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Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Wolf and the Silence of the Lamb

We have to admit it. That democracy is a flawed system within a bigger political pool consisting of systems which are even more flawed is a fact. That we live within a flawed system out of necessity or the lack of a better alternative - as all the other systems are thought to be worse - is disconcerting, to say the least.

The core of democracy is representation. It is a system of governance where the people are represented by representatives who are elected by the people. These representatives then form a government. The government than governs the people. A state is then formed, consisting of the government and the people it governs.

In theory therefore, the people are actually governing themselves. The representatives, who are elected by the people, are the voice of the people. The state therefore is the manifestation of the people's wishes and desires, expressed through the government which consists of the representatives chosen and elected by the people. Abraham Lincoln, in his famed Gettysburg address, thus aptly described his government as "a government of the people, by the people and for the people".

Karl Marx has his utopia, which is a nation where the people work as one towards achieving a common desire. Where individualism and individualistic needs and objectives are suppressed all in the name of the one and only desire, namely the desire of the state, the one state, so to speak. Utopia is therefore not unlike an ant colony. Or a bee colony. But Marx forgets that the suppression of individualism and individualistic needs and objectives is a denial, and in fact is a transgression of liberty which the state is supposed to protect in the first place. How could liberty be protected by mass suppression?

The obvious flaw in Marx's theory of a utopian society makes democracy a very alluring alternative. If at all, it pushes to the fore the false notion that liberty is the product of democracy, when in fact democracy is just but one of the many (flawed) ways of protecting liberty. Liberty is not caused by democracy. It rather is the cause for democracy.

That brings us to some sobering thoughts. Can liberty be usurped by democracy? Is it possible for a democracy to destroy liberty in itself? In that event, what will happen to democracy? Can it exist without liberty?

The obvious flaw in the theory of democracy, to my mind, is the emphasis it gives to the voice of the people who form the majority. I am of course mindful that the utilitarian principle by Jeremy Bentham posits that an act or policy which brings the most happiness to the greatest number of people would be a good act. Such act, being good, would jurisprudentially, at least, be legally justified. If we take that position to its logical conclusion, the Bosnian massacre would then be a good act. It could then be argued that it was an act of the elected Serbian government which presumably had the support of the majority of the Serbian people. It could further be argued that the objective of that act was to establish a new territory and border thus giving the greatest happiness to the greatest number of the people. Never mind the rights of the Bosnian minority. They were terrorised, tortured, raped and murdered – close to being annihilated - , all in the name of the sovereignty. Was that an acceptable act?

Here lies the biggest weakness of democracy, namely, the trampling of minority rights all in the name of democracy. Viewed from this perspective, democracy is no better than the law of the jungle, where the strong survives and the weak obliterated. If the law of the jungle dictates the right to rule on physical strength, democracy dictates the same on the strength of numbers. The end result is the same, namely, the trampling of minority – the weak – rights.

Let’s face it. The rise of the state to the extent of it overtaking democracy itself is a real threat. We have seen this over and over again. There will come a time, in many civilisations, where the state became the goal rather than the means to the people’s goals and dreams. The end result would be absolutism, where finally the powers centred onto a tiny little dot, namely a figure head or a council of some sorts. The cycle would then continue for a new and fresh struggle for liberty. When achieved, that liberty would again found a democracy. And a new state would be born.

In modern times however, the rise of the state and the taking over of the people’s voices and rights, is much more refined in its operation. It is much more insidious. Democracy lulls people to sleep, especially when that democracy perceivably delivers what it promises, namely, the protection of liberty and materialistic deliverance. Under this model, the sole, or at least the primary, objective of the state would be the maintenance of power within the ruling elite. With that objective, the state or the government would go about “colonising” the minds of the people through state controlled mass media, spin and propaganda machines.

“A vote for us is a vote for a safer nation”, for example. It could have easily been “a vote for us is a vote for the nation”. But the word “safer” is insidiously crafted in that spin. The message is subliminally implanted. Soon the mind of the people would be colonised. It will be set. It is not safe to vote for somebody else. Power is maintained. Objective achieved. Liberty is supposedly protected, when it is in fact shaped, moulded and controlled.

