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Across the world, many democracies are in crisis and the civilization is crumbling. The crisis erupts because there is an impoverishment of political life where intolerance, greed, ignorance and rageare growing recklessly. The vibrancy of the democracies is diminishing as the public sphere of informed democratic dialogue is shrinking. Blatant lies, infantile emotionalism, absolute disrespect, open display of religious and other forms of discrimination, racism, misogyny, casteism and bigotry and other such evilsare replacing the concept of the egalitarianism and consensus building. The substantive engagement with the ideas in the public life is being emptied of contents andas happening in the mainstream media, celebrity culture is being promoted in political and social life, which relies more on emotions rather than reasons or the rationalism. The spectacle of right wing fantasies is growing as the public sphere is increasingly occupied by the majoritarian Hindu, upper caste elite male[1] clubin India as compared to White male Christian club in the US or other parts of the West. The concept of respecting the diverse views is being collapsed in the cacophony of uninformed arguments, unintelligible jargon, esoteric theories and unsubstantiated opinions. Lawlessness is increasing and fanatics are getting louder and louder. Ignorance clubbed with the power, narcissismand megalomaniac attitude among ruling elite is giving rise to the dangerous state of affairs. The democratic secular ethos are being replaced by the culture of blood thirsty crony capitalism, cruelty and politics of uncivility. Anti-intellectualism and oligarchy is expanding while pushing for catastrophic human miseries because the totalitarian tyrannical and authoritarian state had failed. Militarization is expanding causing harm to the unarmed citizens while war mongers are consolidating their power. The language, the culture, the ethos, the civility, all are being infantilized and crippled leading to the decay of socio-political environment. The world is being pushedinto the dark times by the newly emerged populous self-centered leaders. Democracies across the world are facing new kind of challenges but the critical questionthat is being raised here is that will these democracies be emerge out of this situation to imagine a different world while reclaiming democracies?When the politics is infantilized and its standards and norms are degraded, are there ways to revive and re-sustain mature democracies? Are these democracies in crisis, ready to contest the murky forces to bring desired transformations that would end the barbarism in politics?When human rights are curtailed by demagogues through strategies ranging from heavy militarization to the trolls of army on the internet, is there any way out to this global assault to imagine ways to cherish democracy, establish social justice and reaffirm human rights?

 

The Rise of Tyrannical Empires

History reveals that since ancient times, demagogues have appeared and controlled democracies. Aristotle warned that these populist leaders signify the manner in which democracy feed’ on itself. Cleon of Athens has been considered as the first demagogue who through his brutal role has led to destruction while using his common man appeal. He persuaded the fellow Athenians to murder every man in the city as a punishment for revolting. It is for this Greek tyrant that Aristotle wrote, “He was the first who shouted on the public platform, who used abusive language, and who spoke with his cloak girt around him, while all the others used to speak in proper dress and manner.”Modern demagogues include Adolf Hitler in Germany, Benito Mussolini, Huey Long, Senator of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932, Father Coughlin and Joseph McCarthy, a US Senator in Wisconsin from 1947 to 1957 among others. The list has got several new additions in recent years with those being compared toGoblin Word’[2],Voldemart and other fictional rogue characters because most of these political figures who fashioned themselves as the leaders of people could go to any extreme to hold and expand their powers by exploiting the sentiments of masses[3]. In 1838, James Fenimore Cooper defined the populous leader as a leader of the rabble’. These demagogues, today,in the cloak of being amessiah’ are exploiting thepeople’s passion and are distorting, infantilizing and misusingthose reactions to grab power while threatening the established rules of political conduct.Signer[4]has argued that these demagogues are the symptoms rather than the cause of decay and could lead to the self-destruction of democracy. They emerge because people wrongly choose to select leaders who enslave them rather than choosing those who would ensure liberty. It is these demagogues who are consciously and deliberately choosing to infantilize politics for their vested interests.

Samuel Huntington, an American political scientist, in 1993,in hisfamous proposition `The Clash of Civilizations?’[5] wrote that the world is divided along cultural lines and according to him each cultural block has its own distinct sets of religious and cultural values which are primary source of conflict. His thesis ledto furious debate. Many could not agree with him. However, as partly propounded by him, today, the authoritarian, totalitarian regimes are increasingly expanding across several countries. The great recession of 2008 resulting in the economic disaffection and dissatisfaction has created conditions thathas directed the intensification of authoritarian regimes at the surprisinglyfaster rate. With the triumph of right-wing populism in many countries, recently, the world seemingly is moving in a dangerous phase where the repressive pseudo conservative forces are expanding, consolidating and strengthening and where fascism and fundamentalism are becoming a norm. The volatile and chaotic situation that is emerging in some way is legitimizing dangerous paths against that which favours establishing the paradigm ofhuman rights and social justice.

