Have I made fun of the term? I bow my head in shame.
Yes, it is true that being allowed to vote once every four years for some caudillo to lead your country is not really worth fireworks. However, Democracy is not only about ballot boxes! Sometimes, you only understand that, when Democracy has been lost. And it is so easily, alas, lost.
Democracy requires “Separation of Powers” (a concept commonly attributed to Montesquieu). “Separation of Powers” means that the executive branch (i.e. the president, the army, the police and the secret service) have no powers over the judiciary (i.e. the courts) and the legislature (i.e. the National Assembly or whatever assembly determines what laws should apply in a country.) Separation of powers is absolutely quintessential for a “Democracy”. Every once in a while, we see that a hotshot decides that he should be his country’s emperor, like Napoleon. Alas, the basis for such a decision is more often than not sociopathy; certainly not wisdom.
An excellent if somewhat lengthy documentary from the European TV channel Arte about conditions in Hungary serves as an illustration of what happens when one man holds too much power. It should give you goosebumps as it thoroughly illustrates at least three points, of which the first, that Hungary is now only nominally a Democracy, is only a prelude. Let me cut to the quick: In the midst of the EU, then, you have a country led by a governmental crime syndicate; a rather chilling thought.
The deceased Portuguese novelist José Saramago wrote a wonderful novel that humorously illustrates how easily Democracy could be subverted, even without violence: “Ensaio sobre a Lucidez”, literally Essay on Lucidity, 2004, (the English translation of which is called “Seeing”). I recommend an article about the book in the Guardian by Ursula K. Le Guin. She concludes:
He has written a novel that says more about the days we are living in than any book I have read. He writes with wit, with heartbreaking dignity, and with the simplicity of a great artist in full control of his art. Let us listen to a true elder of our people, a man of tears, a man of wisdom
The novel can be read as a sequel to “Essay on Blindness” (1997). Whereas the “Essay on Blindness” is horrifying, the tardy sequel is kind to the reader. Yet, it leaves no doubt: On a rainy day, Democracy can be undone by a mere gesture, or absence of gesture, of the hand.
As we all know, of course, many countries are run by autocrats and/or de-facto crime syndicates. Many, many countries. Hungary, however, is in the EU. The EU prides itself on transparency and rule of law. Indeed there is no concealing from the EU what is going on in Hungary and Poland. But as you will see in the documentary recommended above, there is nothing the EU can legally do about the matter. So far.
What about your country? Does it claim to be Democratic? Is it really?
We all saw how close a call the US had, when the country’s voters nearly gave Trump “four more years” in “fair and Democratic” elections. What would happen to France if Eric Zemmour becomes that country’s president in “fair Democratic” elections? (And what will then happen to the EU?
No, I do not subscribe to the idea that Democracy is outdated. China and Russia may believe in authoritarian leadership, in imprisoning or even killing whistle-blowers and journalists that ask difficult questions and expose abuse of power. I do not. I should add, for the record, that China and Russia are not the only countries where constructive criticism is unwelcome. And in case you have forgotten, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden are still wanted by you-know-what country.
No the problem is not that the US and the EU are too Democratic, but that they are not Democratic enough.
Who voted for Trump and who will vote for Zemmour, and why?
I find myself wondering whether sex slaves vote and if so, who do they vote for? They make up a small, yet not totally insignificant proportion of most countries’ populations. Imagine your country as a large empty aquarium. Pour in all your country’s sex slaves and they will just barely form a film over the floor of your aquarium. Add all the people who fill the shelves of all your country’s grocery stores. Add all the street sweepers, all those who wash all the floors in hospitals and all the floors of your cities’ innumerable office buildings… The tide is rising in the aquarium. You still haven’t added the unemployed.
What about the majority of your rural population, which is probably “at risk of poverty and social exclusion“, as the EU puts it: “The at-risk-of-poverty rate is the share of people with an equivalised disposable income (after social transfer) below the at-risk-of-poverty threshold, which is set at 60 % of the national median equivalised disposable income after social transfers.”
Please, PLEASE note that we are talking about 60% of the MEDIAN “equivalised disposable income”. In plain English: half the population have an income above the median and half have an income below it. In my country 18 % of all fully employed people are “at risk of poverty and social exclusion”.
Who do they vote for? Do they vote for Labour, or whatever the equivalent of Labour is called in your country? Will our Labour-equivalents truly improve their conditions? Will any major party that respects rule of law? My guess is that the answer to that question is “no”, and that our “at risk of poverty and social exclusion” voters know that.
No wonder, then, that wild-eyed preachers, charlatans, megalomaniacs and sycophantic scoundrels find it easy to deceive consumers and even voters by offering a deceptive ray of hope.
Take a look at your country’s median income in 2021. You might consider how far the median income would get you if you had to pay rent, electricity, transportation, childcare, insurance, internet, phone bill, etc. etc. etc. oh, and I forgot food.