African Democracy Series: The Beauty of Democracy
This post is the fifth one in a series titled African Democracy that deals with the issues related to democratization process in Africa in the contexts of its historic and contemporary local realities.
Source: Reprint of the post titled The Beauty of Democracy from Ogbunwezeh Blog by Dr. Emmanuel Franklyne Ogbunwezeh. The post underlines the essential responsibility of the Democracy which is equality based on a governance that is independent of financial, religious, social and ethnic affiliations of those who are elected to be “in power”.
Dr. Ogbunweze is a Nigeria-born social and economic ethicist and philosopher interested in politics, society, ecology, social and economic ethics, history, human development, African issues, global governance/sustainability issues, and human rights. He is based in Germany. Dr. Ogbunwezeh is also the African Section’s director at the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR), Frankfurt Germany.
The Beauty of Democracy
Democracy is an essential arena where freedom meets responsibility. It is where potential scaffolds of tyranny are configured to serve as custodians of political integrity. In some political philosophies; the best example being the one championed by Mao Tse Tung; power is seen to flow from the barrel of guns. This happens to be the operative metaphysic of police states historically personified in Soviet Union for much of its communist history till its implosive disintegration. China’s history from the 1949 Cultural Revolution through the Tianamen Square fiasco till date, in spite of the famed economic regeneration of contemporary times, is built on this basis. Hitler’s Gestapo, the Stasi, and other instruments of state terror that ever defaced history’s face are also historical footnotes to this metaphysic.
Some other ideological universes construe power as best left in the hands of the few best brains, which are empowered by the fact of their aptitude to hold and exercise power on behalf of all. This is envisaged to grant the felicity, peace and progress to the commonweal. This is the aristocratic province of Plato’s philosopher King. It remains arguable whether medieval “kings by divine right”, inquisitorial theocracies, and other such political monstrosities constitute wonderful examples of what Plato envisaged for his Republic. Each way the argument goes, they remain products or by-products of this thought scheme, as was evidenced in Augustine’s later deployment of it, in constructing the triumphal theocracy of his extra-territorial “Civitate Dei”-City of God.
Some other conceptual estates and epistemic authorities take delight in propounding the Orwellian dogma, which equalizes all animals, while making some more equal than others. They are content in peddling and trading on this Orwellian-Darwinistic credo, which harbors hard-core hypocrisy in its nature. This hypocrisy is so dysfunctional that no amount of rhetoric or demagoguery can retire this congenital handicap. Soviet-type communism was its practical incarnation. After some 70 years of unvarnished mangling of freedom, it imploded upon its weight as an extravagant historical failure. This implosion proved once and for all times that every construct built on terror, and dedicated to oppression, is simply waiting for time to take a plunge.
Anarchy prescribes inchoate randomness. Tyranny and all other usurpation and exercise of absolute power, trade on amorphousness and pathological anomie. These are the seeds are designed by default to destroy them. This inheres not only in the fact that these bases of exercising power make peaceful evolution impossible, they make violent revolution an attractive, lucrative and inevitable option.
However, all these vistas represent frontiers of political theory, with practical import of historical relevance. But as history has repeatedly borne witness, none of them agree with the ontological orientations of the human person to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness like democracy does. This inheres in the fact that democracy is the only system of government, which derives its ‘just powers from the consent of the governed’. To this end, it more than any of them, guarantees that the life of man to a great extent is immunized from degenerating into a solitary, nasty, brutish and short experience, consequent on the enthronement of the state of nature, which anarchy commands; or the state of terror (Police states), which tyranny recommends.
“Kings by divine right”, which was the hallmark of medieval monarchy, was a political and religious dogma of political absolutism. This was a perversion of ancient catholic doctrines on monarchy. In this conceptual scheme, the monarch was construed as God’s vice agent. This kind of political philosophy constructed the feudalistic exploitative enterprise; presided over the crusades; as well as the abomination of the inquisition-where opponents were burnt at stake as human barbecue, simply for disagreeing or holding contrary opinion from that hawked by the ecclesiastical establishment, which is populated by impious neurotics. Soviet-style communism was dead on arrival. It masqueraded elitist greed as well as their avid deception and manipulation of the masses. It was tyranny in populist clothes; the kind which insulted history with Stalin’s gulags and other such desecration of the dignity and rights of man.
Other brands of totalitarianism forced history to bear unholy witness to their banal advertisements of evil and frozen moralities. The political malevolence resident in the core of totalitarian principles manifested itself in the historical criminality of Nazism. Nazism commissioned and actively implemented the holocaust of European Jewry, bequeathing the world a historical legacy of depravity as well as the banality of its evils (apologies to Arendt). Stalinist Communism saw to the annihilation of millions of peasants, not to mention free-thinking intellectuals, artists, scientists, writers, and activists. Mao Tse Tung’s enforced famines in his utopian Great Leap Forward, in the fullness of its horror and absurd crudity saw to the death of millions of Chinese peasantry. Pol Pot’s version of agrarian communism essayed to deluge both history and Cambodia with its murderous obscenity. Over a million dead citizens, massacred in his killing fields were all that could ever be remembered of him. In the observations of Hannah Arendt (1951), these abominations of political evil manifested in the historical criminality of totalitarianism were not mere extensions in scale or scope of already existing precedents, but rather represented a completely ‘novel form of government’, one built upon terror and ideological fiction.
Amidst all these alternatives, democracy towers as the most prominent reason-compliant system of government. Here power is subjected to accountability, no matter how limited that may be. It is the only system constructed upon the people as the sovereign, and subsists on their consent and allegiance for its legitimacy. This accounts for why the force of arms, which rules in a tyranny and totalitarianism; which underwrites the atrocities of feudalistic aristocracy; which embosom lawlessness in an anarchical society, can only serve a democracy. Democracy intrinsically delineates rights and apportions responsibilities. To that end “might” does not automatically configure to “right”, as it effortlessly does in a Darwinian social construct. And force in this theater, becomes theoretically, an instrument of social order and not that of political supremacy. Here equally is security predicated on freedom and becomes its guarantee and vice versa.