Article by Mr. Abraham J.Palakudy

Democratic Culture: Historical Reflections
and Modern Transformations

(OR) IS MODERN DEMOCRACY A FAKE COIN ?

BY Mr. Abraham J.Palakudy

Write-up about the author

 

He was born in Kanjirappally in 1951, to Late.Sh.Joseph Palakudy and Smt.Aleyamma Joseph Edacheril Kappil.

He attended AssumptionL.P.School, Palampara for primary education, and the middle  and high school education was done from St.Dominics school, andKunnelSchool, Kanjirappally.

College education was from St.DominicsCollege, Kanjirappally, and St.Thomas College, Palai (B.Com) His masters in Sociology was fromKotaUniversity, Rajasthan.

His deep interest in Philosophy was there from childhood. He kept this interest active even after his migration to New Delhiin 1973.

 

During 1989, ‘Indian Council of Philosophical Research’ ( Government of India) awarded him a Residential Fellowship in encouragement. Dozens of his Malayalam articles appeared in ‘New Delhi Innu’, a Malayalam newspaper published fromNew Delhiduring 1990s.

Recently, ‘International society for Universal Dialogue’, a global body of Philosophers and thinkers based in Athens, Greece, selected his paper titled ‘ Is modern democracy a fake coin’ for presentation at their 9th annual congress held at the ancient city of Olympia, Greece. He was invited toOlympia to present the paper.

Another international philosophy body in Athens, Greece, viz. ‘World Philosophy Forum’ ( they are associates of UNESCO for the latter’s philosophy strategy for 21st century) has named him an ‘active thinker’ of the world, after publishing the abstract of his close to heart theme of research, ‘Human Reason.’. ( see internet links: http://wpf.unesco-tlee.org/eng/acthk.htm  and http://wpf.unesco-tlee.org/eng/offpap/top4/abjos.htm)

His book titled ‘ Is reason a sense organ? A super mind above the known mind ? was published at Amazon.com, USA( see link : http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008NOEE9I)

He has formed a non-profit organization in 2009, viz. ‘Conscience of the society’ for standing for his two major causes; ‘research of human reason’, and achieving a ‘reinvented democracy’. He keeps a blog spot at Google.com with over 35 blogs on various subjects of common interest. The link is : http://www.blogger.com/profile/14249415589712707293

 

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Democratic Culture: Historical Reflections and Modern Transformations

(OR)  IS MODERN DEMOCRACY A FAKE COIN ?

( Note:  This paper was accepted by the ‘International Society for Universal Dialogue’( ISUD) a body of philosophers and thinkers from all over the globe, based in Athens, Greece, for presentation at their 9th Congress, held from 22-25th June, 2012, at Olympia )

 

 The ancients had a distinct and clear idea about what they meant by Democracy. During the period of Pericles the Great, (490-423.BC) their attempt to define democracy was recorded as follows: (Historian Thucydides: Pericles’ funeral address)

 

“Our form of government is called a democracy because a sense of freedom regulates our day-to-day life with each other. We do not flare up in anger at our neighbor if he does what he likes. And we do not show the kind of silent disapproval that causes pain in others, even though it is not a direct accusation. In our private affairs, then, we are tolerant and avoid giving offense. But in public affairs, we take great care not to break law because of the deep respect we have for them. We give obedience to the men who hold public office from year to year. And we pay special regard to those laws that are for the protection of the oppressed and to all the unwritten laws that we know bring disgrace upon the transgressor when they are broken. And we are also taught to observe those unwritten laws whose sanction lies only in the universal feeling of what is right….”

When one observes the above description of democracy of the ancients, what bewilders us is that, more than the administrative technicalities of the system, it talks more about how man lives under democracy. Including the general sense of Freedom, tolerance towards another, respect for the law, special protection of the oppressed, the universal sense of right and wrong etc. are more than what one could expect from a political system of people! The root substance and spirit of democracy is aptly clear from the above account.

Leaving aside the above version of democracy of ancientGreece, let us check our hearts for what democracy should be. The answer will also be on the same lines, because, as rightly observed by the ancientGreece, our ‘Universal feeling of right’ would also consent. The world need not refer to any other book of knowledge to find what genuine democracy should be.

