Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Fight for More Democracy


Democracy is the worst form of government, except all those others that have been tried. 

- Winston Churchill


The world, or at least its youth, the torchbearers of our society, culture and democracy, are really angry.

They are angry about lack of jobs. They are angry at inflation and price rises. Go to the European countries fighting recession, and there is a strike a day targeting government betrayers and vested interests (namely the financial world) for leaving them high and dry on every front, ruining their prospects for a better tomorrow. China is worried about the repercussions of the inability to absorb millions of fresh graduates in the next few years amid suicides over pathetic salaries for making iPhones. Brazilians were angry over increased bus fares in the light of abysmal low wages.

They are angry about the state of law and order within their countries. Brazil, India and even Nepal have seen massive protests where law and order has been a major topic of debate. China has been bristling over the sexual overtures of their government officials. Turkey has become an inglorious leading light in jailing journalists, authors, painters – basically anyone who can have an opinion. Well, all these other emerging giants are also doing the same by bringing in draconian laws on imprisonment for ‘nuisance’. So aggravated are the youth that they themselves create law and order situations to express their frustrations at the glacial pace of change (or is there anything slower than that) they see happening in front of themselves.  And before I forget, Brazil is also protesting for better public sanitation facilities (that must certainly be a first for a Third World country).

The young are unhappy with their governments, who also contribute by behaving like idiots. By banning coverage, serials, movies, documentaries and what not, the governments only end up provoking the same bunch of ‘young influential minds’ who they think they are protecting. China’s WEIBO is full of anti-government rants that create mirrors despite attempts to block the raging discussions that fire up a country much to the chagrin of the Communist Party officials. France saw its people take to streets over a legislation that would legalize marriage amongst the homosexual people, making a committed government back off within weeks of introducing it in the French National Assembly. Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan thinks he can continue to bully the media into not speaking out against his wolf in sheep’s clothes games over democracy and secular traditions of Turkey. Here in India much like Turkey, our governments at Central and State levels think they can just water cannon and baton their way through people protesting against absolute lack of governance and zero law and order. European leaders have been somewhat better – they wash their hands off when they are to blame in a more convincing manner, which makes me understand just where our Third World politicians gain their lessons in spin-doctoring and repeating a lie so many times it starts to sound like the gospel truth.

What is really going on?

Amidst the seemingly disparate thread of events there is a common underlying factor. In 2010, Chris Kijne made a documentary aptly titled After Democracy that discussed what follows after democracy. It is a worthy question to explore. Societies were supposed to transition from feudalism and autocratic set ups to free, democratic, more representative societies and administrative regimes. At least that is what people like Comte, Marx and Weber thought would happen (each thought of it partially though). But then, if countries across the world are at varying stages of this democratic experiment, why are all of them protesting, almost as if on cue? And once we achieve democracy, then what? Where are we headed to as a world, together?

The crux of the matter perhaps lies in the very definition of the idea of democracy. The word idea is an interesting creature. One of the meanings attributed to it is ‘a concept or mental impression’. The very interesting thing about this ‘concept’ as is with many other concepts is that you cannot hold it within a boundary. Every idea evolves on its own, independent sometimes of its origins and originators. Democracy is one such idea which, much like society and culture is highly fluid and easier to understand than explain. What we are witnessing today across the world leaves to my mind no doubt that this is the start of a process. The rules of engagement within democracies are changing even as we speak. The best part of these protests is that 


  1. It is driven entirely by the young people, the real source of new ideas, a new energy and the ones who bring in change when needed the most;
  2. These protests have been spontaneous, spurred by young men and women who care about what it means to be a citizen in today’s age of modernity and rationality; and 
  3.   The protesters are highly political in their worldviews and are keenly aware of what they want, though this is paralleled by the absence of political affiliation amongst these protesting groups.
These are positive signs, for it shows that a whole new bunch of people are preparing to take over the mantle of political leadership, and are pragmatic about their position in the world. The old guard will eventually have to listen to this new bunch and make way, since the youth of the world has not refrained from challenging the very ideas that the older politicians have put forward. The overarching theme in all these protests is a simple one – involve us. It makes sense, since we never had so many young people on the planet as we do today. 

It is even more ironic that in spite of overall better education, health and life spans than ever before, it is the youth that has borne the brunt of the economic slowdown, wars across the world and violence against which people have been protesting vehemently in several countries. Being part of the political process is imperative for the youth since we have excluded them so much from every other sphere of the national dialogue today. There was a time when the youth drove the global agenda. The wheel has come full circle again. However, this time the youth is not just disillusioned against wars and coup d’états, it also has fresh, bright and innovative ideas of changing the way people are involved in the daily discourse of democracy, government, freedom and society and culture. Failure to involve them now will only cause the whole world to fall apart. The youth of today is fighting for what would be described as more democracy. It needs to be supported by all means if we want to move forward into a brighter future.


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