Monday, June 28, 2010

10 Things I Hate About Democracy

There are some things I love about democracy, the ideal that everyone is born equal, that everyone ought to have a say in the running of their nation. However, when I left my text book idealism and looked at the Pakistan around me, I felt compelled to write this post

1. Stupidity Measurement Index: We get to really ascertain how stupid the general populace really is. Whether it's re-electing perpetually corrupt or the unbelievably incompetent, our general populace prefers electing the same old corrupt faces. It’s not even that these are folks with any modicum of class…just look at the way they treat each other.

2. The government is expected to always step in because they are ‘democratically’ elected and ‘serve the people’; to be fair they do service the people….their own people as it turns out……which turns out to be a very limited number.  It sickens me to see imported land cruisers and VIP service all paid for by tax payer money, I’m almost glad I don’t have access to view their Swiss Bank Accounts. 

3. Democracy Complex: We justify bad governance by saying 'at least it's a democratically elected government'. Our Democratic idealist love to admonish from their pulpits about some mythical time hundred of years into the future where a few bad teething years of democracy served the greater good. For starters that is insane. If we keep repeating the same cycles of democratically elected ahem re-appropriators of budget resources, things will never change. And secondly, it is hardly any relief to the common man who can’t afford two square meals a day that he has a democratic government. As our honorable Finance Minister stated ‘Starving amongst plenty’ indeed.

4. We elect idiots and feel justified in ranting about how incompetent they are. If you lect a fool with a track record for being a corrupt fool, you don't have the right to be pissed when he acts like a corrupt fool. Particularly when the venerable representative is forced to resign on account of holding a fake degree and then gets re-elected to Parliament on the back of the sitting Prime Minister’s conditional offer of a mega project if the electorate sees fit to re-instate the said official back into office. And you know what…he was re-lected…by a handy margin.

5. Corruption Personified: Our democratically elected MNA's have a god complex and feel perfectly justified in even the most common place thievery. I’m not saying military rule is much better in this regard, but my perception is that the army has a sense of honor that arises from a largely meritocratic organization. The meritocracy of our democratic system stems from accidents of birth. Even the competent are removed on grounds of ….ahem…transitional favoritism.

6. Hypocrisy: Only in Pakistani democracy would an elected official admonish others about energy savings but then be stealing electricity him self. The also feel justified in loading up PSE’s with political appointees and friends in order to ‘reduce’ unemployment, and then blame the PSE for being a burden on the economy. politicians blame each other for the lack of getting anything done due to the desire to build consensus. More like splitting the pie amongst themselves to see who can get the biggest piece. There are no checks and balances: The Checks and balances our democratically elected politicians are familiar with refer to the checks politicians expect written out to augment their bank balances.

7. Democracy is the mob, and in Pakistan the mob is surprisingly easy to manipulate. Oppression of the majority on the minority. Democracy is divisive. Democracy is all about controlling the Mob. That’s it. It is Politicians gaming what they think 51% believe over the remaining 49%, and even in that context they consider which segments actually vote. Religion and Morality are well received segments. Democracy, where even the stupid have as much voting power as the brilliant.

8. Religious Infusion: Islam was built on the basis of democracy....bullshit.... nothing about Islamic governance is predicated on democratic inclination. Prophet (PBUH) wasn't elected by the general populace neither were the Caliphs or the Imams. You get the ability to elect barely literate 'leaders' to run the largest organization in Pakistan. It ought to be left to professionals, not the politicians (Hire the Singapore Government; before anyone suggests, no I have no desire to move there, just pointing out what works). The closest thing to an Islamic Democracy is Islam, where the elected members have wonderful 'advisory' roles with lots of checks and balances by religious institutions.

9. Democracy is a punishment for not having popular enough western leaning leaders. The motto seems like 'Be nice to America or we'll bring democracy to you'. Saudi Arabia, friendly pro-Americans. Kim Jong Il elected leader of North Korea, Axis of evil. So, you better have the right democracy appears to be the order of the day.

10. But what I hate about democracy the most is that best, most stable, economically prosperous years I’ve known have been when we had a military dictatorship (GDP output grew from USD 40bn to USD 160bn), when our economy was deemed to potentially be the next China or at the very least India. Under democracy, now we look like the Nigeria’s oil less, religious, drug addled cousin.

Democracy has disappointed me. It’s not the silver bullet, and for a country like our that is so blessed with natural resources our lack of progress is an embarrassment to God’s good graces. According to news reports, the country has the second largest salt mine in the world, fifth largest gold mine, seventh largest copper mine, fifth largest coal reserves, seventh largest wheat and rice production capacity, is eighth in the rankings of fresh water availability and to add to our embarrassment of riches we possess 185 billion tonnes of Thar coal. And even with all those blessed resources we have a fiscal, energy and international trade deficit.

The primary root of my angst is the lack of education. An uneducated stupid electorate will elect similar leaders. However, the government has no incentive to invest in education, and hence budget after budget, election after election all we are feted to is the customary lip service to education. What’s the point of a democracy if your people starve?