Currently, across the globe, the newly emerging right-wing populist leaders,in the name of nationalist agenda[6]are re-creating a sense of false nationhood while cultivating the rhetoric of violenceandmisappropriatingthegrowing feelings of resentment and outrage.Mishra[7] in his piece elucidates that these populist leaders cultivate rage and promise prosperity that “collides with the massive disparities of wealth, power, education and status”.The demagogues are breaching the code of political conduct, respect, equality and dignity in the multi-cultural diverse societies by encouraging fascism and fundamentalism and are openly promoting unfettered majoritarianism[8]. The culture of violence and impunity is being manufactured, designed and cultivated by these leaders to endorse their vested political agenda. Anti-Islamic and anti-immigrant viewsare being propagated to contest against the common enemy’<a href="#_edn9" name="_ednref9">[9]</a> whiledemonizing the minorities, stereotyping the refugees, banning the travelers from specific countries<a href="#_edn10" name="_ednref10">[10]</a> and vilifying the migrants. While explaining the rise of populist leaders across Russia, Philippines, Kurd, France, Germany, USA, Turkey, Indonesia, Thailand and India, McCoy<a href="#_edn11" name="_ednref11">[11]</a> explained that, “In their compulsion to “protect” the nation from what are seen as pernicious alien influences, such populist movements are defined by their need for enemies. That need, in turn, infuses them with an almost uncontrollable compulsion for conflict that transcends actual threats or rational political programs”. Instilling fear and terror<a href="#_edn12" name="_ednref12">[12]</a> among masses whilefueling hate are some of the tools that are being deployedstrategically to grab and maintain power position.Religion is being used as the weapon to create binaries and divides and those who do not confirm to autocratic diktats are labeled asothers’[13] or anti-nationals’.Obedience and compliance is becoming the norm and any voices of dissent are crushed. Hence, demagogues today are weakening the stable democracies by turning governmentby the people’ against `the people’ who elected them[14].

These demagogues are mocking those who speak against them, keeping judiciary under control through malicious means, rolling back gains in development and rights arena and are jeopardizingthe basic human rights. The autocratic rulers, in the recent times,are indulging in self-aggrandization while throttling the voices of the civil society and are ruthlessly attacking the non-confirming and dissenting citizens. Mass surveillance and invasion of privacy are a few of the tools that arebeing used as tools to maintain control while ignoring the international human rights laws, conventions or treaties. War, persecution, terror, brutalities and torture are handy weapons that are being used to maintain the power status. Demagogues do not accept accountability for their actions and are keeping discontent under the wrap. Theyare trying to build popular support by spinning the false explanations and cheap solution to genuine ills[15].  The Human Rights Watch Report[16] 2017 rightly observed that the new generation of populists is emerging which while “claiming to speak for the “the people” they treat rights as an impediment to their conception of majority will, a needless obstacle to defending nation from threats and evils. Instead of accepting rights as protecting everyone, they privilege the declared interests of the majority, encouraging people to adopt the dangerous belief that they will never themselves need to assert rights against an overreaching government claiming to act in their name”[17].

 

Demagogues are Endangeringand Weakening the Democracies

History shows that the demagoguery has ultimately leads to the death of democracy. Polybius, a Greek philosopher around 200 BC, elucidates that the demagogues undo the democracies and that every democracy eventually decays leading to “tumultuousassemblies, massacres, banishment” Hitler sponsoredthe holocaust by creating the concentration camps and vilifying the popular sentiments against Jews, however, today, the populist leaders are evoking distinct elements of totalitarianism by generating lawlessness while denying constitutional rights and undermining civil liberties. These populist leaders are not creating special concentrations camps rather they are turning the entire nation into their laboratories of fascism and brutalities.