The colonisation of the mind is but the most insidious and most debilitating form of repression. It is non violent, at least not in a physical way. It operates below the surface. It attacks, invades and conquers the sub-conscious. And all these take place in bright daylight, without realisation. Meanwhile, the achievements of modernisation, materialistic possession and physical development serve to opiate the masses into a deep sense of security and achievements. Soon the people are taken over by a serious addiction. An addiction to the way of life which has been planned organised and served by the state.

“Another project by your benevolent Government”, shouts the signboard. Or “a vote for us would ensure political stability and development”. Which is another way of saying “without us, there won’t be any stability and development.” Which means, you will lose whatever you are having now and you will be in trouble. And the conclusion is, “you have no choice but to vote for us!”

Colonisation of the mind is then complete when the people get used to their everyday life. A life courtesy of the ruling elite. Courtesy of the state. And the people would then be lauded by the ruling elite for their wisdom in choosing a government who made it all possible. The people have, by this time, been a victim to their own liberty. They are entrapped and enslaved by the very liberty which they seek the state to protect. It is ironical that democracy could therefore be a premise to absolutism which ultimately end with liberalised slavery.

Ibn Khaldun, in “Muqadimmah” observed that communal spirit (“assabiya”) would band together people from different tribes into a political force. He however noted that as success being achieved and unbridled wealth and good life followed, the people would lose their strength and their ability to fight. Even national security would be taken care of by foreigners as the people would not even want to be soldiers anymore. The leaders would be bathed in opulence, corruption and greed. The good life would soon consume the whole state and that state would soon crumble. It will then give way to newer state which were controlled by another tribe or a group of tribes who were as hungry as the first tribe. The whole cycle would then repeat itself throughout history.

Closer to our time, Herbert Macuse in “One Dimensional Man” would lament the fact that the materialistic world in the post-industrial era would soon reduce the people into some kind of zombies. He would draw a portrait of a "comfortable, smooth, reasonable, democratic unfreedom" society where all the technological means provided by our civilisation to free the individual from toil and ignorance would be perversely used to enslave us. The result of all these would be the birth of a one dimensional man, a man who is a happy, enterprising creature who "cannot imagine a qualitatively different universe of discourse and action" than the one he inhabits. He takes his post-industrial world as a given, and seeks to thrive within its sturdy factual boundaries. The one-dimensional man regards society's dazzling array of lifestyles and career options as examples of free choice, rather than what they truly are - false needs that confine his consciousness.

Finally, under the conditions of a mass society, “the multi-dimensional dynamic by which the individual attained and maintained his own balance between autonomy and heteronomy, freedom and repression, pleasure and pain, has given way to a one-dimensional static identification of the individual with the others and with the administered reality principle.”

Be that as it may, democracy, with all its frailties and deformities, is still the best bet that we have. We must always bear in mind that democracy is not about the right to vote or to elect our representatives. It is about our wishes, desires and needs as a member of a society. When we vote and elect, we are appointing a person in whom we would entrust such wishes, desires and needs. That is what democracy is all about.

Democracy can work and work well if, and only if:

· We maintain our awareness and are quick to remind our representatives of our rights and their duties.

· The system of check and balance imbued in our democracy is well observed and is not destroyed. On this, it is disheartening to see that in our country, the Court has encroached on the Legislature recently. It is of further concern that no less than our Federal Court had last year concluded that the doctrine of separation of powers is not part and parcel of our Constitution.

· We must divide and rule our so called leaders. A strong opposition is needed in the Legislature in order to provide an inherent check and balance mechanism in the Legislature itself.

· Our displeasures must be shown where it hurts the most, namely, at the ballot boxes. Once we are not happy with the performance of our elected representative, we must change him or her, regardless of the party he or she comes from.

· We must not support parties or characters. We must support whatever is good for us and for our society. We give credit wherever it is due. For example, the recent cabinet decision on the child conversion issue must be lauded as it reflects progressive thinking.

Let’s not allow the wolf, whom we have chosen to protect our lambs from growing too big and ferocious so much so that it starts eating the lambs which it was supposed to protect in the first place.

