The Roller Coaster of Democracy.

Except That the Sense of Danger You Experience Here Is Not Just a Perception; It Is Very Real.

Political insanity and health hysteria are running through most parts of the world right now. It has become ever more common to hear about declining democracies. There’s fear that they might slowly turn into autocracies or plutocracies. Hints of fascism under false colors of overwrought nationalism exist together with democracy. The reasons behind this chaos are not difficult to guess. And the irony is, it is not the lack of something but the abundance. Behind the political insanity, it is the abundance of demagogues and populist leaders along with powerful corporations emerging worldwide. The paradox of healthcare in developed countries is that there is a lack of it despite all abundance. It is true for most developed countries — incredibly accurate for the United States. It spends twice as much on healthcare than other OECD countries in terms of the total percentage of its economy; still, it faces the lowest life expectancy rate. The ongoing pandemic and its handling have only reiterated the same.

Democracies have a flavor of their own according to where they lie on the spectrum, from budding and flawed to the best in the business of politics and everything that lies at different levels in the middle. All of them are pretty chaotic and disordered, and their beauty or repulsiveness lies precisely in how they are placed. Democracy is difficult because it demands a certain level of morality from all of us. Especially from those in positions of power since power tends not just to corrupt but also exploit.

Morality and corporations (in this write-up, power is synonymous with corporations) don’t go hand in hand; saying that would be an understatement. Corporations are rather unapologetically exploitative and very majestic about the conquest of their own countries. And the result is prosperity for a few and chaos for the rest. What’s needed for democracy and free enterprise to survive together peacefully is an impartial system where small businesses, too, get a reasonable chance to compete. Plutocracy makes the system as dangerously unbalanced and fickle as too much centralization on government.

In April 1938, Roosevelt mentioned two truths about the liberty of democratic people. He said, “the first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism — ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.”, [1] as explained by Matt Stoller in Goliath.

It is a moral right of people to be treated equally, participate in the political process with an equal opportunity to be heard, choose who governs them, and oust them when necessary. Theodore Roosevelt argued that “of all forms of tyranny the least attractive and the most vulgar is the tyranny of the mere wealth, the tyranny of plutocracy.”

When we talk about populism in the 21st century, we mostly consider the bad populism — the toxic one against minorities and other small groups. However, the crisis we are currently facing necessitates the old version of populism. In it, the government believes in the power of its people, and people reciprocate back by expressing their trust in the machinery of government. The law of the land takes care of how they together work towards common goals. It involves rising above the radical ideologies of both the right and the left or, at the very least, not follow them blindly without putting your brains into it. We need collective wisdom, courage, and unity to rise above the monstrosities of both corporations and governments.

Humans have a sordid history with democracy. We have been in a similar or worse situation before and have done more than what we are currently doing to overcome it. We were more racists back in the day, have seen more fascists, witnessed more sexists, and experienced so much more inequality than today. We have been through both, more and less of democracy than what we, at the moment, are undergoing. It tells us we can and we will surmount this crisis too.

[1] Stoller, M. (2020). Goliath: The 100-year war between monopoly power and democracy.

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