign loans. In this way, free market economy gives rise to monopoly. Cartels also play crucial roles in restricting free market economy.
Globalization is key to modern capitalism. It is said to be the increased interconnectedness of the world in the realm of economy, science, culture and politics; what it actually does is impose certain economic, cultural and political ideas of certain nation to all other nations. These ideas after having been through the process of dying of Globalization now become global culture, global economy, global politics.
UNO is an elite hub to preach such ideas. Ruling elites of many countries, led by veto-power nations, come up with ways to create illusions for masses of different countries. Concepts like global health, education, environment, freedom of expression and democracy are used as reasons for the justification of power of US. Simply put, they use such romantic ideas so that their superiority would continue and nobody would become able to criticize them. They can’t declare publicly that they want power to fulfil their economic interests. Wars in Muslim countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria are crucial in this context. For instance, Taliban who defeated Soviets in Afghan war were good people when they were abiding by US demands and suddenly when US tried to impose so-called democratic principles over Taliban as they wanted Afghanistan to be ruled by their puppet, they became enemies. In the Iraq war also, Saddam was US favorite in war against Iran but when he went against US interests, he became villain. He was alleged of producing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq while production stopped quite before Iraq war (Scott Ritter 2002) . In Syria, on one side, violence is being practiced by killing innocent Muslims in name of killing enemies (Assad’s government). On the other side, teams are being sent by Human Rights Activists to provide people with basic support. The key aspect is the paradox that is being practiced by elite nations and the illusion that is being exposed by taking different decisions in contrasting times. There is no evil in changing decisions with circumstances, the concern is the consequences of those paradoxical decisions in the form of human beings suffering.
Lila-Abu-Lughod provides a significant perspective about Feminism and women rights in Afghanistan. To her, feminism is not just imposing Western beliefs regarding culture (in this context unveiling), it is an ideology that works for women rights which include their education and freedom/presence in public space (Lila-Abu-Lughod 2002). The idea of feminism that is decorated well along with democracy is that of women empowerment and of imposing certain beliefs. Another important concern about feminism is the same: more idealistic and less practical. Glass ceiling is still practiced in US and women are still discouraged to control important positions in different institutions. The concern of feminism should be about education, freedom and rights of women rather than imposing certain cultural beliefs under the umbrella of these ideas.
Lastly, democracy is said to be the most efficient system of governance as same as ideas underpinned with it: capitalism, liberalism, free market, feminism. The main point where democracy seems quite successful is in creating the illusion that is hardly understandable by ordinary citizens. This illusion is what makes these ideas fascinating, romantic and utopian that seem to have success only theoretically, not practically. Theory and practice should work in tandem rather than being poles apart, if concern is welfare of the citizens-basic aim of the state. But why should they care when end results are in favor? The sufferings are there only for poor and suppressed and those being ruled not for those who rule or control the state. Same is the case with nation-states: miseries are for poor nation-states.
BBC. 2017. BBC. February 24. http://www.bbc.com/news/politics/eu_referendum/results.
Lila-Abu-Lughod. 2002. “Do Muslim women really need savig?” American Anthropologist.
Scott Ritter, William Rivers Pitt. 2002. War on Iraq. Context Books New York.
Telegraph, The. 2016. The Telegraph. November 15. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/us-election-results-and-state-by-state-maps/.