We are the shepherd. We decide.

10 comments:

Kris said...

Again my friend, you display stunning clarity of thought and communication. And address the very crux of the subject matter. Truly well said!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, very enlightening!! Enjoy your post most of the time.

Makes one puke when we keep hearing from Madhhater that Malaysia needs a Strong Government!!!!

Check and Balance is the key word, my friend!! Thanks!!

donplaypuks® said...

Dear Art

Sorry to digress . Wld appreciate if you could forward this message and publicise it. Tq.


URGENT MESSAGE TO YB LIM KIAT SIANG, DAP & PKR

NOTICE TO REMOVE PERAK SPEAKER

Please get your legal eagles moving on it PRONTO!

If the notice was dated 23rd April 2009 (last Thursday) the it clearly does not comply with the requirement of 14 clear days notice for the proposed State Assembly on 7th may.

If you exclude week-ends and public holidays (e.g. 1st May - labour day) when the State Assembly does not sit, then there's no way that 2nd hand car salesman Camry can comply with the legal requirements of the State Assembly for notice of any motion.

If Camry next resorts to an emergency motion, this can easily be thrown out by YB Sivakumar as 'not being urgent or in the interest of the public!'

So, please investigate and act swiftly especially since every M'sian knows the UMNO MB's appointment is illegal and has not been resolved by the Ipoh High Court.
http://donplaypuks.blogspot.com

donplaypuks® said...

The problem really lies in ourselves when we equate Democracy with Perfection.

No Constitution or rhetoric can guarantee that humans will behave reasonably or act with 'the greater' good principle in mind.

Hence, we must educate the People, and ensure that we have all those Institutions necessary for safeguarding Democracy in place.

One other flaw in Marx and Engels' hypothesis was that of 'to each according to his needs, from each according to his ability'.

Needs have no limits and so the lazy will demand everything while working at half pace and claiming they are exhausted. One only has to see the abuse of the Dole system in UK and France to understand why this policy is so dangerous.

Where have we gone wromg that a CJ can say that the Doctrine of the Separation Powers is not in our Constitution?

Yet that same CJ will say that it is IMPLIED that once a person converts to Islam, then the Civil Courts have no more jurisdiction to hear disputes, regardless of how much the law has been abused.

The rot clearly set in when Dr.M gave the Judiciary a body blow in 1987. Now even the Medical profession is rife with cover ups and spin doctoring to protect the establishment.

We have no need to go deeply into what most think of our Police.

So, what do we do when the ruling democratically body is perceived as a Government of Thieves?

Go back to 1st principles.

Educate and use your vote wisely!

http://donplaypuks.blogspot.com

ps

as to the recent Cabinet decision on conversion of childrens' religions, it is the right one. It may not address all the issues, but as I said, we should not look for perfection. 70% - 80% is sometimes acceptable!

LAT said...

Everything has its time ! The wolf has actually been well fed with the silence-flu-lamb for half the century, come next GE 13 the shepherd will use the C4(balot box)to inject the wolf with lamb-flu booster and lay them in mortuary to Rest in Peace.

Ka Ea Lim said...

Art, I've heard a lot about our politicians. What about writing something about our voters? Would be great to learn about the voter demographics and factors that influence our votes.

1) How many percent of the population actually vote as compared to the percent of those who are registered to vote and those who are eligible to vote?

2) How many percent of women vote?

3) How many percent of youth (from the age of 21 - 35) vote?

4) How much do family and spouse influence individual vote?

5) How much do people understand about the electoral system and constitutional make-up of our country.

6) How many percent of our population actually read the news and how many of these come from mainstream and independent sources?

etc.

Patricia said...

From how I read this, with my warped and cynical mind, I'd say that democracy only works in theory.

In reality, it's not a very pretty picture at all.

art harun said...

Patricia,

Hopes must not be lost. It is the best that we have. We therefore have to make it work.

Patricia said...

'Make it work' - yup, I agree with you there. There's no other choice.

LAT said...

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. Therefore, we do not lose heart.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.

For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are everlasting.

At time we may lose heart but NOT LOSE HOPE !