Pitfalls of Democracy

According to American propaganda, democracy is the cure for the world’s ills.

While I would also rank democracy as among the most valuable developments of humanity, it seems we might want to work out some of the kinks before we thrust it upon everyone else.

With alarming frequency we hear of violence in countries where elections have just been held. The current protest in Kenya centers around the fairness of the elections. A perfectly reasonable concern. Brings to mind our own elections, the 2000 Presidential election in particular being an instance in which the validity of the announced results does not hold the confidence of the constituency. If we, in our “advanced” state of civilization, continue to suffer from hanging-chad-itis, how do we expect countries with a bit less technology to fare?

And speaking of trusting the government, Americans with their Watergate-inspired wariness do not realize the profound level of mistrust that a citizenry can suffer after being tortured, disappeared and/or killed for participation in the political process.

Assuming a fair election, there is another sticky point that we fail to advertise to prospective users of democracy: somebody has to lose… and live with it. There is no problem convincing people who have been silenced and oppressed for decades that a better system would be one in which they have a voice and a choice, namely, democracy. However, there is also the distinct possibility that one’s favorite candidate, law, measure or proposal will be voted down, and you are just going to have to deal with it until the next election.

For us Americans, we are sophisticated enough, we take it in stride. Four more years of W? No problem. What else is on tv?

But imagine how it is for people for whom democracy is still a new and fresh idea: being able to have a say and make decisions that will impact their world. But, oh, too bad, you lose. Maybe next time?

After coming so close to realizing a heartfelt dream, whether it is for freedom of press, economic justice, or perhaps trustworthy, responsible leadership, now they must sit quietly with an unfulfilled hope of change. And without hundreds of satellite channels to distract them.

It may be that all these election-related issues are a better kettle of fish than whatever the citizens were faced with before their imperfect democracy. In any event, I hope we figure out a way to make the brilliant plan of democracy actually functional in the real world.

Meanwhile, do let’s stop ramming it down people’s throats.

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