Democratic ideals had evolved in the world after many centuries of suffering by the people, under the authoritarian regimes of brute, alien rulers. There was no concept of the will, or the consent of people. The most outstanding evil factor about such governments was the power and arbitrary authority evolved around such establishments. The kings and his counterparts enjoyed a status and authority similar to that of the almighty God on earth. Hence, what was most desired by men when they had created democratic traditions was a system of collective living, where the collective wisdom of all men manage the job of keeping the law and order in a society, instead of the old evil of  state authority. The state as a coercive institution was what democracy wanted to eradicate. Hence, they sat together to make laws, to control the conduct of all men, a document  that reflected the collective wisdom and reason of people, replacing the old concept of arbitrary authority vested in the hands of the state.

This vital shift in the controlling FUEL of democracy is well evident from the accounts of ancient democracy ofGreece. The substance and spirit of the great ideal was more central than its various administrative and technical aspects.

But some how or the other, modern democracy has got transformed more around the same old evil that people suffered through out the ages i.e. an arbitrary state mechanism, with the only difference that it is now run by a species of people!   What we have today in the name of democracy is the same old type of establishment that the world had during the time of the Kings and his likes, with all coercive paraphernalia such as prisons, brutal police force, hand-cuffs, arbitrary arrest of citizens etc. Some prominent symbols of democracy such as periodical elections, political parties and a so called free media have come to occupy the centre stage, throwing the substance and spirit into the dust bin.

It appears that this fall of democracy into the wrong mould had not happened very late in history because barely half a century after Pericles, Plato in his ‘Dialogue’ (Protagoras) puts forth his frank admission about the democracy of his time.

“Its basic principle is the equal right of all to hold office and determine public policy. This is at first glance a delightful arrangement; it becomes disastrous because the people are not properly equipped by education to select the best rulers and wisest courses. As to the people they have no understanding, and only repeat what their rulers are pleased to tell them. Mob-rule is a rough sea for the ship of state to ride; every wind of oratory stirs up the waters and deflects the course”

We can not, by any means refute that,  the democracy of our time is not any thing  vastly different from what Plato had described some 2000 years ago! So, it is evident without any doubt that Democracy had fallen in the hands of the same old class of people, whose mind set was not different from those who had ruled the world at every age in ancient history, prior to its emergence in the world! Democracy has become a convenient ploy in the hands of professional members of our own species of people, to do what the kings, feudal lords, invaders, and tyrants had done for ages together in history.

The most unfortunate aspect is that the new class is doing it with an aura of legitimacy, because the evil system is run ‘By the people, of the people and for the people’! Can a heinous act like rape gains legitimacy when it is committed by victim’s own family members ?

Today, the definition of democracy has been narrowed down to certain visible symbols of the great ideal. The original substance and spirit that its ancient visionaries had set-forth, and what every thinking man’s un-written ‘sense of right and wrong’ insists is totally absent from today’s democracy. It is in the hands of the professional political classes across the globes who keep it as a legitimate tool to enjoy the powers, freedom, and privileges of their ancestors in history.

It will be injustice if we ignore the true revival of the great ideal once again, in the form of American democracy in its initial 150 years (from the last quarter of the18th century onwards). The entire world looked atAmerica with awe and disbelief, as to the wonder of a peoples’ government being enacted there. The most popular account of this revived experiment with democracy can be obtained from the brilliant account of the young French Jurist, Alexis D Tocqueville, in his famous book ‘Democracy inAmerica.’ He was sent by the French government, to obtain a first hand account of the peoples’ form of government enacted there.

He wrote that while government officials in the United States behaved as ‘SYMBOL OF PEOPLES RIGHT’, in other similar democratic countries, they act like the ‘SYMBOL OF GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORITY’, an adept report that explains the key difference of a true democracy from the fake models. He was, more or less, greatly appreciative of the American Model.

History knows well what happened to American Democracy after its one half century of glory. The present story is not at all different from Plato’s description. One of the great champions of this period, Abraham Lincoln, had left a not-yet popular, but a narration of his ideal democracy:

“As I would not be a SLAVE, so I would not be a MASTER. This explains my idea of DEMOCRACY”.

Unfortunately, democracy of today is best described as a fierce race among the species of people to become MASTERS over their own men!

It is to be believed that the story of the modern formation of democracy in Great Britain(In the 17th and 18th centuries.) was also a story of deception. The feudal lords had badly wanted to restrain the arbitrary powers of the King. After the industrial revolution, a new moneyed class emerged from the class of commoners, the manufacturer-trader. The installation of the House of Commons, comprising representatives from this new class was thus said to be a grand ploy on the part of the feudal lords to restrict the power of the King, in the name of democracy!

Hence, the self deception of our age with what we carry on in the name of DEMOCRACY is complete, and it is a blot on its sense of reason. What democracy originally had intended was the dissolving of the myth of the authoritarian state, but it resulted only in the passing over of the evil from the hands of one master to another.  Our enlightened modern age must seriously debate whether a true regime of people is possible without the evil of the coercive state mechanism.   

