Will liberal democracy survive?

The largest democracies on Earth will decide if liberal democracy will survive in the face of growing authoritarianism, which seems to be infectious and spreading fast, and becoming more and more acceptable in the democratic world. Alarmingly, even the best of free and fair democracies consciously turn a blind eye to flawed, authoritarian democracies, seemingly for material and geo-strategic gains. Sadly, the interest-based geo-relationships have eroded the principles-based geo-relationships. Capitalism rules!

The concept and mechanism of liberal democracy, as well as its tenacity and resilience, are currently under immense stress from both sides of the political divide – the so-called leftists and the so-called rightists. Thanks to the far right and far left factions of political parties, a more authoritarian form of democracy has suddenly emerged, which is interwoven with capitalism, cronyism and nationalism, shamelessly driven by religion and ethnicity in parts of the world.

It may seem the world is drifting aimlessly but surely regressing to shades of past tribalistic and authoritarian states of the world, whilst an overwhelming large portion of the humanity continues to be ruled and struggles to survive.

As democratically elected leaders, sworn to serve, surreptitiously empower themselves to rule over their subjects like archaic monarchs, the foundation and pillars of democracy — the institutions — struggle to remain autonomous after being pushed by ideologically-driven politicians and parties who thrive and prosper on the divide and rule mantra.  

On a brighter note, the US, which is unequivocally the oldest democracy of the industrialized world, has just proven again why it is what it is claimed to be. Its justice system did not surrender to President Trump; instead, he had to surrender to the US justice system.

A country where the law and order do not bend or bow to an individual’s position or status, irrespective of how wealthy or powerful that individual may be, deserves to be called the ‘mother’ of modern democracy, and not an archaic monarchy.

The US has never claimed to be the mother of democracy.

Unlike the US, India has lately been claiming to be the mother of democracy. The sole reason may be its new status as the most populated country on Earth, with more than 1.4 billion souls struggling to make both ends meet, with around 0.8 billion poor people receiving free ration. India’s claim is not only audacious but highly questionable. The Indian subcontinent (to which the present-day Pakistan and Bangladesh also belonged) blatantly practiced a patriarchal system, intertwined with a questionable hierarchal caste system, with complete subservience under archaic monarchies for several millennia. About six hundred Rajas and Maharajahs autocratically ruled the masses long before the British arrived. Notably, over the past few years, due to a phenomenal rise in the Hindutva (the Hindu nationalism) after 2014. India has been sliding on the parameters of democracy, as reflected by a significant erosion of autonomy of its institutions, civil liberties and the freedom of expression. Notably, the mainstream media in India is seen as an extension of the government. Of late, in its attempts to remove the legacies of the British era, India has also been actively promoting a name change of the country (Bharat) and calling for a new constitution.

A country’s constitution defines the overall character and promises, hopes and aspirations, securities, and rights and responsibilities of the peoples of a nation. Normally, all citizens of a nation should know their constitution from cover to cover, but that does not happen. It can be safely assumed that not more than one-percent citizens of any country would have ever read their constitution. For illustration, Australian population is currently around 26 million souls and the Australian Constitution is a simple yet a powerful 50-page document (about 10 thousand words). Other than the Constitutional Law experts, law academics and legal practitioners, not many Australians would be expected to have ever read their constitution, yet it provides all Australians the required security, human rights and civil liberties.

Now imagine India, a country about 55 times more populated than Australia, with a book of constitution 15 times larger! Not many Indians would have read their constitution! So, who is calling for a new constitution in India? Of course, not the common masses who may have no idea about it. Therefore, is a privileged, wealthy and powerful minority of Indians planning to further empower itself to enjoy an absolute constitutional control over the overwhelming majority of Indians who slog every day to meet their both ends meet? Obviously, the new constitution will be conceived and designed for benefiting solely the privileged individuals who wish to empower themselves further and keep ruling over the struggling billion without any resistance.

Blah, blah, blah … blabbering blah, blah, blah … gibberish! Some non-performing politicians never stop blabbering, fooling people and stealing shamelessly from hardworking taxpayers — votes, peace and wellness, wealth and credit from those who deserve it more.

