Democracy’s Achilles Heel

.. by Islamuddin

By its very meaning democracy means mob rule where emotions rather than intellect has the final say. Greek philosopher, Plato, considered as the father of Political Science, called democracy as the worst kind of government. Centuries later Allama Iqbal agreed with Plato and stated that in an Islamic system of government brain rather than head count should determine as to who will govern. Aristotle, a pupil of Plato, also echoed his teacher but differentiated between democracy and polity. According to him democracy is bad because it subordinates reason to raw emotion, while in polity reason reigns supreme. Abraham Lincoln defined democracy as government of the people, by the people and for the people. Theoretically it is true but practically it is not the people but big money that determines future government and its continuation. Abraham Lincoln was not aware that his cherished democracy which was supposed to put the people in the center of power would someday be hijacked by the multi-national corporations, who would buy votes for the candidates sponsored by them in return for the protection of their corporate interests. For the poor voters and activists spoil system was invented, whereby supporters of a winning candidate were given lucrative jobs. A US President in the late 19th century was assassinated by a disgruntled job seeker who had been promised job during the election campaign but the promise was not kept. This led to the establishment of Public Service Commission for recruiting civil servants on merit but still top jobs were retained as spoils for the blue eyed supporters and financiers. New ways were found to manufacture public opinion in favor of preferred candidates. Think tanks and research institutions were patronized to manufacture consent with the help of corporate media. All avenues for airing genuine public opinion were either blocked or ostracized on grounds of being leftists and fascists. Supporters of the system were radicalized and weaponised to keep the critics in check.

When the third world countries protested against the corporate takeover of media and its one sided propaganda against third world democracies, UNESCO sprang into action and ruled in favor of media regulations to protect indigenous values and systems of government. The US withdrew from UNESCO in protest and brought UNESCO to its knees by stopping funds and creating financial crunch forcing UNESCO to the withdrawal of its earlier decision and to toe the western line. The matter did not end here. The US and its western allies, wedded to the protection of corporate interests, continued to undermine political systems outside the western bloc and finally came up with a New World Order after the collapse of Soviet Union, engineered by the West. The New World Order tacitly accepted the US as the world’s sole exceptional super power, thus ushering in a new era of American exceptionalism where America and anything American became the measure of all things and the rest of the world became US liability where regime change was its divine right in the same way that UK did during the colonial when it arrogated to itself the divine right to civilize the colored races branding them as white man’s burden.

Intoxicated with immense power, not seen before, the US became increasingly arrogant-true embodiment of Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan. Dispensing with the old Monroe Doctrine it now adopted Eisenhower Doctrine and started a campaign of regime change, in which popular nationalist leaders were targeted. In all 91 regime change operations are said to have been undertaken. Almost every regime change operation aimed at protecting corporate interests or to overthrow rulers who dared to stand up against US imperialism. The natural outcome of this policy was the rising gap between rulers and the ruled in countries under the US influence. As a policy, the US encouraged or connived in, the corrupt practices on part of its allies in the third world. A mutually beneficial banking regime was put in place to facilitate the third world leaders to stash away their looted wealth in the safe offshore bank accounts overseen by the US and its Western allies. This new imperialism happened to be more dangerous than the old one because of its subtle and clandestine nature backed up by a powerful media specializing in disinformation, manipulation and fake news. In the US and Europe there are two kinds of media outlets, one catering to larger and the other to local audiences. Voters are embroiled in local issues and fault lines so that they neither have time nor interest to look beyond their counties. This system ensured immunity against public scrutiny thus making foreign policy an exclusive preserves for the corporate funded think tanks and that also without accountability. The government voted to power in this system is obliged to protect the interests of its financiers even if it means manufacturing of wars or letting loose viruses and bacteria to make money. It is therefore not surprising that arms industry, pharmaceuticals, and on-line businesses have flourished at the cost of the consumer during the corona endemic when 99 % paid to enrich the remaining 1 %.

This brings me to the theory propounded by my friend and editor of this online newspaper, Fardad Ali Shah who has been pleading for meritocracy. It is better said than done. He himself has not spelled out the details as to how it can be ensured and in what form of government. I have given some thought to it and have come to the conclusion that Aristotle’s theory of aristocracy comes nearer to Fardad’s version of meritocracy. Both Aristotle and Iqbal believed in aristocracy being the better forms of government, where intellect rather than money constitutes aristocracy. This means that a system based on merit should set higher benchmarks for public representatives than the ones provided for in Article 62 and 63 of our constitution. This principle should also apply to other wielders of power especially in the judiciary holding life and death powers over the citizenry. According to Hazrat Ali a just government by infidels is better that an unjust government by Muslim rulers.

The fact that judges have arrogated to themselves final say in legal and constitutional matters makes it all the more pressing that best people should man our justice system. It is unfortunate that most of our judiciary operates on the strength of patronage. General (retired) Tariq, a decorated general of Pakistan army, aptly pointed out that most of the power wielders in Pakistan are either managed, compromised, corrupted or blackmailed. In other words it would mean that the corporate world has successfully transplanted their model in Pakistan, where public opinion is managed and rulers are left to make money for transfer to the safe havens in the West four being laundered or invested. Once these corrupt members of the oligarchy are exposed, they find ready asylum in countries where their ill-gotten wealth is stashed. The only way out of our present predicament is to get rid of this money- driven democracy and go for a merit driven democracy propounded by Plato and Iqbal. Modern management paradigm speaks of synergy where decisions are to be made through consensus and collective wisdom rather than brute majority. If synergy works in management then it should also work in politics, provided we are able to rise above our petty transitory interests and go for collective good which the founder of modern welfare state Jeremy Bentham calls greatest good for the greatest number. .. Islamuddin, Garm Chashma, Chitral 02 May 2022

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