Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Democratic customization: So that it doesn't become a mindless number game

Democracy is a part of the corpus of English terminologies with Greek origins. The Greeks were famous for their tryst with the idea of democracy, people-power more appropriately. It came to define everything from their personal to their social and political lives. Eons later, the Western world picked on this idea and its accompanying vocabularies.

Much later in the day, we have begun rubbing shoulders with this exulted philosophy in Bhutan. We have elected our first democratic leaders, our democratic parliamentarians, established our own version of democratic institutions, and are well on our way to a democratic future, as it is. In
parts, this transition was build as an answer to the unequivocal calls for democracy by the Western powers who are on a rampage of sorts, trying to replicate the structures of governance in their countries across board, more as a reassurance of their own position than for any munificent urges. However, for us it was nothing more than a fallback on our own past which has been more successfully democratic than most democratic countries now. That is apart from being a fruition of our democratic dreams whose seeds have long been sown by the successive generations of our Monarchs.
So, it is only proper that we have our own version of democracy suited to our unique situation, needs and aspirations. Needless to say, a thoughtless cloning of others’ democratic norms and practices would be disastrous. Though the ultimate destination and the standards en route must be nothing but the highest, the path may differ and we must not be afraid to go our own way. Questions must be raised in the best of democratic spirit and our ultimate roadmap to democracy must be true to our interest. If it is what it takes, we should even alter the very fundamentals of democracy as made out to be by people who first formulated them with their interest alone in mind.
The Western version of democracy has served them well, but there is no guarantee that we wouldn’t be led astray by them, let alone doing us any good. Empirical evidence suggests that outside their natural setting, this superimposed version invariably lead to chaos, anarchy and incapacitation, becoming unwitting precursor of fanatical despots in the process.
Democracy that transpired in the West presupposes a certain level of education and awareness among the people which, sadly, is not the case in the third world where we are uneasy bedmates at this point in our evolution. Beyond knowing the basic rights, people must also be ready to shoulder civic responsibilities which would be to expect too much from our impoverished people for whom all these would seem too far fetched in the first place. Above all, people must be willing partners in furthering the cause of democracy and progress in a country which people brought up in a homogeneous society often take for granted. In our case, we are diverse in our unity and shows in division along every conceivable fault-line. Adamant ethnocentrics that we are and the creedo-cratic that our system will come to.
Our polity along the Western road-map would end up being a mindless number game where the biggest tribe and its creed would rule, not necessarily the most competent. It would reward breeders, not achievers as conceived. Where the numeric majority rules, incentives would be high to breed and perpetuate at every cost. We are given to perpetuating our own myth, race, faith, creed, dialects and there are so many of them to easily ignore for they are entrenched in our person and come out at a stroke. Each country in the West is inhabited by a single people, a white one who belong to the same creed and speak the same language. What set them apart are things like their professions, achievement levels, club loyalties, brand preferences, et al; in short, things that are easier to get over.
A little play on a particularly striking one-liner from an Akshay Kumar starrer would come out this way; there are Americans in America, Britons in England, Australians in Australia but there only Ngalo-pas, Kheng-pas, Bumtha-pas, Lhotsam-pas, Khaling-pas, Phagpaling-pas, Uzorong-pas, Nyingma-pas, Kagyu-pas, Hindu-pas, Christian-pas and a whole bunch of other pas. A Bhutanese in Bhutan is strangely an anomaly.
In a highly polarized country where finding a common ground is often made difficult by prejudices , biases, chauvinism and insecurities, all symptoms of a hoi polloi crisis of identity, an all-out democracy would seem improbable at best and impossible at worst. It may be ill-advised to go in for a system that has so often resulted in the disintegration and incapacitation of many a great nations.
The challenges to democracy may seem like insurmountable. However, now that we have taken on the challenge, there is no going back because it would not only result in a loss of face, it would also imply an acceptance of our failure to better ourselves and evolve as a country. Fortunately, hope may still be on the horizon after all. In the person, institution and all that he stands for, our King has been the lynchpin which bound us together for so long, through thick and thin.
The institution of the Monarch must take centre stage in our democratic set-up, if only, as a deterrence against its possible failure resulting from seemingly insurmountable differences and the senseless tyranny of the majority in a game of numbers. Democratic customization must also include institutional check and balances that would preempt possibilities of reason and good sense being drowned by the din of the masses in a Massist failure, if you will. We wouldn't want to suffer the same fate of democracy that its Greek exponents did; ad absurdum self doubts, nitpicking, paralysis, overthrow, you name it.

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