Current evidences of this self deception

Evidences are innumerable. The recent Arab uprising, occupy Wall street like agitations in the USA, and the anti-corruption uprising in India etc. expose  peoples plight under modern democratic system. As the US citizens allege, our democracy is the rule by 1% of elites, over 99% common citizens! People are mere instruments and ‘material’ for the present kind of democracy to run. People are false symbols on the flag of democracy.  They are merely swearing stones for its leaders in the rhetoric they often indulge in, to ‘stir up the waters and deflect the course’, if we once again use Plato’s usage.  

Every citizen-leader in the recent agitation against corruption in India has received one or another kind of governmental intimidation, in the form of arrest warrants, tax arrear cases, or false court cases, initiated by high level political masters in the government. Corruption, as we all know, is the making of illegitimate wealth by the political class and government officials. It is the next worst evil aspect of modern democratic system, after the arbitrary usage of political power and authority. Democratic governments’ hesitancy in passing a law that restricts corruption was evident from such arm twisting strategy of the state. 

The story of the medical doctor in India, Dr. Binayak Sen, who had led a movement against the governmental apathy towards tribal population in the country, was in the global news a few months ago. He was declared a traitor by the government, and jailed under many false charges. Furthermore, incidents of fake encounters and killing of men who stand against the establishment are rampant.

The entire world know how our western democracies  reacted to the Wiki-leak fame-whistle blower- Julian Asange recently.

Such incidents and examples are innumerable in democratic regimes all over the world, putting to shame such atrocities that took place under hard-core authoritarian regimes in history! 

Not only within democratic states, but also at international scenes we see a clear lack of democratic culture and values. Nations act as if they are no different from the old intolerant regimes. The attack on a sovereign Muslim nation in the recent past by a leading power in the world, based just on a false pre-meditated report of the former nation’s hidden nuclear arsenals is in every one’s vivid memory. The head of the nation was killed, but no nuclear arsenals found. After a war that resulted in massive deaths of men on both sides, the devastated and un-stabilized country was recently abandoned, leaving them to fend for themselves. No deserving hue and cry has been heard from any quarter about the international injustice. The media, as usual, devoured the event, with a handful of stories for their readers and viewers. The human kind is really without a non-partisan conscience centre in the modern age, to evoke a true sense of reason and justice in world affairs ! But every man’s sense of reason would agree without any doubt that democracy has transformed beyond recognition. It has no resemblance with the model that the ancients had envisaged, and what the advanced sense of reason of the modern age would accept.

Key areas of modern unpleasant transformation of democracy

The power and authority of a Police officer, or a taxation, or municipal officer is still the same as it was during the ancient times of kings and his counterparts. The police openly slap citizens in the street in countries likeIndia. Selective intimidation and black-mailing of the citizens by the police and taxation officials are also very common. The spirit of the one who holds power (the ruler)  and the people (the ruled) stands the same as it was during the period of those old regimes.

Our rules and laws, that were made to restrain the strong and the powerful from trampling upon the weak and the meek are now more commonly used to trap them into submission, as we have seen in the above examples. What was meant to liberate has become the very tool to chain them. Hence, for the common man, the relation between the state and the citizens feels more like that between the predators and their prey in modern democracies.

The fuel of state authority and power were suitable for those old regimes of Kings and his counterparts, wherein the ruler had no moral or legal responsibility over the ruled. However, a government set up by EQUAL MEN has no business in utilizing such dangerous weapons in the act of its country’s governance.

Insisting that a state wielding power should NOT be used would be like insisting that predatory animals NOT use force in the act of preying! Power is an energy habituated for violating the rights of others, and it is satiated only when it is put to use in the acts of suppressing and oppressing peoples rights. Hence, reinventing democracy on the opposite lines is the dire need of our age.

Albert Camus-the Nobel prized author had commented :

‘An age can be called truly civilized only when they start sending their criminals to mental asylums than jails’, hinting on the need of changing the predatory and punitive style our  establishments to that of a caring, parental model.

This vital lapse is what ails the democratic system most today. The mad scramble for grabbing the governmental seats that we witness in our time among the species of people is mostly due to the dangerous attractions that people keep in their minds for such seats of authority once held by Kings and his counterparts. Every child in the world has grown up listening to such stories of the power and glory of Kings and queens, and it is natural for every one to develop such neurotic ambitions when existing political system offers close chances to fulfill these dreams!

