Overdose of democracy will cause people to hallucinate, dream

Polling station

Professor Emeritus Datuk Dr Mohamed Ghouse Nasuruddin’s opinion piece ‘Left in the lurch over opportunistic, self-serving elected representatives published in Twentytwo13 on May 23, raised pertinent questions about the ills that are time and again associated with the functioning of a democracy.

As Mohamed Ghouse has correctly pointed out, politicians in a democratic setting tend to be self-serving and more concerned about the prospect of re-election than the welfare of their constituents.

It is well-known that the classical Greek philosophers and the founding fathers of the United States of America were sceptical of democracy as a political system, with the former advocating the rule by philosopher kings and the latter the privileged elites (white male property owners).

Without a doubt, democracy has gone through many phases, evolving from direct to representative democracy and finally morphing into a cheap designer drug sought by the downtrodden, who are trying to get a fix that will help them temporarily forget their miserable existence.

It is because democracy has been packaged by its peddlers as a cure-all drug, with its addicts craving that proverbial high.

Under the influence of democracy, the people are intoxicated with unrealistic expectations. From battling poverty to dealing with climate change, the peddlers of democracy claim that their product has what it takes to overcome these menaces.

Democracy may seem ideal, but an overdose of democracy will cause people to hallucinate and dream that all is well.

In reality, most democracies, mature ones included, face calamities on many fronts.

While the addicts of democracy dream about a good life, the real world is proving to be something else.

The geopolitical crisis in Europe, the trade war between the US and China, the global climate crisis, the food and water crisis, income inequality, and job insecurity are among the pressing issues that need an urgent response from the government.

Humanity’s continued addiction to democracy has made it possible for tech companies such as Alibaba, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft to continuously manipulate the flow of information that will inevitably shape the behaviours and interactions of billions of internet users.

Democratic governments are at a loss on how to deal with the complexities of these issues.

If anything, kleptocratic forces rather than democratic ones control the global political and economic scene as democracy, as a political system, is for sale to the highest bidder.

If we were to survey how the various forces that shape the outcome of public, trade, and foreign policies of democracies the world over, one factor that will stand out is that monied lobbyists will almost always shape the outcome of national and global policies.

The balance of political power in any national political setting will tilt in favour of the one per cent at the expense of the 99 per cent. That is not democratic.

Not only that, the inability of the poor to muster enough political force to bend public policies in their interests has witnessed social mobility taking a beating and labour silenced. That works against democratisation.

The increasing usage of automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will soon render manual labour obsolete. Millions of workers will soon be out of jobs and lose their livelihoods.

The increasing control of global wealth and technology by a small group of billionaires will render the often-quoted ‘government by the people, for the people’ hollow. What we have now is government by the one per cent for the one per cent.

Until we democratise the economy, procedural democracy in which voters choose their representatives is meaningless.

Arguments have been advanced, of course, that democracy must prevail. That, of course, is quite delusional.

These arguments are reminiscent of the character of those advance by the ‘free market’ school of economics.

The market is not ‘free’, and ‘everything never remains the same’. Similarly, there is no such thing as a ‘balance of power’ in any society.

Attempts to equalise the ‘balance of power’ in the guise of communism have proven to be a dismal failure.

As for Mohamed Ghouse’s comments on Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed and Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang, in a democratic setting, any form of identity politics is acceptable as long as it does not interfere with the right of other communities.

Lest we forget, in the political past of matured democracies, minorities have been oppressed, and in the case of South Africa, the majority group has faced discrimination.

What Dr Mahathir and Abdul Hadi discussed is an example of the ethnicisation of Malaysian politics.

That’s part and parcel of democratic menace.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

Tagged with: