by Ghassan Kadi
Until China surpasses the USA as the world’s strongest economic power, if it hasn’t already, and until the different nations of the world make up their minds as to who is the mightiest of them all; America or Russia, the West continues to be seen leading the world in many different aspects; least of which is in its arrogance.
Despite its failing family values, drug addiction problems, corruption, growing divide between the haves and have nots, huge economic crises just to name a few problems, the West has the audacity to present itself as a model for the rest of the world to aspire to.
Undoubtedly, the West has had great foundations. They go back to ancient Greece and Christianity. Had the West really and truly followed the ancient Greek wisdom and proper Christianity, it would not have succumbed to the level of moral bankruptcy that it has reached now.
Western civilization was overrun by human greed and by archaic royal regimes that regarded their citizens as serfs and property. The French revolution was a great step in the right direction, but not enough to put the path of the West on the straight and narrow.
As the Western mind was liberated by the works of European philosophers, scientists, artists and musicians, ancient monarchies had to move with the times thereby adopting democracy and giving their people a say.
Democracy in essence means the rule of people. In theory, it is a great concept; if and when applied properly and to the right people.
The objective here is not to have a philosophical discussion per se, but we have to go back to the philosophical background of the concept.
The ancient Greek philosophers promoted the idea of autocracy of the sages. A system in which the ruler is one who had never sought to be head of state, and if anything, one who would very reluctantly accept this enormously responsible position and rather pushed to accept. Symbolically, the Speaker of the House in some Western countries continues to be physically pushed by colleagues upon his/her inauguration all the way to his/her chair.
The concept is well explained in Plato’s Republic, but in fact was put into practice by Plato’s supreme teacher, Pythagoras. The school of Pythagoras was a small group of people headed by the great wise man Pythagoras himself. Over and above his wisdom and profound knowledge, he was a just and fair “ruler” who did not want any personal gain for himself. His ultimate objective was to lead his people to better life and to better philosophical/spiritual understanding of life and its purpose.
His school was the epitome of teaching wisdom with what comes with it including humility, self-control and respect. It was a difficult school to get into, and novices had to take a vow of silence that could last for a number of years after joining.
Greek politicians eyed the school with suspicion. They were simply unable to understand what Pythagoras was trying to do and why. They grew jealous of the state of esteem by which he was regarded amongst his people. They subsequently found in the school a threat to their dominion and power. They had to find a way to close it down and so they accused Pythagoras of totalitarian dictatorship. His school was eventually attacked and demolished culminating in one of the most tragic moments in human history and a resulting in a great opportunity missed that humanity did not have the chance to learn from much. More than two thousand years later, humanity by-and-large has not yet woken up to the enormity of that moment in history. If anything, it is an event that has been forgotten and ignored.
In reality, the concept of democracy developed as the anti-thesis of what is better known as the Plato’s Republic model. It was not the result of an evolution in civil law, but rather that of failure to understand, adopt and adhere to the lofty principles of Pythagoras.
Let us jump from ancient Greece to the post-French Revolution West. The West regarded democracy as the epitome of civil law. The word became synonymous with freedom, justice, equality, and many virtues that do not directly relate to the literal meaning of democracy at all.
With adopting democracy, the power of the individual became one exercised in polling and voting. Once again, in essence, if democracy is practised properly, then it can lead to some of those afore-mentioned virtues. There is however a big provisor. The majority will have to make the right judgement.
Some would argue that if the majority wants a demon to rule them, then they should get a demon. This is how democracy works. In reality, a demon cannot and will not rule with justice and his/her rule will create many innocent victims domestically, abroad, or in both.
Even if democracy is practised properly therefore, there is always a major concern about the majority of people choosing the right person for the top job. What if they don’t? What if a country overtaken by fear goes and elects a ruler who is dangerous? After all, Adolf Hitler was elected. Those who would dispute this and argue that Hitler rigged his rise to power can look forward in time and further west to the USA and remember that George W. Bush was not elected only once, but twice!
Who could imagine that a person with very low intelligence and dogmatic fanatic views of the world would get elected to become the strongest man on earth? But it did happen. Who could guarantee that Sarah Palin will not one day become President? The democratic process allows her. All she needs is enough zealots like herself to vote her in.
Furthermore, the good attributes of democracy have been hijacked by the conniving stealthy dictators who found a loophole in the system. That biggest loophole is the so-called two-party system.
When a Western voter goes to the polls, he/she can only choose between two people that the party machines have picked for him/her to choose from. How is this a representation of the will of the people? This is dictatorship under the guise of freedom of choice. The presence of minor parties in Western style democracies does not change the two-party nature of who ends up in power, needless to say that minor parties do not aspire to challenge the foundations and principles of power duopoly, instead they seek to have enough numbers for them to partake in the same game they allege to want to fight against.
Democracy has been elevated in the West to the level of divinity. One can criticise everything and everyone, a mother is legally allowed to abandon her children and walk away if that makes her feel happy, people utter ugly words of blasphemy, they can ridicule their political rivals and leaders and drag them into the gutters, they make fun of the Queen and Prince Charles’ ears, they make fun of religion and all that is holy, sacrilegious and of prominence, but no one would dare say a single word against democracy and democracy became untouchable.
The real difference between the democracy that the West promotes and dictatorship that it fights is that the latter is under the rule of one person or party and the former is under the rule of one of two parties. This is hardly representative of the will of the majority of people.
Countries like the UK have a very developed and fair judicial system. It would be interesting if someone would sue the major parties for hijacking democracy. There is no reason why donations cannot be collected by some enthusiast to list such a hearing in court and set a precedent. Would High Courts rule against the two party system? We do not know, and this prospect has not been tested; at least not yet.
The non-Western world has its own rules of governess. They don’t always work, but they are not archaic and barbaric as the West would like to portray them to be.
Politics in many non-Western developing nations is primarily in the hands of tribal and/or community leaders. Those leaders act like a council of elders. In many situations and settings they are well-received by the country’s national leader (president). The president has to liaise with them to make sure that they are happy with his leadership and that their own subjects are not going to revolt against him.
There is a form of democracy in action; not one that is based on Western criteria, but it exists.
No one is claiming that such systems always work effectively. Dictators will always find ways to rise to power. They always manage to find ways to suppress the masses and capitalize on public fortunes. The point to be made here is that in this system, the two-party system has no place and no need at all.
And why is it that non-Western countries should need to import the Western-style two-party system and what will the benefit be?
After all, how often do elected Western leaders keep their election promises? When they break them, how often do they get held accountable?
If the West brands non-Western leaders as dictators, it does so whilst totally turning a blind eye to lies and deception that its own leaders make in their rise to power.
To elaborate with examples, among the spate of weapons used against Syrian president Bashar Al Assad in the West is that he is allegedly a dictator. This description has the propensity to brand him as an evil un-democratic man, and a guarantee to stir up hatred towards him. This is an easy word to use to incite hatred; just like how in the past the use of words such as heretic, Indian savage, Jew, Communist stirred up similar emotions.
Assad is not Pythagoras, but Obama is not Plato either. In reality, Assad’s popularity brings his station as a president much closer to real democracy than that of Obama.
Western style democracy reeks with the stench of the invasion of Iraq and the Haliburton contracts and has the ugly face of Rumsfeld.
If democracy truly meant human rights, and it doesn’t, and if it’s alleged protector and defender the USA really cared about those values, it would first and foremost feed and house its own homeless who are the victims of the greed of those in power. Before it sends its fighter jets and drones to kill civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, it should be sending food packages and blankets to the residents of Central Park in NYC; those thousands who camp there in subfreezing winter temperatures.
Democracy therefore was not initially the end result of political and ethical reforms of the ancient Greek sages. It was in fact the second best option that the politicians of the time adopted when they realised that the philosophical teachings were going to strip them from power. Democracy was the result of the failure to understand and adopt the wisdom of the great sages.
At best, democracy means giving citizens a say in their governess by enabling them to partake in the decision making of who should their rulers be. But this definition does not intrinsically include justice, morality, freedom of expression, freedom of worship, human rights and all the other attributes that the West insists to associate with democracy.
Western-Style Democracy however is an aberration of democracy; one that does not allow any given individual to compete for the top job on equal par with any other individual. It is a system that has been hijacked and manipulated by the two-party system and the big business that sponsors political parties in pursuit of their own vested interests.
Neither Western-Style Democracy nor democracy is the bee’s knees of human development and pursuit of perfection. They are simply political systems like any other; with their own merits and demerits, strengths and weaknesses, and in adopting them, the West does not have much to be proud of and little argument that supports coercing other nations to adopt them.