Hannah Ardent in her work The Origin of Totalitarianism[18] has described the manner in whichthe totalitarian regimes seek to gain absolute power by propaganda and only state approved voices are tolerated while all other dissentingvoices are muffled and throttled. Similarly, the demagogues,today, are imperiling the human rights and endangering the democratic constitutional structures. Populism is inherently hostile to the constitutional values. In their zeal to accumulate power, demagogues are violating the constitutional rights and are manipulating the human rights paradigm[19]. Intolerance, moral policing, religious fanaticism, all are becoming the norms and diktats are being issued as to what people should eat and how they should survive[20].

Today, in many countries, the rule of law is being, bend and broken to favour those who are in power[21] while overlooking the concerns on common citizens. Anarchy and subversion is rampant and martial law is justified. Spate of laws and policies are being formulatedby these populist leaderswhich are anti-people and anti-constitutional[22]. Rights of citizens are being diluted by making amendments in the existing framework of laws and policies[23]. Policiesare being made to restrict human rights of marginalized groups. The police, the army, the para-military forces, all are deployed to fulfil the whims and fancies of the anarchical autocratic leaders. Arbitrary implementation of laws and policies is emphasized and those who raise voice against inhuman decisions are being put behind the bars or are being murdered. In many places, prisons are full of citizens from the minorities communities and the civil right activists while those who essentially commit the crimes roam around freely with impunity because they knew they are being supported by the dictators. The populist leaders,in many nations, are turning blind eye towards violence inflicted on the citizens or the defenders of human rights and in the process, they end up murdering and killing the human right and democratic paradigm. And, at times, while not condemning violence on the civil society they support and promote the violence through their silence[24].

 

Rising Culture of Cruelty

Demagogues, in the recent times, pursue callous forms of neoliberalism while ignoring ethics and overlooking the social and economic cost. Crony corporate capitalism is favored and promoted at the expense of the rights of citizens.Corruption is increasingly becoming the norm in such societies.Exploitivemarket apparatus that lack human compassion is being pushed continuously while negligently ignoring the appalling human misery and ruining the democratic institutions. And all this is being done while using the framework of development’<a href="#_edn25" name="_ednref25">[25]</a>.Such pitiless attitudes and actions on the part of ruling elite is giving rise to theculture of cruelty’ which results in producing “inhuman policies that treatsthe most vulnerable with contempt, relegating them to the zone of abandonment and forcing them to inhabit a society increasingly indifferent to human suffering”[26].Human societies are made to bow before the dictates of the market where the worth of an individual is determined by material standards set by the capitalism. The hegemonic market approach favours monolithic set of norms that push accumulation of personal wealth, career advancement, material status and brands while ignoring the diverse needs and desires. Human agency, creativity, independent thinking capacity for self-reflection and moral autonomy is lost behind the cluttering desire to confirm to the repressive standards of totalitarian, inhuman and authoritarian market. Neoliberal capitalist system is based on irrational belief that market is sufficient enough to cater the range of needs of diverse population. The worth of an individual is reduced to a factor of production and s/he is compelled to comply with the exploitive market norms. The system is never blamed rather it is the individual who is censured, in case he or she fails to fit in. The reality is banished giving rise to delusions and what is espoused isirrationality, absurdity and infantilism.

The zeal to conquer the wealth and resources and to grab power is guided by the dark ethic of the senseless capitalism and it propagates imperialist expansion. Citizens in such economic and political environment are being victimized by those whom they elect to govern. This irrational greed is leading to extreme inequalities, rise in poverty, hunger and malnutrition, climate change, droughts, carbon emission, rising global temperatures, changing agricultural patterns, decline in crop yield, rampant corruption, shrinking free spaces, curtailment of civil liberties, financial crisis, endless wars, poisoned ecosystem, increased stress in daily lives and similar endless concerns. Today, specifically in the country such as India, the educational institutions, civil society, NGOs all are under attack and restrictions are being made on the right to freedom of speech.

The decay of the democratic polity is evident whenthe culture of myths, magic, unreasonableness and illogicality is being propagated in many contemporary societies. This is mixed with the greed, gluttony and with the plundering, loot and exploitation which is harming the very essence of a democratic society. Absence of intelligence and lack of imagination to break free from the glorious past’ ofblood and orgy’ is leading to anarchy. Fundamentalist, fascist and unethical perception is prioritized. Reasoning and rationality hold no meaning in such senseless and baseless pursuit. Evidencesand facts are being detached from the arguments and truth is set aside while being branded as the `fake news’. Anti-intellectual forces are becoming strong and politics today embody the essence of this decayed intellectually bankrupt and immoral world.

