Friday, December 02, 2005

Is Democracy a dirty word?

One would hope not, yet recent history has shown how often this noble concept has been sullied by misrepresentation and in today’s world how those that use it or should I say use it in name only often have no concept as to its actual meaning.

The basis of this post was raised by this article; it has also been liberally borrowed from.

Lets start by backtracking some years to the inception of the United States, as they expanded into the interior the slave owners and land hungry business owners did so under the guise of democracy and freedom, I doubt the native American Indians or Mexicans would agree. During the First World War Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the US involvement in the First World War would “make the world safe for democracy." This is perhaps one of the more accurate uses of the term, though the end result was anything but.

Post Second World War as the Soviet’s gobbled up large chunks of Eastern Europe the new governments were called People’s Democracies, which of course no one would for a second consider them to be so, well no one I know.

Since then the debasement of the term and meaning of Democracy has been the corner stone of so much of the United States expansionist/imperialist policies, a nation that specialises in nation deconstruction, rebuilding is not a concept they have neither any understanding nor mastering of.

The Cold War was also seen and promoted by the US as a fight for freedom and democracy. And most subsequent US involvement in other nations affairs have all been passed off under a variety of ruses with the D word always being touted as reason for and justification of any and all foreign policy initiatives.

What would the peoples of Mossadeq's Iran, Arbenz's Guatemala, and Allende's Chile have to say about the US concept of Democracy, three democratic nations that were overthrown and replaced with vicious dictatorships thanks to the freedom loving USA, or I should say US administrations.

Even today’s president a huge promoter of Democracy cannot do much more than sully the word, for his actual appointment as President is not a sign of a healthy democracy but rather how one can subvert the democratic practice o get the result one desires. A bit of reading about the last two Presidential elections has more than enough reading to make the most avid promoter of Democracy wonder where things went wrong.

Since September 11, a date that we world watchers always come back to, its a date that will go down in history as being a sad day for anyone who cherishes Democracy.

Would modern day Iraq, be in the state it is in if the nations comprising the Coalition of The Willing had listened to what the public were saying – you know representing constituents wishes? That weird old Democratic premise, is it antiquated to do as the people desire?

Well possibly some nations would still be involved, the US for sure initially were all up for some revenge, and here I can’t help but understand and agree, that something had to happen post those horrific attacks. Just not the courses of action they did take and that have impacted on just about every soul on the planet.

Anyway Iraq, Spain for example would never have been there in the first place if the then leaders had taken public opinion into account – they later paid for that decision with the Madrid bombings - a high price to pay by them that didn’t want to be there in the first place.

Have the democratic elections in Afghanistan done anything to promote democracy? I would say no, the evidence is stacked very high against that election being either free or representative of the peoples wish. Is Afghanistan better off without the Taliban - unfortunately not. Are the world’s drug addicts better off – too bloody right!

Has the subsequent actions of the Coalition since the initial invasion of Iraq done anything to push and promote democracy, I would strong suggest not. The elections in a couple of weeks will be heralded as a victory for democracy and somewhere behind the rhetoric will be a strong hint of corruption, foul play and the stench of regression for the average Iraqi. Who wins is immaterial in many ways, for the victors are the shareholders in British and US corporations, them ‘rebuilding’ the country and preparing to rape that nation’s oil industry. They don’t need to vote for the elections will go their way, no matter what. That’s not Democracy.

Has the will of the American people been listened to over what’s happening in Iraq? No, yet opinion polls show the majority of Americans feel they were lied to over Iraq’s WMD, involvement in the terrorist attacks of September 11 and well just about everything concerned with the pre and post invasion plans (or non plans) of the current Whitehouse regime. Let’s not even start on the criminal way that their own citizens were handled in New Orleans and surrounding areas during and post Hurricane Katrina.

Has it been any better anywhere else? Well I think the British and Australians would be very similar to the US, except in both of these nations there has been more debate and opposition in the hallways of power concerning both of there involvement in Iraq. Not enough perhaps to make a difference but it was there at least and debate was had.

I wonder where the hell has the American’s Democrats been all this time? If anything the lack of a decent opposition to Bush and his cronies’ policies is the biggest stumbling block the American population faces. From my rather naïve viewpoint all I noticed was two parties with very similar polices going to the polls during the last election, where was a the anti war debates? Where was the staunch criticism of current US Foreign Policy? I know there was some but it was hollow compared to the many, many Americans that are fundamentally and vehemently opposed to the initial invasion and every subsequent action of the current White House administration. I know there’s tens of thousands if not tens of millions of American’s who have opposed this whole fiasco since the get go – for I am reliant very often on their commentators for my readings and sources of opinion pieces. Why are they not being listened too?

I was aghast when a New Zealander, Commonwealth secretary-general and Don McKinnon questioned the importance of democracy at the opening of the leaders' summit at the recent CHOGM conference in Malta. A comment that lead to quite a bit of press here, as our Prime Minister Helen Clark took exception to his comments and said so.

Is democracy dead – of course not. Has the term been mishandled and abused by so many to promote less than democratic interests? Yes.

Of course whilst the few examples I’ve given here are all well and good, the debasement of language and its meanings is nothing new especially when in the hands of propaganda merchants.

Hitler’s Germany is testament to this and the way them in power have coerced and manipulated public sentiment ever since he and his cronies perfected many techniques for moulding public sentiment, skills that were not unique to that regime, just one of the better examples of modern employment methods. Hitler’s concept of the “big lie” is worth researching for them who can be bothered. Basically it boils down to the bigger the lie presented to the public the more likely they are to believe it, or something along those lines.

This year I personally have witnessed the debasement of our own Democratic process, yep that small but significant bug bear of mine, the lack of sausage sizzles at our polling booths at this years elections. A small sign we aren’t the country we once were…. How can people make the right personal choices if there’s no chance of a sausage at the end of it? Its no wonder there was no clear winner in our election, its not that us Kiwis don’t know what we want, it’s that we’re easily confused when things aren’t as they should be. We are a simple lot…

In less than two weeks the Iraqi’s go to the polls, Democracy will not be the winner on the day. For the first time in many years I keep thinking of Orwell’s 1984, for it seems we are heading to a time when this is a accurate reflection of much of the world, not a interesting and thought provoking read.

Remember; never fear to question those that use democracy as a justification for their actions, for behind the veneer is too often self interest and abuse of power, no matter what the level.

I for one am staunchly in support of the notion and concept of a democratic world, one that treasures individual freedoms whilst balancing them with the common good. A world where people are free from fear and live in harmony side by side, regardless of gender, colour or religious belief.

Yet, once again reality and my idealism are so far apart that the universe could squeeze between them with room to spare.

Roll on the weekend, for its officially our summer and the weather has for once agreed with that concept and I’m DJ’ing at a mates 40th, I shall not be democratic in the DJ booth, they the people will get what I want to play and they bloody better enjoy it!

Power corrupts… ain’t that the truth!

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