Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Wolves, sheep and why democracy is the delusion of our time

I believe it was Benjamin Franklin who defined democracy as a situation where two wolves and a sheep vote to decide what's for dinner. Apparently such definition and situation are perfectly acceptable to Dinesh D'Souza. Here it is, in his words:

So why does the left hate democracy in the Muslim world? The reason is simple. Muslims are socially conservative and generally want a greater role for Islam in their private and public lives. Consequently Muslim democracies are likely to be more conservative socially than they are when secular despots rule them. The left fears Muslim democracy because it is terrified of Muslim values, especially sharia or Muslim holy law. Feminists and gays are not likely to fare very well under Muslim holy law.
When Iraqis rejected secular candidates and voted for a party that pledged to have sharia, at least in some forms of domestic law, the New York TImes howled that democracy could be "consigning Iraqi women to a life of subjugation." Columnist Maureen Dowd warned that "the Iraqi election may actually be making things worse" because "it is going to expand the control of the Shia theocrats." These complaints might have some plausibility if women or Sunnis were not permitted to vote. But women and men both voted for the Dawa party, and so essentially the Times and Dowd were arguing that if Iraqis don't want equal roles for men and women, their democracy is a sham.

Want to opress women, curb the religious and political rights of non-muslims, force them to pay the poll tax? No problem, just vote it in power and everything is just fine. D'Souza inadvertantly has shown everything that is wrong with contemporary promoters of "democracy spreading" and democracy in general. The focus point of the former is the process. In fact, it is the only thing they have in mind. So as long as the process is fulfilled everything else is secondary. It does not matter that the results of the process may leave a good portion of the population disenfranchised or even in serious danger.But how, they ask, do we determine what is right for people to vote? Their question further reveals how narrowly do they look on democracy.

They all simply refuse to see that democracy is much more then a mere process. It requires certain moral and social condition for it to work for the benefits of a country which it rules. One needs to have a general population culture of individualism, natural morality and respect for personal liberties and above all rights which are unassailable. Also, a country ruled by democratic principles is required to have a stable and strong middle class. Without one of the two conditions met the democratic process at best produces a contest of who pulls the biggest rabble among several demoagogues or at worst gives you a governement bent on abolishing the very process that put it in power.

Without traditional values that superceed the process or if such traditional values are antithetical to it, democracy in the long run dooms a nation it rules or brings about a dictatorship that is seen as a bulwark agains impending disaster. Examples of both are numerous in history throughout the world, and some have brought disastrous consequences. Let's not look for easy answers but stay analytical. Or suffer the consequences.

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