Nepal, Personal Opinion

France wasn’t built in a day…..

France wasn’t built in a day…” * 

This is an obvious fact that everyone can grasp; yet I’m really surprised by the pessimism of even the educated people who say “Nepal is doomed”.

Why? I ask them. Most reply that we are being ruled by thugs and are not really a democracy but rather a plutocracy. We’d rather have a strong autocrat like Lee-Kwan Yew or maybe even Gyanendra himself, they say, and we haven’t experienced progress of any kind.

Then I reflect upon the country’s history. How long has it been that we’ve become a republic? 10 years? And how long since we’ve had our first, elected, constitutional government? Not even a year?

Not even a year of stable governance and we already want a strongman. Is that rash or just immensely short-sighted? And is there a guarantee that a strong authoritarian leader that we may get – will out of serendipity become a benevolent one like Lee Kwan Yew? We could very well get our own version of Gaddafi or Saddam. Don’t tell me if you’ll miss democracy then.

Of course there is corruption, of course there are instances of nepotism and of course the laws aren’t perfect and neither is the constitution. Progress isn’t utopian. Struggle will always ensue in the path of progress. Stability, development, good education, quality of life – all these will take time. We may have immensely corrupt politicians today, but with time and a newer generation the person in that position will become less corrupt, the next one thereafter may not be at all. No matter how much those in power tend to ignore problems at present, they cannot stay that way forever because demand or outrage will ensue, values will change and people will want progress so much that there will be little room left for wrongdoing. But for that we should constantly be voicing our concerns or demands – never being complacent nor unjustly pessimistic.

Here’s what Noam Chomsky has to say about realistic optimism. “Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, it’s unlikely you will step up and take responsibility for making it so. If you assume that there’s no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope.”

Imagine if we do not have democracy – we will have no right left to even voice about change, let alone take responsibility to see it happen. If not for democracy, the vicious cycle of illegitimate plutocrats or autocrats would have kept strengthening to the point that we may never would’ve been able to resist them. Power cannot be trusted to a concentrated few. Even if it seems imperfect to start with, it is always better used when divided. All the struggles, all the lives lost – all for nothing. So we need to throw away the poisonous cultural and political pessimism that we brew in our minds because we read too much headlines and use too much twitter – but not facts, statistics or critical thought. So to even opine that the country would be better ruled by undemocratic forces instead – is morally irresponsible!

Steven Pinker summarizes in Enlightenment now: “A liberal democracy is a precious achievement. Until the messiah comes, it will always have problems, but it’s better to solve those problems than to start a conflagration and hope that something better arises from the ashes and bones. By failing to take note of the gifts of modernity, [unjust] social critics poison voters against responsible custodians and incremental reformers who can consolidate the tremendous progress we have enjoyed and strengthen the conditions that will bring us more.”

Think about it Nepal……

 

* [I used France instead of Rome (unlike the original adage ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’), in the opening quotation, because I think the former represents democratic and humanistic ideals better than Rome would. I’m not, however, considering some of the notable heinous foreign policies of the aforementioned state for the sake of brevity. Some may also point out that France was also ruled by strongmen such as Napoleon; I’d like to highlight that we have been as well – on two occasions after 1951 – but nonetheless in both nations the call for democracy was too great to suppress.]

Personal Opinion, Philosophy, Rationalism, Skepticism

Questioning and Rethinking Democracy

“The world will not be right until kings (rulers) become philosophers, and philosophers become kings (rulers)”
                                                                                                                 – Plato

If you think Democracy is a Greek invention then you are deeply mistaken. In any human civilization or society, some form of order or force has some inevitable form of resistance. Freedom for Tyranny, Tyranny for anarchy, Communism for Capitalism, Secularism for Theocracy and Authoritarianism for Democracy. But these are merely just terms to describe the various different modes of struggle any human society can go through over time. I consider it to be a simple yet complex process of evolution of the collective psyche.

Be it 3000 BCE or 3000 CE, these struggles may differ in terminology but their essence will remain the same. So no; the concept of democracy has been here since the very beginning of the human species. If we look back into our history, we can find examples of non-Greco-Roman democracy across different cultures and tribes. So it’s origin isn’t limited to antiquity and Athens, even though the modern concept of this structure of governance is heavily inspired by the Greco-Roman model.

Now the point of this particular blog of mine is not to discuss the types or origins of democracy, but rather to question the concept of that form which most of us are familiar with today.

What comes to your mind the moment you come across the word democracy? Maybe people’s rule or public governance? Well, I’d say it’s valid to some extent at least on an ontological basis. But I’d like to put forth an inquiry as to whether it really means so in it’s true sense. When we think people’s rule, how can we distinguish Hegemony from Democracy? Or one may also question as to whether Democracy itself is in reality Hegemony? If Democracy becomes Hegemony, the voice of the minorities are suppressed so can it be considered another form of Authoritarianism where the oppressor is the majority. If this is so, how can we improve to establish a democracy where everyone’s voices are heard?

