Mahima asks if we deserve Democracy, in her regular column, exclusively in Different Truths.
I pen this piece in times, which I feel are dark times of Democracy, whether in India or other countries.
In my opinion, religion has replaced science and logic; undeclared war has taken over, ruling minds’ urge to conquer the world economy; mob violence justifying justice is the biggest low. And I guess I don’t need to detail what is evident across through various news media and the very infamously-famous social media…the most powerful tool to express your so-called democratic rights these days (I wonder where laws against libel and slander gone have?) Thus, I pen down this piece after going through an emotional overhaul.
I question myself after every such incident, do we really need/deserve Democracy?
Benjamin Franklin characterised Democracy as a ‘rising sun’ in the late 18th century. For people the world over, it is increasing the focus of their hopes for a brighter future and aspirations for a life of freedom and dignity. But the introduction of Democracy is a complex process, which involves more than mere political transformations. The transition to Democracy concerns the whole body politic – that is to say, all the individuals that constitute it and their social relationships.
But again the question remains the same, ‘Does Democracy suit the present-day world?’ I preferred to soothe my nerves by putting the same question across to people from various walks of life.
D Adil, a teacher pursuing PhD is of the opinion, “Success in constructing a democratic civil society depends on the commitment of the population at large to the democratic ideal, on its active involvement in all aspects of political, social and cultural life, on tolerance of different combined with respect for majority opinion, as well as on the existence of democratic institutions and wise political leadership.
My mind is drifting away into the deeper analysis: democracy cannot, therefore, be achieved rapidly since changes in human attitudes are less easily accomplished than the remodeling of political structures.
“Art of thinking, independently, together is required in a true democracy.” Adil’s last sentence echoes in my mind. What powerful thinking, which comes not only from her upbringing but her association withDhanak, a consortium of inter-faith couples which is taking regular and strong steps to promote harmony in the current times of politically motivated discord.
Thus, she believes in ‘think together independently’. How many and which nation will do that? And isn’t that a perfect solution to all problems? Wow, at such a tender age, Adil shook me down.
And then there is Ashima Sharda Mahindra, wife of a serving army officer in India and a senior journalist, who now regularly shifts base with him and has been at the indirect brunt of the extreme actions against the armed forces in the most treacherous terrains including Kashmir and the recent Manipur. All in the name of Democracy.
No wonder Ashima’s views are very different, “I feel in today’s times the word Democracy is overrated. We are too democratic a country. No one exactly even knows the meaning of Democracy but we cite examples suiting our situations. People who make a mockery of Democracy are only the ones who shout Democracy from their rooftops. I feel the time has come we should realise it is a privilege that we were born in free times and we should not piggy ride it.”
I cannot disagree with her since in India the national concern has shifted from uplifting the poor and education for all to religious nationalism and silencing the civil society. And if people refuse to budge, mob violence is there?
Besides, self-censorship is sky-rocketing not only in India but across the world. Government-backed media is leaving no stone unturned to block any and every opposing view into the public forum. Remember how Trump has kept CNN at bay? I was working with CNN-News18 that time when he won and was at loggerheads with the channel to either curb Freedom of Press or stay out of every big event by the US government.
So what do we need? A Democracy or Dictatorship? North Korea style?
No, despite the horrendous situation in Syria, Dr. Waiel Awwad, a senior Syrian journalist based in South Asia, asserts, “Syrians still deserve Democracy, freedom and a better life. The country should welcome attempts from other countries to play their agenda and look for their people’s interest in living in harmony and co-existence. The emerging powers must have a stand to put an end to this. Let the ballot decide the destiny of nations without interventionists.”
Historian Aditya Panchal seconds Dr. Awwad’s belief, “History is a witness, be it Syria or any other nation, there is a lesson in each conflict in a democratic nation. We must learn and practice that in a multipolar world there is no place for unipolarity. Both forces, whether opposing the war or inciting violence, to seek their rights have to join hands to make their voice heard.”
Adil’s thought echoes again in his words, ‘Think Differently Together.’ My own anger melting down.
Kirti Phadtare Pandey, a senior journalist with The Quint expresses herself, “I fell in love with Democracy, the day I fell out of love with Communism; all thanks to George Orwell’s Animal Farm that I read as a college student.”
George Orwell, it is said was absolutely in love with the equality idea of communism. But when he actually tested it, he was left disillusioned. Because the Communist governments were little else but totalitarian governments run by a few despots. Look at what was the USSR or the present-day China. As children in the 1980s and 1990s, we were offered a window into what life in Communist USSR was. Press was not free. People were forced into any job at all just so that unemployment figures were zero percent.
A very learned and enthusiastic Kirti adds, “So never mind if one was an engineer or a doctor, if there was a vacancy as a sweeper, he would have to accept that or else the government would crack down on him. Hitler too gave 100% employment during his cruel reign. So was he good? I think Democracy is great, as it is still a lesser evil.”
My thoughts drift from that of a loser in a democratic society to the one who would love to handover the related values as a baton to the next generation.
Democracy was once exercised in defence of human rights, now it is for personal rights. But in a Democracy what values would be worth fighting for with the present-day mindset of the masses – physically or even rhetorically?
Change begins with the self. We first need to set our own democratic values right. Otherwise, will our next generation, our own dear blood be able to define what they were born to defend? Right or might?
Photos from the Internet
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A science graduate from Delhi University and MA in Mass Communication, Mahima began her career with E-Lexicon PR & Mutual PR and Hindustan Times. Soon, ANI (a collaboration with Reuters) got her aboard, where she spread her wings in TV, Print & Digital Journalism. In 2010 Rajdeep Sardesai’s flagship primetime show gave her, a dream job at CNN-IBN. From May 2017, she is a freelance journalist. She is a poet and a Sufi at heart.