By T.S. Khanna
Alamo, CA: Historically, political ideas about democracy gained currency in the periods of crisis. In most cases, crisis promoted the mental intensity of the public to a high pitch. Political leaders seized the opportunity. They invoked the power of God to justify and sanctify their political ideologies, creating democratic constitutions. All those, who fought for the cause of freedom, must be honored as the ornaments of humanity.
Usually, measures adopted during emergency are just sufficient to meet the need of the hour. They are strengthened or completed after the crisis is over. However, the democratic ideas outlasting the crisis have not been critically examined to shore up their strength and evaluate their side-effects or adverse-effects, mostly because of the associated sanctity and resistance of the vested interests.
Practically, all democratic systems have been established under similar conditions with the main emphasis on individual rights and freedom. Contrary to the common belief, democracy, in spite of its claims and dreams, is not a panacea to all social ills. The emphasis on individual rights and freedom, without commensurate responsibility and accountability, creates its own set of social ills, not always resolvable through democratic means. Just as “ …power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely..”, freedom defies justice and absolute freedom defies justice absolutely. Freedom without conscience destroys everything.
Individual rights and freedom cannot be an end in themselves. While they create a condition for social justice, they also tend to atomize the society. They do not move the nation toward a common purpose or national unity. This weakness is inherent in all democratic systems.
The field of human intellect is full of opposing logic. All aspects of democracy do not have the support of irrefutable logic. Some of the ideas with limited shelf life and some with limited applicability, have not been critically examined. Democratic constitutions carry no provisions to make distinctions or for flexibility to counter varying situations.
The case in point is that of the foreign terrorists of 9/11 and the explosive underwear terrorist caught red-handed in the airplane on December 25, 2009, near Detroit, Michigan. There can be no simpler illustration of mental midget-dwarfs to which ideological rigidity has reduced our constitutionalists in power positions. They have insisted on giving Miranda rights and civil court trials to the proven foreign enemies of the nation. At the peril of the national security, they justify their position by the letter of the law, ignoring the intent and the spirit of the law.
Under changed conditions, democratic systems have experienced noticeable weaknesses but ignore them. The leadership usually considers them as imponderable and axiomatic by force of settled habits.
In this state of complacency and false sense of security, democratic systems tend to lose grip on the real time situation and on vision of the future. They are becoming vulnerable by ignoring their flaws. Continued neglect of the flaws can create a crisis of their own making. Strength of a chain lies in its weakest link. Democratic systems can lose it all if they do not identify and rectify their weak links. Not caring to see one’s flaws is the biggest flaw.
Further, democratic political culture does not lend itself to maintaining and strengthening national unity. Democratic approach to solving problems is shaped by brokerage process of partisan debates and disputes for give and take (mutual back scratching) compromises. The problems that do not fall within the purview of the prevailing political culture get ignored or tackled erratically, e.g., foreign policy, economic policy, trade and commerce.
Democratic systems do not include non-partisan instrumentation for setting and pursuing national goal or national unity. This condition nurtures economic and social conflicts.
Here, only a few scratched surface flaws are indicated at a glance to trigger the reader’s interest.
Quite often, our euphoria and zeal for democracy throw us off accuracy of judgment for the measures necessary to protect it. Politics may be based on human reasoning, but must be adjusted to human nature.
In an effort to make democratic systems stronger with the benefit of new knowledge gained by experience under the changed conditions, we need to sharpen and clarify certain vulnerable themes based on democratic ideology.
It is about time to set aside sacred cows and use contingency approach for security of the people and protection of democracy.