Maybe, I'm just out of line (not exactly outlandish) Is Democracy a dish best served cold? Or in our case….space frozen.  


Amna K said...

A great man once said: The solution to the ills of democracy is 'more democracy'. He was an American.

Military rule (dictatorship) is actually one of the root causes of us standing as a failed state today.

On a positive note, we are still a comparatively young nation. We only crave for good leadership (like Quaid-e-Azam and Liaqat Ali Khan).

SaJ said...

Nicely summed up Alpha.
Way to go ;)
And was it you on platonic myths i read in last sunday's dawn???

Alpha Za said...

@ Amna: Thanks for the comment. The solution does appear to lie in electing a few good men. However, Politics doesn't seem condusive to any good men.

I think military is a root cause because the population inherently trusts the institution, call it brain washing, call it result oriented approach or whatever.

Democracy does take time, even with all of the fiery media, GEO's max viewers are 1.5mn...PTV 9.5 Million. Pakistan size 180 million.

@ SaJ: Thanks for the comment. Guilty as charged, an unedited post is below this one.

Rukhsana Shama said...

As always, couldn't resist to comment Alpha.

You have ten really good reasons not to like democracy, but your post doesn't root out the possibility of Pakistan as democratic state, which is good. Yes the leadership is manifestation of the people in general, therefore illiterate mass of people will give rise to the same.

Democracy or dictatorship, nothing has succeeded here because none has been sincere to people or to future...

one more thing...where did you get the like minded cartoonist or graphic designer to get you the pics??

oh and I differ when you present having an efficient administration with a very effective accountability from the religious institutions.

Rukhsana Shama said...

To complete my sentence; I differ when you present having an efficient administration with a very effective accountability from the religious institutions, as an ideal case.

Anonymous said...

Churchill said that democracy was the 'least bad' system of government? I loved your blog - really wonderful exercise in elitist thinking. A good thing, I hear you say! The elite never think the uneducated and the ill-educated should be allowed to vote - or to do much else besides - but the ease with which an electorate can be manipulated is a problem. I would just say that education is no guarantee of good sense, or that the educated can also be manipulated.
Democracy is riddled with problems (not least that the person who wants to be a politician ought to be suspect as a matter of course, and is usually the last person who should be allowed to stand for election) but let us say that we accomodate your objections, don't we then just end up with an even more fallible unjust government?. I seem to remember reading that Madison in discussions about the US constitution was worried by the 'tyrrany of the majority' - how to 'guard one part of society against the injustices of the other part'. They didn't solve it, and maybe it just isn't solvable. Maybe we just have to recognise that difficulties will arise and put mechanisms in place to guard against them. Importantly we should continually review government, and continually monitor those mechanisms to make sure they are still dealing with the problems and not becoming part of government. No government can ever be completely trusted. Would you allow democracy to be the 'least worst'?

Anonymous said...

p.s. 'CANNOT be manipulated' Ooops!

Anum Batool said...

very nice!
The lack of 'basic' education is the root cause...people are so ignorant of the fact that whom they are going to elect will do no good for them,even they have been witnessing so over the years.but they shout out in favor of them,first, and then yell miserably to have a CHANGE!

Alpha Za said...

@rsh: Thanks for the comment. My cartoonist is google. or 'Go-Ogle Something' as I've taken taken to calling it.

Imperfections in government arise from imperfections within people. To err is to be Human. We will always have discrepancies but we should always strive to be better as opposed to being apathetic. I apologize for not being clearer. Religion has no place in government because everyone has their own interpretation and no one ought to have the right to tell others what they should believe.

@ Alec: We end up with a more just government if it is accountable. The lack of education results in a government that really isn't accountable at all, which allows politicians to rock out their 'God' Complex. Having good governance is difficult and it should be, because we ought to be striving for something better. However, when we moved from a military dictator, everything went alot worse. Thanks for the comment man.

@ Anum Batool: Thanks for the comment Anum, very true. People do seem to have the tendency for being consistently stupid and electing the same old faces. It's like a game of musical chairs. You still have children but the chairs are made of Gold.

C said...

Pakistan, a nation where half the populace cant even write their own names, where as half of the rest of the half may read and write their names, where mothers can't tell the difference between what is right and wrong for their own children, and their sons and daughters growing up to be the same. How can this nation elect deserving leaders for themselves?

A nation that really doesn't mind re-electing the same Chors and Dakaits again and again, only thing that matters is the two time meal promised for one vote. While the educated class with some sense dont bother to go out and cast a vote. Who cares, seriously.

Its true, THE mob has no brains.

Alpha Za said...

@ C: Thanks for the comment, I think electing proper leaders goes beyond being able to read and write, but how to think. Think for themselves especially. Rural Pakistani's in particularly grow up with a serf mindset which I personally find revolting.

People don't care, when they believe that they don't matter anymore. If the best they can get is a free meal out of it, they'll do it.