Neo-fascists are acting to erode political and social values, exploit resources and harm social relations. In the absence of social security provisions and because of chaotic situation being created by the demagoguery, citizens across the countries are denied of basic essentials even to survive[27].In fact, in many developing countries, including India, the policy of `liberalization, privatization and globalisation’ has resulted in situation where the spending on health and education is continuously being reduced and no emphasis is laid on creating opportunities of employment. Conservative, neo-liberal ideology is being deployed to destroy all public institutions including education. Taking advantage of the situation, the populist leaders are making all efforts to exploit the raw youth energy to serve their hideous purpose.

Violence is being normalized or rather glorified[28] in the current times[29]. Violence has so much permeated into the daily normal life that cruelty is being accepted as a part of the regular culture. Bullying, intimidation and harassmentin all forms, whether children victimizing each other or cyber bullying, all forms of violence is legitimized.Also, it is considered as a normal to be indifferent and insensitive to the sufferings of others.In fact, today, violence is being promoted as a means of entertainment and `pleasure’ in the form of the violent video games, action and drama films and violent stories depicted in the daily news in audio, visual and print media. The news channels are fiercely and selectively promoting wars and violence while sensationalizing the news, in and out, to gain mileage in terms of their rating points. Some of the television channels in India have been accused of running motivated doctored videos[30] and the fabricated news items. Often, false stories are being promoted in the rat race to gain mileage. In fact, currently most of the media ownership is politically aligned or they are owned by the corporate houses[31].

 

Growing Militarization 

Harming the unarmed citizens is the trend that is growing over for the past few decades.Demagogues are obsessed with the national security and thrust on militarism, both external and internal. The toxic mix of religious chauvinism[32], social biasesandthe evolving gun culture is used to create volatile situations where those vulnerable are easily targeted. Increasing militarization is degrading societies it is intended to protect.Brutalities and barbarism is being legitimized for the sake of false sense of national security and integrity.  Emphasis is laid on procuring armsand arsenals while exhibiting the toxic macho style of governance. It is excluding the marginals, normalizing the brutalities and insensitivity to human sufferings and is devaluing open debates, negotiations or exchange of ideas or dialogues.

In fact, it has been said that the welfare states’ are moving towardswarfare states’ and are impacting all aspects of the given social order[33]. By evoking the culture of militarization of minds’, the populist leaders, world over, are reaping the benefits through cultivating fear among masses. The general dissatisfaction and outrage is easily used to createus’ versus `them’. Innocent people are being killed world over[34]and civilizations are being destroyed because of the sickening and gruesome psyche these demagogues are displaying[35].Any protest or any act of dissent is being crushed with the arms and the arsenals consisting of grenades, sprays, pellets, bullets and platoons of armed forces.The rage and anger among people is crumpled with equal amount of force. The cops are being trained to approach their jobs with wrong mindset[36]. The polarization is being engrained to the extent that common people are made to believe lies without questioning or ascertaining the facts.

War is being waged against common citizens where women, children, students, minorities, poor and middle classes are assaulted. People are being forced to live in the shadow of fear. Women and children are suffering greatly out of this madness deployed by these politicians for their vested interests. In many places, children are growing up seeing military men or the militants as a part and parcel of their lives[37].Bombing, shooting, rapes, abduction, killings are the part of daily routine and are severely impacting the children who grow amidst such environment. Rape, abduction, killings, by army personnel as well as militants, all are being normalized in the name of nation’s security. Civic institutions are being undermined. Also, when the people are killed the media report the number of deaths but not the cost in terms of arms and arsenals, destruction of life and property, emotional and social cost of the life of victims and survivors and so on. The rhetoric of “War” and “Terrorism” ismisused over the years even to militarize the common day to day language too[38].

Defense spending is continually being increased considerably over the years while reducing budgetary allocation in health, agriculture or education sector in countries all over the world. Armed forces are being modernized and nuclearization is being prioritized by the populist leaders across the globe.This war mongering attitude is harming rather than protecting the nation states. Recent report says that India has overtaken United Kingdom in defense spending and now occupies the fifth position in spending on defense budget[39]. India spend 52.5 billion dollars on defense in 2017 as compared to UK which spend 50.7 billion dollars in the same year as compared to US which spend 602.8 billion dollars. In the Union Budget of 2018 defense spending get the increased allocation by 7.81 percent[40]. Similarly, in US, the budget plan for 2018 proposed that 30 million dollars for the military parade that the President wants in Washington DC[41]. Despite criticism, the Trump administration defended the proposed plan saying that military parade would help show appreciation and support for those serving in the military. Arrogant vulgar display of masculinity through the pompous military parades holds no value when the budget for other essentials such as health or education are being cut and common citizens are denied the basic necessities. However, the demagoguery could not understand this simple reason.

