Power, Truth and Democracy – An Essay

Who has the power? Where is it? These questions are not related to ‘electrical’ or ‘mechanical’ power, these are about the real power — relative, of course — the power to rule over other humans, the power to call decisive shots, the power of autonomy to do what you wish to do with your time and life, and the authoritative power that you wish to use as and when required over other people – to punish them or reward them.

This is the power that megalomaniacs disguise cleverly in their merciful benevolence in sparing your lives and throwing some breadcrumbs your way so that you can survive and serve them until your breath finally leaves your overused frail physical existence.

Figuratively, in essence, this is the power that people in your subservience may acknowledge in their obsequiousness: ‘Your wish is my command.’ The question is: ‘Where does the power reside within the current 8 billion humans on Earth? And what are its pathways?’  

How to become powerful?

Education and wealth are the two direct ladders to the pinnacle of power. Political power shamelessly piggybacks both powers – wealth and education – initially flirting with them and finally subjugating them both. To a more or less extent, all three powers intertwine eventually in the top tiers of the power hierarchy where the sly rule.

As per an OECD report, the number of tertiary-educated humans in the world may currently be around 200 million, projected to increase to about 300 million by 2030. In terms of wealth, the top 1-percent of the wealthiest humans own more than 50-percent of the world wealth.

In terms of raw political power, that is, the power emboldens powerful politicians – the human gods – to shape, reshape or obliterate less-privileged humans — if one assumes, say, 100,000 powerful politicians in each of the 200 countries (approximated) in the world, the world may have around 20 million human gods. [Note: There are around 206 nations in the world but the number is UN member countries is less than 200.] Considering the current world population as 8 billion (and growing), the human gods constitute around 0.25-percent of the world population.

In summary, therefore, we can deduce that about 0.25 to 2.5-percent of the humans rule the planet. Although, we may call them human gods in the context of the subject matter, they also follow a merciless hierarchical structure within their god world, with only a handful of them right at the top, whom we may call the Supreme Gods (Shah-en-Shah). Their whims and wishes influence most aspects of our mundane lives, as illustrated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Regardless of the hierarchy of the power, and the wide power differential within the pyramid, it is the bottom 90-percent of the humanity that keeps the upper 10-percent humans alive. Undoubtedly, without the invaluable input and the hard work of those 90-percent lower-tier humans every second of the day, the upper-tier 10-percent humans would not be able to enjoy their relatively much privileged lives. As a queen bee loses her relevance and status without the working bees, the human gods would also lose their privileges immediately if the humans they feed on – the cannon fodder – stop workings. So, in reality, to evade reaction, and sustain and keep the power pyramid standing, the human gods strive to nurture the power and wealth differential. They attribute the misfortunes of the less privileged to their karma and destiny.

You alone can figure out where you stand? Is your autonomy limited to your bedroom and / or bathroom? What did Covid-19 pandemic teach you?

Where is the truth?

The just released Netflix documentary series on MH 370, albeit educational, has raised further questions on the disappearance of the missing plane. Whilst it has further heightened the intrigue about the mysterious disappearance of the plane, especially in this day and age of technology of all sorts, it sheds a sickening light on the lack of authenticity of the stories constantly being fed to the common man by human gods.

What is the truth? Why only a few know it? Is there anything like the ‘absolute’ truth or is it mainly subjective and subservient to the strength and the ownership of ‘power’ — military, wealth, political? Does the ‘people’ power in majoritarianism also create its own version of the truth that may not be in sync with the ‘absolute’ truth?

These are important questions.

Same questions apply to the definitions of ‘good’ and ‘righteousness’. Apart from their text book definitions, are these terms also practically subjective and subservient to religions, cultures, nations, and power (not ‘electric’ power, of course. Who defines them? What defines them? Do our selfish interests override their absolute, universal meanings?

Acting and politics go together!

We political animals may claim to be civil, caring, responsible and mature, and part of a large global family, which, in essence, is only for our economic (or strategic) interests.

