Peter, Jeremiah Osigbemhe
Final year undergraduate student
Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering
Federal University of Technology, Owerri - Nigeria
Member, Network of Effective African Leaders (NEAL), CSAAEINC.
Democracy – the Bank of Social Demons
There is no doubt that ideas of democracy are among the most celebrated and practiced in the 21st century; be it in the family unit, group of people or an entire nation. The hidden truth is that democracy is like a poison with sugar coating. Before putting clarity to the context in which the words of the above title were used, I must categorically state my position on the subject matter. For me, democracy has done and is doing more harm to our societies than the superficial serenity we feel it offers, and living in a democratic society is tantamount to building castle on a sub-structure reinforced with nuclear bombs. Thus, we cannot afford to risk living in such social society. Democracy, being the bank of social demons, is another way of saying that the unwanted societal phenomena, are supported or breed on the platform (bank) of democracy. Think of all social vices, the ones that are so notorious, which would likely be attributed to spirit beings, called demons? If such become pervasive in the society, the reason is not far-fetched: there is a democratic system of government in place.
The foremost ideas of democracy can be traced back to the Greeks of the 6th century BC. According to the Webster’s New World College Dictionary, democracy is defined as government in which the people hold the ruling power, either directly or through elected representatives, rule by the ruled. The principles of equality of rights, opportunity and treatment, are cited as its attributes. In the words of a former American President, Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), democracy is “government of the people, by the people, for the people”. It is no doubt the most challenging form of government, both for the ruled and the rulers. Hence, one wonders how its authors managed to operate the system. According to history, the Greeks broke their civilization into small cities, like the historical city of Pompeii, each city not more than ten thousand citizens on the average, who voted on all activities of government. It was never a representative democracy. The Greeks ruled themselves absolutely by democracy, notwithstanding the fact that women and slaves, which made up to half of the city’s population, were not allowed to participate in the decision making processes. Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), in one of his statements said, “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except all those other forms that have been tired from time to time”. Therefore, beaming a search-light on democracy, from its origin to date as being practice, is not misplaced and would leave much to be desired.
Systematic study of the origin of democracy, as practiced by the Greeks, highlighted few facts: democracy is designed for a relatively small population size, obviously no nation in today’s world fits into this criterion. Besides, not all humans can participate in the decision making process. If these were the basic tenets from its inception, one simply wonders what amount of modification done on it would make democracy a good system of government. It was flawed from the beginning. The principle of inclusiveness is often mentioned in democracy, but history has it that the Greeks were even more divided under democracy. According to history, the Greek democracy collapse 2,400 years ago as a result of similar social vices our present day democracy is universally experiencing (Icon Books). The system was not enough to sustain unity, as rebel groups often emerged out of grievances. After several adjustments and the ancient meaning of citizenship reviewed, modern Greek democracy has not seized from suffering. This attest that the authors of democracy are finding it difficult to live peaceably with the system - thus, the need for societies world over, to customize its system of governance, not base on the principles of democracy.
The Roman Empire (509 – 27 BC) customized the Greeks ideology of democracy, the government they ran was a representative democracy. Most countries have fashioned their democracy after this pattern, in what is popularly referred to as the parliamentary system of government. This system is essentially discriminatory in many respects. The entire nation can easily be held to ransom by a few who dictate the pace, in the name of representation – negating the ideas of ancient Greek thinkers. Also, major anomaly prevails in advanced democracies like that of the United States of America (USA) which contradicts the gospel of equal right for all humans. A democratic system that puts more voting power on the Electoral College, as against a simple majority, which may be negated by faithless electors, stills refrains the ancient Greek ideals of democracy. This system can plunge a multi-cultural, and religiously divers country into terminal chaos. As the USA become divers with time, their system of governance has essentially place the country on a time bomb.
Having mentioned few lapses inherent in the democratic system of government, (both from its inception, to the contemporary democracies), it is important to mention the dangers of continuously living in society with such system of government; both on the short and long term basis. As indicated earlier, civil wars easily break-out in democratic societies. Countries across the world who simply copied this system of governance have gone into civil wars and some are still fighting, brothers killing themselves for political power. The facts are there for all to see. We definitely cannot live in a democratic society. Besides, crime and criminal tendencies continue to strive in democratic states; irrespectively of the doctrine of the rule of law. The reason is simple - when people feel they have got the right to aspire for power, it is enough breeding ground for a demon to fist upon. By nature, humans are unpredictable, this feeling of democracy can metamorphose into getting power at all cost, which might result to making the society unsafe for habitation. Also, the democratic system has unconsciously created a sense of “above the law”, instead of “under the law” among citizens. A school of thought puts logic to this as saying, since the laws were inclusively made, fear of the law is not the case. You would agree with me that the dangers of continuous stay in such democratic society cannot be over emphasized.
Moreover, it is mostly in a democracy that citizens openly indulge in corrupt acts, knowing fully well that the bureaucracy inherent in the system make it easy to escape justice. I must say that high rates of homicide is prevalent in societies transiting to democracy. Strong democracies also experiences the lowest rate of homicide. The big question is why continue to live in democracy, when we all know that strong democratic institutions continue to be an illusion in most countries of the world, whose elite hide under the name of democracy to serve their selfish interests?
Political instability, uprising, civil wars, Arab Springs, and other forms of violent agitations in Europe, Asia, America and Africa, that make society uninhabitable, have all emanated from countries practicing democracy. Our holy books tell us that the system of government divinely given to man is almost the direct opposite of democracy. How then is it possible to live peaceably in a democratic society? In a message on the International Day of Democracy on 15th September, 2018, the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres said, "Democracy is showing greater strain than at any time in decades". It is high time we told ourselves the truth and relegate the sentiments of contemporary philosophy, as regards democratic governance to the background. Though it is not the intention of this piece to suggest an ideal system of government for countries, it is important to emphasize that the ever increasing socio-political and economic instability in countries of the world can be attributed to this faulty system of governance. Ugly events have shown that the fabrics holding a group of people cannot be sustained with a democracy. It is now impossible to live in a democratic state and be assure that our children’s children are safe in such society, for numerous reasons not x-rayed here. The need for countries to sincerely adopt what suit them most and give over publicized democratic system of government a second thought has become paramount.