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Real or deceptive?

Dr Saleh Al Fahdi
An Iraqi man told me once in bitterness: “If the style of democracy is like this, then dictatorship will be better!” Kadhim Al Jabouri, the destroyer of Saddam Hussein’s statue, had believed in a rosy period in Iraq’s history. Several years after his defiant act, Al Jabouri has regretfully told BBC that in place of one deposed Saddam Hussein there are hundreds now.
This shows that common sense is not always in agreement with common belief. Sensible people will agree with American poet and novelist Charles Bukowski, who said: “The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don’t have to waste your time voting.”
How, then, do people get deceived by democracy, which some consider is the right approach, though sometimes with wrong implications? Democracy may succeed in giving the appearance of love and fraternity, but it could be hypocrisy. Masses follow illusions created by power-hungry politicians. Leaders use people as the Trojan horse to ride to power.
The label of democracy does not make people democratic. It comes from deep-rooted cultural values imbibed from childhood. Otherwise it would be difficult to understand the purpose of a decision and the meaning of the exercise. Voting without a purpose will be like gambling away a country’s future.
Former president of the Republic of Kosovo Atifete Jahjaga once said: “Democracy must be built through open societies that share information. When there is information, there is enlightenment. When there is debate, there are solutions. When there is no sharing of power, no rule of law, no accountability, there is abuse, corruption, subjugation and indignation.”
Cases related to two prominent democracies – the US and Britain – are edifying. In the US, Republican Party candidate Donald Trump has won the nomination by steamrolling party selection process. His values are not in harmony with the GOP’s. He was never a politician and is not eligible to lead world’s most powerful nation. But no influential party leader could block his progress. He is now the party nominee for president. This indicates a fault in the nomination process, which some people wants reviewed. Democracy is pushing Trump to power, just like it did Adolf Hitler, who triggered the Second World War killing millions. What a contradiction! The democracy that elected a black president amid rampant racism is now promoting a racist.
As for Britain, there are two democracy-related issues worth a look. Majority of Britons (33 million) voted to leave European Union. This was done through the ballot in keeping with democratic principles. The result was shocking even to the ‘Leave’ camp. It is no secret that Britain is not ready to leave. In fact the democratic process has forced a nation known as the cradle of democracy to exit a bloc without people really wanting it.
Another issue in point is a report named after John Chilcot, chairman of the British committee formed seven years ago to probe the circumstances and implications of Britain’s 2003 Iraq misadventure. It said: “The British plots for the post-Iraq invasion in 2003 were absolutely unsuitable.” Then who gave Tony Blair the right to enter a war with such far-reaching consequences? Iraq is still a war-torn country with millions displaced, civilisation devastated and Daish on the rise. Common sense would have been to “protect democracy” after toppling the dictator. Syria also is headed the same way. Every party to the Syrian conflict is justifying its position by citing democracy. But Syria will never be the same country of beauty and splendour it once was.
Dictatorship is of course not the answer. But there is a belief that administering some countries requires toughness and strength. There is a difference between despotism and toughness.
As Adolf Hitler said, “If you want to control people, tell them that they are at risk and warn them that their security is under threat, then doubt the patriotism of your opponents.” Is it not what some politicians, who are talking about democracy, doing without openly declaring it?
The issue here is not of confrontation between the virtues and vices of democracy or dictatorship, nor is it a question of which one is better. It is not also in praise or criticism of any regime. It is just an opinion about this deception in the name of democracy and copying of democracy not rooted in the culture.
If democracy brings the ignorant to parliament, racists to presidency and fools to lead institutions, then democracy is in jeopardy. The international community has to reconsider basics of democracy. Former American president Franklin D Roosevelt put it perfectly: “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” Indeed it is education with high principles, lofty ideals, and noble objectives that will lead to true democracy.