 

The Growing Politics of Lies, Narcissism and Megalomaniac Arrogance

Demagogues are abrasive politicians who are creating a cult of personality to attract supported and to be surrounded by the cult of blind loyal followers. This army of supportersgenerally follow the populous leaders thoughtlessly and unquestioningly and is ready to commit violence of all kinds when required without reason. Fascism and fanaticism are the strategies that are being deployed by the demagogues to create the cult of blind followers. Haque[42] noted that immature, insecure and stunted mind that could not find a way to grow gets trapped between fear of the father figure and fear of freedom. The fascist mind, according to him is afraid of freedom and afraid of living and therefore for such mind obedience replaces inner morality. It is for this reason that fascist mind is stuck and regress into infantile stage and cannot understand reason, logic facts or evidence.

These demagoguesare also using fear and hatred to stir up frenzy which help them to further establish their authority[43]. Theyare playing on while exploiting prejudices, ignorance and misinformation among common people and are shutting down reasoned debates. They are advocating for relentless forceful and violent means usually without any deliberations. These populist leaders are taking all possible steps to appeal directly to the emotions of poor and uninformed while telling lies and exploiting the crisis situations. The shallow image of strong macho man[44] is being maintained by the autocrat leaders to subjugate masses while projecting opposition as weak or disloyal. Most of the populist elites ruling the nations today, across the globe are woefully deficient in knowledge or intellectual pursuit. They lack the capacity of critical thought.There is the dearth of intelligence and scarcity of the judgement. What they possess is unbridled narcissism. Childish temperament coupled with the volatile blood thirsty masculine impulsivenessas being depicted by these populist leaders is putting not only the nation but the planet at risk.

The populous leaders are using techniques such as scapegoating which implies blaming others for troubles, fear mongering by evoking fear among people as rape or death threats, telling unfettered blatant lies and more lies, being unfair and corrupt, using emotional oratory and personal charisma, using crude propaganda, accusing opponents of weakness and disloyalty[45], making empty promises and often promising the impossible, violence and physical intimidation[46], personally insulting, ridiculing and mocking the opponents[47] and portraying them as corrupt and immoral, displaying vulgar and outrageous behavior, grossly over-simplifying andusing polarizationand exclusion while demonizing the `others’. They are anti-pluralists, and are controlling media to their own advantage. Self-promotion is one of the main characteristic of these populist leaders. Politics is mixed with theatre and dramatic use of emotions is a strategy that is being used to fool people. These demagogues in modern democracies are the dream sellers[48] who are perfect at arousing the aspirations and play on the hidden fears of masses.Overall, it may be said that these demagogues are degrading thestandards of politics, taking all possible steps to escape accountability, are overlooking ethics and are belittling others as well as themselves.

 

Infantilization of Standards and the Language of Politics

“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind” explicates George Orwell. However, in today’s global context, telling lies is normalized and violence[49]has become the catalyst to promote the irrational, senseless, vulgar and fundamentalist arrogance. Wild promises are being made with no intent to fulfill them. Truth which keep check on the corrupt power is being posed as fake and the language of fascism is utilized to normalize falsehood and create sensationalism[50]. People are being easily seduced and the shrewd leaders and opportunist manipulators are not being held accountable for their actions. Words no longer hold meaning[51] or bind the leader[52] and dialogues lack social or ethical imagination[53]. Shameless, senseless, eccentric, crude and vulgar use of language[54], daunting sociopathic behavior[55], using divisive anti-Muslim[56], anti-immigrant rhetoric rooted in hate and violence[57]bigotry, toxic masculinity, sexism[58]and misogynist conductis being used to ridicule the opponents. Empathy no longer remains a concern and vague ideas are proposed to attract the attention of masses[59]. Narcissism is shamelessly being promoted[60] and rationalism is under attack[61]. Unapologetic, arrogant attitude is portrayed with the agenda of self-glorification[62]. These leaders are creating powerful rhetoric and imagery and use their magical appeal to befool masses by their uniformed utterances[63]. Myths and bizarre irrational statements are being made to attract uneducated masses[64]. The growing nexus between the superstitions, celebrity culture, irrationality and political patronage is giving rise of cult of godmen and god women while the rationalist, secular and pluralistic character of the societies is being ripped into pieces[65]. These leaders surround themselves with the like-minded conservative people who are against intellectualism and most of these demagogues avoid press conferences which may put them in embarrassing positions and generally prefer one side dialogue using media.