Recently, a stomach-churning video clip emerged from India, which showed a middle-aged, primary-school, female teacher (from the majority community) ordering her students to take turns and slap their classmate, whose only fault was that he belonged to the minority Muslim community. The poor victim stood silently and suffered horrendously. Imagine the trauma and mental scars he will carry through the rest of his life. Such act is simply despicable and worth highest condemnation. Who will be responsible for his suffering?

Who and what empowered this female teacher to fall to such a low level? How could she lose her motherly instincts and respect for another human? Is the Mother Earth really turning its polarity? What next, what is happening to us, are we losing our senses and our dignity too fast to recover?

Who will pay for such detestable, insensitive, sectarian act by an unworthy teacher, one who is a woman and presumably a mother too. Unbelievable, this shameful act is extremely shocking on three accounts: (a) the offender is a teacher, (b) the teacher is a female, and (c) the teacher is from India.

The teacher episode took place close on the heels of despicable happenings with a minority Christian community in Manipur since early May 2023, and the killings of four members of the minority Muslim community in a train by a cop from the majority community.

India calls its the ‘mother of democracy’ and the ‘Vishwaguru’ (World Teacher). Will the world follow the Vishvaguru? Notably, the Indian government did not allow the Indian and international journalists to interview the world dignitaries during the recent G20 summit!

Countries that regressively promote or actively tread the path of religious nationalism must learn from history and, in particular, deeply ponder over the current state of two countries, Iran and Pakistan, and how these two counties nosedived quickly after General Zia’s sudden rise to power in Pakistan and Ayatollah Khomeini’s return to Iran (both in 1978-79).

During Shah’s rule (before Khomeini’s return), Iran was considered a modern, secular, strong, respectable and progressive country. It was called the Asian Tiger, the only regional superpower in Asia at that time. Sadly, with the advent of religious nationalism, that status was lost in no time. Does the world know that hundreds of millions of Iranians are desperately trying to undo the emotional decision of their ancestors, who supported religious nationalism in 1978-1979, and currently fighting back to reclaim their lives, redeem their birthrights, and liberate themselves from an autocratic, religious regime? Similar is the situation in Pakistan, which is almost a failed state.

Religious nationalism is a proven recipe for disaster and a quick downfall for any country that promotes it. We must never promote the opium in politics or else we will see the emergence of many more Irans and Pakistans.

It may defy logic but must not come as surprising to see that socio-politically empowered people of privilege and status, with belly full of food and pockets brimming with money, prefer dysfunctional, oppressive systems to unexplored, possibly better options. Our head is meant to think with clarity, be rational and wise; our heart is meant to beat, be loving, compassionate, empathetic and caring; and our stomach is meant accommodate our food and help in its digestion. What happens if these roles get cross-wired? If one is not able to use one’s head for what it is supposed to do, disaster happens.

People stick to the known, howsoever, oppressive or authoritarian that may be and, therefore, are generally wary or shy of the unknown. This mindset of the people only helps the authoritarian rulers to thrive and prosper.

Politics has gone totally bizarre. No wonder most politicians are distrusted and detested by all those who are gifted by Mother Nature with open eyes, ears and, most importantly, the ability to think deeply and rationally. Consumed by an overwhelming desire to aggrandize themselves, these politicians fail to understand a point comes in every politician’s life beyond which their behavior becomes too predictable and their words sound nothing but gibberish. Sadly, their self-respect abandons them. Megalomaniacs never learn!

© Bill K Koul [11 September 2023, Perth, Western Australia]

Copyright © Bill K Koul

3 thoughts on “Will liberal democracy survive?

  1. It would seem to me then, that inclusivity is the key to both prosperity and political stability. Going beyond the moral virtue inherent in including diverse groups within the national enterprise, this allows a more optimal distribution of human capital throughout an economy.

    Moreover, I would argue that megalomaniacs learn and adapt. Donald Trump is a case in point. He was a democrat-supporter when that suited him, only to become extremely conservative when he needed to. These decisions were made in service of his own interests, and at the expense of those who expect him to solve problems that he struggles to understand or is ill-equipped to overcome.

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