Friday, December 20, 2013

The Unarmed Democracy

A friend of mine often disagree with me. He also thinks that I have disproportionate influence. Well here it is then, his opinion on something that I have great faith in. Bouquets and brickbats are welcome.



In my country, India, if you talk to the urban intellectuals most of the times they would cite the lack of education as the major problem of the country. Rarely, they would say that the huge population is the problem (which underlies almost every other problem in India). Many people –and this one is especially popular now a days- would say it’s corruption. Some would say it is lack of good laws. Others would point out failing to enforce them as the real problem.

Whatever the problem, most of us want the government to solve them. The idea is quite logical. The only entity with “legal” power to effect any change is the government. However, in India the government is structured in such a way that it could please all the ethnicities and castes. The constitution (which was supposedly designed to eradicate the infamous caste system) ensures that. Most of the Indians would agree that the government is limited in many ways while making decisions. It has to take into account the emotions of all its subjects. It cannot take any decision that in any way offends or hurts any ethnicity, religion, caste etc. This sounds like a heavenly arrangement; nevertheless there is something very sinister about it. If your country respects all religions and my religion is murder, you are in a problem. If your country respects every belief and my belief is in the caste system, you cannot even think of eradicating it. If your country respects all cultures and my culture is human sacrifice you are badly messed up. Well, these examples may sound too extreme, but they happen every day on a smaller level. The law says I cannot encroach the land belonging to the state, but my religion says making a shrine is the biggest service to God and the constitution gives me the right to practice my religion as it is; so the government, despite the existence of the said law, is impotent when I have encroached its land to construct my shrine. And that is what is happening in India every single second in one way or another.

Many “intellectuals”, or not-so-intellectual people, would agree that, depending on their ideology and political inclination, that some form of stronger government is needed. This idea has become particularly popular lately. They would say that unless that happens no change could be brought about. It is a very logical and correct thought. Very similar to the one that Germans had during the existence of Weimar Republic. An impotent government debilitated by “pleasing politics” cannot do much to change a nation of ethnicities so diverse that they could easily be different nations if not continents. Hence, recently the people have started promoting the idea of voting for the politicians that seem to be strong, ruthless and hardliners.

Unfortunately, that is a double edged sword. If you vote for a government that is too strong, it can effect changes undoubtedly, but there would be no way to let it know where and when to stop. One major reason that a powerful government can become too powerful is that the population that elects it is unarmed. It may sound insane, but a government that has an army at its disposal and is too strong about its ideas cannot be controlled by an unarmed population, no matter how long the history of democracy the nation in question has had. I will again take you to the rise of the government that seized power after Weimar Republic failed in Germany. It had very strong ideas, it made the nation grow very fast both financially and industrially and it produced changes when most other liberal governments would have failed. However, soon the government became unstoppable and it led a country of “peacefully unarmed” population to a war that would change both the country and the planet forever in many not-so-pleasing ways.

What I am trying to say is that a constitution like ours that advocates the civilians being totally unarmed has to champion an impotent government because both go hand in hand. The Indian constitution created by people much more wise than I am, ensures that the population has to forever wallow in whatever misery it finds itself in because it can never (thankfully and safely!) have a government that could bring about any noticeable change. If one wants a potent government, one that could overrule the constitution in ways that work for the greater good of the nation (for example, not pleasing every single caste, religion etc. just in order to keep the parliament functioning), one will have to think very seriously about arming the population which would find itself impotent in the face of a democratically elected government that becomes so powerful that it could produce changes and eventually crosses the line and goes beyond what the people electing it originally wanted.

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