Democracy as an idea has evolved and expanded over a period of time to take meanings and fundamentals under its fold, it was not previously designed for. If one compares the contemporary understanding of democracy with what it was understood as back when the term was coined; one would not call the latter democracy at all. This paper will call this phenomena ‘extant frame of reference’, where the terms used in the past and the meanings ascribed to it always appear inadequate when seen from present. However, the basic underpinnings of the idea have, more or less, remained the same. The primacy of the people to have a say over the government of the day, is one of the fundamentals that has stuck with democracy perhaps because it enjoys etymological advantage over others. Consequently, it is becoming tougher to define democracy in one single sentence.
Democracy has gained the cult and respect of a religious text where one pays their respect to it regardless of their practices and very few choose to rebuke it openly. Even North Korea conducts a sham election to feign democracy; such is the cult of this idea. Nevertheless, in the present times democracy increasingly appears to be under severe attack across space. Ironically, this is done by the fullest exercise of democratic rights. This is where the faultlines between democracy as a goal and democracy as a process appears the most significant. While the former gives a wider meaning and rich texture to democracy by seeing it as an end, latter understands democracy in its minimalist manifestation or as a means to an end irrespective of the nature of the end achieved. This faultline explains current reality like nothing else. While procedure is important, outcome is something with which people have to live with, so we need to have a comprehensive understanding of democracy rather than the half-baked and namesake ones.
We are living in a time where we are bombarded with information that has, more often than not, little to none use in our life. Cultural critic Neil postman in his work Amusing ourselves to death has called this phenomena “Information glut”, where we have information about everything but we have no idea how to use it. This gap between knowing information and its applicability has created havoc in our times. It has created a sense of impotency and purposelessness in people. While on the one hand, this free flow of information is a gift of democracy, on the other hand, it has become a bane on democracy by creating bunch of agitated and frustrated citizen whose sense of despondency knows no limit. First it giveth, then it taketh away. However, all of this does not mean that we need less democracy or no democracy. It means that we need democracy and democratic ideas more than ever. It is because only a democracy can allow a school or a university space where subversive ideas can flourish and be discussed. Subversion is much more important in our times than ever before for a mob like mentality has overpowered the society. Brazil and India, unfortunately, are some of the examples of such a regress. In places like these where the majority elects a strongman who can uplift them from their miserable conditions, counter voice of conscience becomes all the more important. This voice generally comes from the university and intellectual spaces. And such spaces flourish the most in an open and democratic society.
To answer the question, is it important to live in a democracy? One must imagine a counter-situation of living in an undemocratic state. For imagination sake, even if the latter state has the best leader in the entire world, he/she will not last forever and will have to, eventually, pass on his/her place to someone else, who might be the most corrupt person ever to exist and with the authority over institutions and lack of checks and balances, latter can create havoc in his/her society with people having little to no rights over his/her appointment or removal. We have galore of such examples where the entire population lives at the mercy of the dictator and human rights abuse in such a society are so rampant that it has become normal. Democracy, on the other hand, gives the people power of course correction. It gives people with the room for trial and error and the golden chance of not err forever. Moreover, democracy in its entirety and maximalist form gives the institution for checks and balances that are required the most in this age of hero worship. Democracy has its ebbs and flows but given a chance of establishing itself, it creates a breeding ground for institution and spaces that can work as its firewall and produce citizen who are the backbone of a free and liberal society.
Global problems like climate change, global warming, terrorism, cyber security needs global solution. Climate change does not care about borders; someone’s action in west has the power to have a devastating effect on someone in the east. With a problem of this magnitude, one cannot afford to live in isolation and a shell-box; it needs a free flow of idea and debate which is not possible with an undemocratic or dictatorial attitude on the part of any government.
To sum up the essay, it is extremely important to live in a democracy. Not because it is the most flawless form of government but because it is the most desirable form of government. Moreover, we need more democracy and not less of it. For instance, electoral democracy is democracy in its minimalist form and it just guarantees the procedural participation of people, whereas democracy in its comprehensive understanding gives people with greater rights on every step of governance. The comprehensive understanding of democracy is the need of the hour and it can be imparted with the resurrection of our schools, our universities and education system that can offer constructive critic against the destructive tide that society tends to take every now and then. Finally, one need not abandon democracy in the face of crisis, in fact we need to reform and reassure that democracy becomes the part of our value system and not only remains as our governance system.