Another central reason for men neurotically craving for authority in modern democracies is the failure of it to instill a proper sense of security for their freedom in the minds of the people. They, including the leading class feel that, grabbing a share in the state authority is the only way to safe-guard their freedom from assault by authorities, as well as fellow human beings. We should remember that the precise goal of democracy was to instill such a sense of security in the minds of every one in the world.

Politics: ‘For whom the bell tolls ‘?

Modern day professional politics has become the art and science of capturing governmental power by the people, through the few established symbols of democracy, i.e. the periodic elections, wooing public for votes, and using all kinds of propaganda techniques to pin down opponents.

Instead of the old time players of the same game like Kings and feudal lords, the game is played now by our own species of ‘PEOPLE’, hence we reverently call it ‘DEMOCRACY’! The game sometimes gets bloodier than what was actually experienced in the older regimes. How can the peoples’ own governmental system degenerate itself into a mere war of capturing thrones?

The singular factor that carries the great ideal of democracy into the realm of absurdity is the political party system. The fight among political parties for power deprives democracy of all its intended good.
The singular goal and the sacred motive of the opposition party from day one, is to find fault with the ruling party and try somehow to bring it down. The chief motive behind every governmental decision would be political gain for the party than the overall benefit of the people and the country. Hence, no policy, or decision is taken considering what is rationally good for the people, but what gains the political party, and the leaders personally. It is the sad story of party politics gaining importance over country benefit.

The ritual of elections

Elections are the most exemplified symbol of democracy, which is enacted like a virtual war in modern democracies.  People’s choices are limited, like that between death by hanging, or on the electrocution chair! They are helpless but to make a choice between available alternatives. This is their only name sake participation in the great game of modern day democracy. Political parties spend millions on propaganda, and mind manipulation techniques to win elections. Fighting elections has become one of the most complex entrepreneurship tasks that politicians have to learn in the modern day ‘state craft’, enacted in the great name of democracy.

Influx of capitalistic values into democracy

It looks like democracy has learned its valuable lessons of such entrepreneurship from the currently reigning economic system –CAPITALISM. More than any other thing, the motive of self-interest is the key in the modern day democratic enterprise. Its economic gain of the entrepreneur is the key factor here too.

Democracy has degenerated into the rule of another masterly class in society that derives from the open nexus between the professional politicians and the capitalists. There is now a fifth factor for establishing any successful industry besides the classical Land, Labor, Capital and Raw-materials- -it is the political patronage of the industrialist. With out his vital factor in place, no industry can do successful business in our kind of democracy.

Ayn Rand, a very influential writer and thinker of modern times had rightfully found that, turning the concept of the  ‘politically free man’ into an ‘economically free man’ in the later stage of the development of democracy in USA has resulted in the  growing inequality  in the country. Filling the stomach of citizen has attained more centrality than giving him freedom of mind !The same cause can be attributed to similar trends in every part of the world as well. The genuine Freedom of man has become an irrelevant factor. Feeding him as it is popularly done in refugee camps with the resources earned by the elite 1% is the new economic mantra in the new democracy.

Threat of dynastic rule

In many democratic countries, traditional politicians do everything to ensure that the mantle of power be inherited by their siblings! The power and grandeur they had enjoyed in the country is no different from that of their predecessors, the Kings and his counterparts, hence they do not want to lose everything after their time.

Statistics says that more than 35% of the present politicians inIndiaare either siblings, or close relatives of the previous generation of leaders. Interestingly, an almost equal percentage of the elected parliamentarians are tainted with a criminal back ground, at least inIndia, the largest democracy in the World!

Evidently, being ruled by a special masterly class is gradually replacing the great tradition of  democracy in the world.

Notion of equality has taken away the very dignified entity of man

In the process of providing EQUALITY for all, it was the dignified self identity   that was wrongfully taken away from every one, under modern democracy. It was like reducing all the whole numbers to ZERO, for the sake of achieving equality !

One has no relevance in the country as a common citizen. Only larger groups, represented by its leaders enjoy relevance in the system, because numbers are what counts in a majority based system, and not the single individual.

Rousseau described this phenomenon of the individual turning into a group being, some 250 years ago in his famous work., ‘ON THE ORIGIN OF INEQUALITY’ p. 98)

‘He pays his court to men in power whom he despise; he stops at nothing to have the honour of serving them; he is not ashamed to value himself on his own MEANNESS and their protection; and proud of his slavery, he speaks with disdain of those who have not the honour of sharing it’.