Mobs are driven by stupidity.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to keep coming back to this, but I can't say forcefully enough that I believe that while education may give you more facts, even mind training, intelligence is innate. Someone who doesn't have formal training of any sort can as easily spot a venal fraudster or a confidence trickster, or nor spot them, as well as or not as well as an educated person. They deal with them in their lives as often as educated people do. Despising peasants may be a comforting position for an educated elite to adopt, but it is as stupid to do so as it is for an ill-educated person to attribute venality to all educated people. Saying that all people are stupid seems to me to be an easier position to defend, than singling out one class and saying they are more stupid than another class. Education may be a wonderful thing to wish for all the people, but venality and corrution won't be cured by that means, nor will manipulation of the stupid by the clever.

Alpha Za said...

@ Alec: I think education gives you the tools in order for you be more intelligent. There is certainly an innate degree of intelligence, but I feel that with education, 'dumber' people become better able to spot fraudster and empower themselves to do something about it. Things like knowing your rights for example. There is also something to be said about learning from experience....which we seem to be completely unable to do.

Fair point about manipulation of the poor by the rich, or the illiterate by the educated. But I think it does come down to mindset, social norms etc.

Anonymous said...

Murtaza, you are a person of superior intelligence, wit, and beauty, and I believe you believe that education gives you 'the tools to be more intelligent'. I hate to disagree with you (not) but that is just nonsense. Education may possibly give an intelligent person the tools to redress society's ills, but will be of no use if he hasn't the intelligence to use those tools.
I can't remember ever disagreeing with you before! ;) *I'm looking round for one of those thunderbolts which the gods, in the days when gods were not such toothless entities and had such power, used to hurl at people telling such whoppers!*
I'm trying to restrain you from considering, when you come to power (an eventuality which can't be much longer delayed surely), taking the vote away from the people just because they haven't got a diploma in golf course management, theoretical economics, banking, interior design, or any other evidence of 'useful' education which marks people out as worthy of being entrusted with the vote, above those who deal with hucksters and crooks every day of their lives. What do dentists know for example beyond teeth? What equips them to vote on political matters. You see once you start down this road the ground becomes a quagmire under your feet. Lets face it, dentists are much too weird to be allowed to vote, yet they are highly educated. In fact dentists are much too weird to be allowed out among decent people, imao! Only ever dealing, as they do, with terrified people, Dentists must form a very peculiar view of humanity. Definitely it would be unsafe to allow them anywhere near the political process. And what about policemen ... You could find hundreds of people whose jobs require education, but that very education should disqualify them from voting. In fact I suspect you'd end up only allowing the uneducated the vote because every educated person has had their minds slanted in some unhelpful way by their education. So only the uneducated can vote, and by extrapolation only the uneducated can stand in elections. This begins to sound like a piece by that admirable intelligent guy, Murtaza something ....

Alpha Za said...

@ Alec: I can hardly disagree with the flattery, I assure you, it's well received. I guess a part of me lives in the hope that everyone is intelligent, but they've never been given the opportunity to really embrace their innate talents, be it in music, writing, poetry and perhaps even finance. People need tools to build a house, very few can build one themselves.

I take it your dentist has really peeved you off lately.

No one likes cops lately. I ought to blog about that.

I don't think it's unhealthy for ones views to be 'slanted' by education, in fact that's a positive thing. It instills belief in an idea as opposed to a person or political party, and I'd be more than happy to accept that opposition than blind sycophants. Contrarily, I also think the uneducated should vote, but they should be content to live with their choices; the truth is most aren't because they didn't know what they were voting for.

Voting for democracy as an idea may sound poetic, but it is worthless if the people starve and there is a serious dearth of good men.

Anonymous said...

No, it instils belief in dentistry! In other words education tends to inflate the importance of the subject taught. And yes my dentist has pissed me off. Here we get free dentistry IF you go regularly. I have neglected to go for my 6 monthly check-ups and have dropped off the NHS list, so I have to pay until such time as I can get back on to a dentist's NHS list (fewer and fewer dentists take NHS patients for an obvious reason). I have brilliant teeth, and all my own, but I needed one filling. It involves three trips, and each time I put a foot on his doorstep it costs me a sum the size of the national debt. I shall be in hock to him until the crack of doom! This man, under my administration, shall be denied the vote and will have to eat raw turnips as his only food, if he's lucky.

Alpha Za said...

@ Alec: I would contend that it is a good thing is the subject one chooses to be educated tends to inflate it's importance. After all, don't we want people to follow subjects they are passionate about? It's better to be passionate about something and have the outlet to learn and profit from it as opposed to be skewed towards say something like Extremist religion.

Well, I think you probably ought to go to your dentist regularly.

What if he likes raw turnips? Deny him basic sanitation, that might be more effective way of making him suffer.

F. Karsten said...

You might like to read this newly published book Beyond Democracy

Why democracy does not lead to solidarity, prosperity and liberty but to unrest, runaway spending and a tyrannical government.

the_thinkerer said...

We are kindred spirits. At the moment, all I can do is follow my convictions, and stay away from the polling stations during election season. I wrote this and several other about democracy;postID=8228570883353965378