We deliberately turn our eyes from many marginalised, hapless humans who suffer hopelessly in countries we forge close economic and strategic relationships with. Mysteriously, however, our eyes open selectively for highlighting similar human atrocities in countries that we find difficult to exploit, we impose sanctions on them and even threaten to wield a stick on them at a time of our choosing.  

Our fake, multiple personalities illustrate we political animals also graduate from excellent film acting institutes. No surprises, therefore, we political animals are more of good actors than genuine leaders. We know how to befool unsuspecting citizens who trust us with their precious vote. We know how to shed crocodile tears when we need empathy from our voters.

Shouldn’t there be a special category of Oscar awards for acknowledging politicians for their outstanding ‘acting’ skills? Or, for that matter, also a global award, equivalent to a Nobel prize, for best ‘lying’ skills?

A geopolitical circus!  

What did the recent G20 conference in India achieves anything substantial or was it only a show or a taxpayer funded holiday for the attendees?

Were the participants committed to bringing some sense of stability to the world? Did they have the will and the sincerity to resolve some existential problems that have been created in essence, in the first place, by some of them? Did all participants return home with a win? If not, will the geo-political polarity grow further? If yes, will the destabilizing tensions across the planet diffuse, at least for a while?

More specifically, did the US (Ukraine) and Russia both win at the conference? If not, why not? Will China’s diplomatic influence achieve a much-needed breakthrough and truce in Ukraine? But what about growing US-China tensions? In the midst of all this, what will be India’s role?

These are important questions. But their answers will be varied, spread widely across the geo-political spectrum, which means there is no one truth but many truths, mostly subjective. Perhaps, the Supreme Gods know the absolute truth.

Sad but true!

We live in a warring world. The soldiers (from either side) brave elements and miss their families, wondering if they will survive another day of the war. The arms dealers and the war players — politicians and war strategists — wine and dine in the comfort and safety of their castles, planning how to prolong the war and create more conflicts elsewhere.

The fallen ones are only the soldiers, and not the politicians who send them to war. The devastated ones are only the affected families who have lost their loved ones and not the self-aggrandizing leaders. The war players move on, from one war to another. We remote bystanders too move on, from one story to another.

Soldiers may be called patriots, some unfortunate ones may perhaps be remembered as martyrs, and the politicians may be regarded as great leaders.  Only the affected families of the fallen soldiers from either side know what happened, they alone suffer, they alone cry with pain and mourn their losses. 

In the amidst of all this, the hapless citizens suffer, helplessly, witnessing the loss of precious lives of their family members and their hard-earned property.

The weapons’ manufactures and human gods see economic opportunities in war. Therefore, is war a necessary evil? Why is destruction seen a necessary precursor to reconstruction. Is death necessary for life?

Is democracy what it seems to be on the surface?

Elections alone do not make a democracy. Not only free, fearless and fair elections, but also the total autonomy of the vital institutions of democracy — judiciary (law and order), central bank, electoral commission and media — constitute a democracy.

A full and vibrant democracy never allows the Executive or the Legislative or any other agency — muscle or social or religious or capitalistic — to coerce or influence or tamper with the institutions of democracy. In the absence of autonomy and good health of the institutions and, most importantly, the freedom of expression to all citizens (not only of some), democracy also does not exist.

A genuine relationship between politicians and voters requires the politicians to do 80-percent listening and 20-perecent talking.  In a democracy, a voter is the boss, and not the other way round. Voters elect politicians and pay taxes for their lifelong comfortable living and travel.  

Did you ever request your MP or the leader, who received your sacred vote, for a meeting? If yes, did you ever receive any response? In exchange to favours – explicit or implicit – tangible or intangible – engaging intermediaries – political influencers, activists and brokers – to assist you in meeting with your political leader does not constitute a democracy.

Has your political leader dedicated some time in a week (or a month or a year) for audience with the voters? How often does your political leader visit your home (or your street or suburb or city or state) to meet and listen to you? Most of the readers may possibly have a ‘no’ to these questions.

One-way monologues or talking ‘to or at’ the voters in large gatherings, like erstwhile kings, but not meeting or listening to them in person, constitutes an autocracy, not a democracy.

We live lies and myths!