The individual citizen tends to become quite afraid of his own identity in modern democracies, especially in developing countries likeIndia. It is like one’s nudity every one is perpetually fearful of its potent public exposition! By all means this is the single most distressing turn apart from the other twists that has happened to modern democracy.

Democracy was intended to uphold the individual, his freedom and his unbridled growth, but it has actually resulted in his being treated as thrash! He has turned a commodity in democracy.

Media: The defender have turned destroyer

Media, the so called WATCH-DOG in democracy, has opted to take up this political fight-game as a means to entertain people, in a role similar to that of the ’bout managers’ in professional wrestling. Such an attitude is what fits more in the primary motto of their trade to earn more, by entertaining people more. The larger the readership, the more would be the income from the advertisers.

Media men are not at all the agents of Reason in the world. Their mission is to report the ‘reported’ versions of all the parties in the story.  Such specially prepared ‘press statements’ issued by political parties and other public men are not the truth, but synthetic statements for the consumption of the public, though media men call this peculiarity in the name of ‘objectivity’.

Hence, what people get from the media is a synthetic world. The rational human agent, in the form of a liberated media man, is absent in the act. They have their own professional priorities and vows, like the vows of other profit oriented institutions in the world.

More over, most of the media houses in the world are owned by rich business houses, hence it is more being used to promote the interest and view points of the rich and the powerful. They romanticize these features as an integral aspect of democracy. Hence, people have no option but to join the entertainment, and enjoy the game. Media has narrowed the definition of democracy into its one or two popular features, such as the right of every one to express his opinion, right of the media to publish it, and the periodical elections. The element of rationality is absent from their professional act.

Symbols are at place, but the substance and spirit is missing totally.

Nobody exists in the world today to shout that the game is absurd, and ‘the King is naked’. There is not a single agency in the modern world that could be a called its non-partisan ‘conscience’, as once mentioned earlier.

Hence, the freedom of the oppressor is complete in our democracy. Unlike in plain autocracy, the oppressor is invisible in democracy. Hence, the helplessness of the people is also complete. He does not know at whose feet he must fall for mercy, or whom to annihilate for securing his lost freedom.

If  ‘reasoning’ is all about logically relating a universally accepted base premise to build on subsequent premises, conclusions and systems, today’s democracy suffers from irrationality, as it has nothing to do with its long cherished, self evident fundamental principles that we have already seen.

We can not abandon the badly twisted ideal of democracy to its own fate because, it is said, democracy is the last of mankind’s political systems. Hence, we have no other way but to toil for a reinvented democracy. We could reinvent the lives of men only by undertaking this task on an urgent footing.

The onus of warning the world about the calamity that has happened to democracy is squarely on the shoulders of the thinking minority of the World!  It is in their hands to must decide on some way of action, in order NOT to leave the world ORPHANED, and NOT to  provoke our future historians to portray our age as another stretch of  the dark age !

…………………………end…………………………………………………

 

INVITATION LETTER TO:

Prof. Abraham Joseph

Founder secretary

Conscience of the Society – a philosophic non-profit based inNew Delhi,India

www.conscienceofthesociety.com

 

Dear Prof.. Abraham Joseph,

 

I am pleased to inform you that your paper has been accepted by the Review Panel of the International Society for Universal Dialogue (ISUD) and that you are cordially invited to the ISUD 9th World Congress on “Democratic Culture: Historical Reflections and Modern Transformations”. The Congress will be held from June  22 to 27, 2012, at Ancient Olympia andElida,Greece.

 

All participants will stay in Ancient Olympia in Kotretsos Hotels, Ancient Olympia, Greece, which offer special rates for the participants of the Congress. Phone: 30 2624 022547   Fax:30 2624 022112   Website: www.olympiahotels.gr

 

The Travel  Agency will provide the conference participants with more details about transportation and cultural tours before, during and after the Congress.

Travel Agency TRAVEL FOR: 38, Vas. Sofias Str. GR 151 24 Maroussi-Athens.

Tel.: 30 210 6141300    Fax: 30 210 6141302    Mobil: 6948 586059

E-mail: travelfor@yahoo.gr.

For more information please visit our web site:  http://www.isud.org

 

This official invitation letter can be used in applying for your visa, if needed.

 

Warm regards.

Sincerely,

 

Dr. Leonidas C. Bargeliotes

Emeritus Professor of theUniversityofAthens

President of ISUD.

9 Aristotelous Street, 151 24 Amaroussion,Athens,Greece

Tel. & Fax: (30-210) 80 29 313, E-mail: lbargel@ppp.uoa.gr