These aren’t just questions that have sprouted in my mind randomly but are actual questions that have been asked and raised as an issue throughout various revolutions and movements across the globe. They were asked during the Suffrage, the civil Rights movement, anti-apartheid movement, ‘Leave India’ campaign, the Arab spring, Kranti and two Jana-andolans in my home country of Nepal and even more so, these couple of years following the Rise of Narendra Modi, Brexit, Columbian Referendum, and the election of Donald Trump.

Now one would like to apply the heuristically-driven slippery slope logic here and say that the whole world is leaning more so towards the right and may be nearing destruction, but anyone who has carefully studied world affairs and history would rather say that the entire human civilization is based on an eternal argument towards utopia. Sometimes the yin-side will be heard and sometimes the yan-side will be heard and throughout the ages after numerous such cycles of arguments systems will be more and more polished and refined in order to strive towards utopia, much like a parabolic graph than a linear one, never perfect!

Talking about the dilemma of democracy, there have mostly been two main arguments. Whether to allow every faction and individual the right to vote and elect a government, or whether only some factions should be allowed to vote to elect a government? Now my argument will be trying to justify the latter postulate, and I will not be basing these factions on race, ethnicity or gender but rather on their reasoning abilities.

I’d like to consider the fact that most of the time any democracy has made a supposedly bad-decision, it’s mostly owed to the ignorance in part of the population. Some of you may argue that it might also be out of prejudice, which is true, but I’d like to mark prejudice as a form of ignorance in itself for reasons beyond the scope of this blog. And then going along the Socratic method of questioning, one may ask where does ignorance stem from? Some say it mostly stems from the uneducated or the less well-educated or the illiterate factions of the populace but I’d like to upgrade on that answer and say that it comes from the faction of the populace which cannot reason critically and think creatively. This fact could be universal.

Simply put, ignorance stems from those people, regardless of literacy, who cannot think for themselves and think clearly or rationally and would rather appeal to emotional and prejudiced slurs from sly politicians or leaders. So you might have figured out my main reasoning. Only allow those people to vote who have the ability to think critically and creatively without only the influence of heuristics.

But instead of just declaring my opinion, I’d also like to provide solutions to this philosophical standstill. People may ask how can any system assure and determine who can and not reason critically? Can that method be fail-proof? What if such an implementation instead of creating a just and reasonable system, lead to another bureaucracy or an elitist government that oversees the problems of the grass-roots?

To that I’d say my solution isn’t without its own flaws like any solution to any problem would have. We just have to argue taking into effect the benefit to harm ratio of this particular solution with relation to the society of interest. For instance, in highly literate societies like Sweden and New-Zealand, where per-capita GDP and the quality of Education is among the best in the world, this system may be fail proof and would ensure a baseline of well-educated critical thinkers in cohorts with suffrage. Same reasoning may apply for the US if implemented. Whereas if the same solution if blindly applied to nations such as India and South Africa with significant number of poorly educated and poverty stricken populace, it may not immediately work, though we can never say for sure for the long run.

So these are the simple solutions I propose and by this I do not claim to be an expert on political science or philosophy. I think the whole model of democracy should be changed by

  • First inspiring and teaching people how to think rationally and creatively, i.e to create a critical-thought-centric education system. (i.e Board exams and world education indexes should focus and reward more on analytical and thought processes.)
  • Instead of just assessing a nation’s ‘literacy rate’, judge a nation’s reasoning ability by assessing its ‘Critical Thinking Index’.
  • Make it mandatory for every educated person to go through an aptitude test for their Reasoning abilities for quantification purposes.
  • Finally, changing/amending the constitutions of Democracies to only allow individuals above an acceptable age with Critical Thinking/Reasoning ability above a certain acceptable threshold.

Simple four-step solutions for the betterment of democracies world-wide. This ensures a base-line of well-informed and responsible voters who would tend to think before casting their votes and would forever help improve the quality and integrity of the voters as well as the candidates for leadership. This would help prevent to much extent anyone from swaying the voters away from a reasonable rhetoric towards emotionally motivated and prejudice-driven ones.

In short, this system if it had been brought into effect, might have prevented a Brexit, a rejection of the FARC peace deal, the rise of the Modi-RSS system, or even a President Donald Trump.

Now it may be argued again that this will adversely affect the general liberty of the people. It may be scrutinized (a process which I encourage) saying that the illiterate will lose their right as humans; to which it can be argued against, saying that good education is a fundamental human right, and to choose not to be educated would become an unprofitable choice and automatically a deterrent towards not opting for education and hence ignorance. Absolute liberty may not always be beneficial and decisions are better made with a consequential mindset.

This is all I have to say for now. Feel free to disagree and please do put forth your counter-arguments.


P.S For those who say I trust Critical Thinking too much, like I trust the Scientific method (the two system of thought being mutually inclusive); I answer: They’re still the best two system we’ve got in order to understand reality, and until another better one comes up, its Critical Thinking and Science all the way for now! Cheers!

Watch the video below to learn about Socrates’ argument against Democracy…..