We live several benevolent lies and myths. These include: ‘humans are Nature’s best creation’ and the ‘promise of democracy’. Mother Nature — if She were to think as a human — may actually be seeing us as Her worst blunder and deem our claims as outrageous.

As Nature’s most crafty, greedy and guzzling species, we don’t even spare our own kind. We are the only species that fights itself and acts against Mother Nature. We have invested heavily in our self-destruction.

Power stagnation causes stench!

Stagnation causes stench, flow renders meaning. Movement is life, stagnation is death.

Ideas in the head; blood, fluids and waste matter in the body; money in the economy; water in the pipelines, streams and rivers; sewage in the sewer lines; and air in the open must all flow to be relevant. Where obstructions occur, existential problems arise.

Power and wealth too must cascade down from the top to the bottom rungs of the society or else they cause stench where they stagnate and remain disproportionally high or low. Power turns on itself, so does wealth, if not used benevolently, for the good of all and not only for some.

To conclude

What must happen before we all wake up — collectively, as one global family — at all levels of the global human existence — political, academic and scientific — and attend earnestly to our existential issues, such as, growing wealth differential, poor health infrastructure, poor or lack of education, lack of housing and drinking water, gender issues and, of course, the climate change and the loss of biodiversity?

As the human world divides foolishly itself into leftists and rights, democrats and communists, exacerbated by jingoistic nationalism, religious bigotry and socio-economic polarisations, the existential issues facing us as human race are perilously being overlooked.

We’ll all pay dearly if we don’t collectively wake up soon and proactively act to save our precariously positioned human race. When do we start to help ourselves? When do we wake up before we are fully cooked and consumed?

© Bill K Koul [12 March 2023, Perth, Western Australia]

Copyright © Bill K Koul

3 thoughts on “Power, Truth and Democracy – An Essay

  1. A wake up call for the community which has been put in deep slumber by the gods called politicians and clergy..Our scientists are also playing in the hands of these god’s producing weopens of mass destruction in stead of innovations to combat hunger, diseases and illitracy.

  2. Your essay is thoughtful. Power, truth and democracy have little operative significance in society outside politics. It is politics that gives meaning to these terms. A civilised society cannot function unless it creates institutions wielding some power within well-defined and well-meaning limitations. We cannot keep law and order in a place without the institution of police; we cannot decide what is lawful and what is not without the institution of courts of law, and we cannot legislate progressive laws and do away with archaic and regressive ones unless we elect members to parliament to do so. Therefore, power, truth or democracy are not bad or good per se. But they can become monstrously bad if the people who run the politics use them for their selfish ends.

    The problem is not with power or truth but with the men and women who handle them. The problem is not in the institutions of democracy but with the people who operate these institutions. The institutions of democracy can’t be better than the people who head them. And people can’t be in seats of power unless you elect or select them for those positions.
    Democracy is in a perilous state. The people have begun to refuse to accept the poll verdicts. They resort to violence to thwart the transfer of power. We have witnessed violence in Capitol Hill and, recently, in Brasilia. Many people feel that elections are sham exercises and electoral verdicts are manipulated. So, the problems for democracy are more complex than they appear on the surface.

    Now, the question is, has democracy run its course and become stale as a form of government? I don’t think we can have a better state of government than democracy. I don’t deny accepting that people are feeling disgusted with democracy. The cause of anger and disgust in people is due to their deteriorating economic welfare and loss of hope for a brighter future. The free market economy is not working, as the name suggests. It has degenerated into the club of the rich managed by the rich for the rich. The social disparity and income inequality between the rich and the poor have widened. The onus of lagging in economic prosperity is insidiously put by the wily rich on the gullible poor. This has led to a loss of hope and voice among the lower-income people . The trickle-down theory in India has failed. These things have led to a loss of hope and voice among the lower-income group people. The nexus between big business and politics has grown to the extent that big business regulates government. I am not against capitalism, but unregulated capitalism would destroy democracy and make way for parochialism, protectionism and authoritarianism. In today’s world, we are witnessing growing protectionism and parochialism, which are more signs of political failures than anything else. Under the circumstances, it is not easy for people to wrest back power from big business and keep democracy ticking.

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