Today, with the growth of technology, these populous leaders are using mainstream media[66] as well as social media to address political issues[67]. However, these social media platforms are used to humiliate and ridicule the opponents and critics and at times, mocking the physical characteristics using demeaning sexually charged insults and vulgar language. False, defamatory and deceptive statements are being made while latching on the vulnerabilities. Aggression is clearly visible and cyber bullying is becoming a common practice. Mercilessly, battering the opponents on social media is increasingly becoming a norm. In fact, an army of trolls is purposely being deployed “to construct, contrive and calibrate a social media culture where dissent towards a leader or an ideology or even a party is reciprocated in a worst possible manner”[68]. Disparaging and vituperative remarks, disgusting sexual innuendos, rape and death threats, hateful memes, abusive language, threat and intimidation all are used by these trolls which shut down the opportunity for democratic dialogue and fuel as well as incite hate online. Right-wing militancy on social media is responding to dissent by abusive language, bigotry and fanaticism[69].  These troll army lack the logic or basic decency and could go up to any extent to demean, insult and humiliate the person who dare to say anything against the party or its leaders. Attack is coordinated and fully well organized.

In such situations, politics instead of building societies and developing civilizations is becoming a tool to destruct nations. Social cohesion is disappearing and the political disintegration is becoming the norm. The infantilization and decay of politics is leading to the anarchy. Samuel Huntington explains political decay as “the lag in the development of political institutions behind social and economic change”[70]. Today, political institutions are decaying and democracy is being crumpled. Fukuyama[71]explains that the“Institutions are created to meet certain needs of society, such as making war, dealing with economic conflicts, and regulating social behavior”. “But as recurring patterns of behavior, they can also grow rigid and fail to adapt when the circumstances that brought them into being in the first place themselves change,” he added. Worse still, such rigidity can be exacerbated by the elite classes’ misappropriation of state power for their own primary benefit. Those two dreaded forces—rigidity and elite self-dealing—are the sources of political “decay,” Fukuyama’s emphasized.Currently, democracies across the world are facing decay and disintegration. Manor[72] in his work emphasized that in the hierarchical democracies such as India, political decay and awakening run parallelly, but the citizens eventually have been able to develop a corrective and though regeneration did not fully reverse the process of decay but it has been able to avert the collapse.

 

Reclaiming Democracies and Strengthening Politics

In fact, currently democracies over the worldare crumbling by the obnoxious alliance between the conservative forces and the neo-liberal economy. Today, demagogues are flourishing taking advantage of the fact that the democraciesare ailing and that the neoliberal forces are further weakening the democratic structure.However, strong and mature democracies have shown capacities to survive such assaults in past.Aristotle in his work, `The Politics’ wrote that “Revolutions in democracies are generally caused by the intemperance of demagogues”[73]. Robust movements have been initiated and thrived earlier, which have ultimately led to revitalizing of democratic spirit. Social movements as the form of an expression to fulfill the legitimate democratic ambitions and aspirations have helped to instill political awakening in the past.  Similarly, even today, the crisis can be resolved by reclaiming democracies where ultimately people hold the answer, if they dedicate themselves to the rule of law. A broad-based movement where people with different political and ideological vision may come together in defense of equality and social justice to reject the non-democratic governance may help to revive the political spirit in a positive manner and may help to preservethe radical democracy. Solidarity above class, caste, religion, race or gender differences against the neo-fascism is crucial to make structural changes.

Also, Martin Niemoller, a Lutheran pastor in Germany in 1892 in his famous poem` First they came for the Jews’ and this was later adapted and re-adapted with its numerous versions. He wrote

“First They Came for the Jews

And I did Not Speak Out

Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for the Communists

And I did Not Speak Out

Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Trade Unionists

And I did Not Speak Out

Because I was not a Trade Unionist

Then they Came for Me

And There was no One Left

To Speak Out for Me”

 

Democracies suffer from “an intrinsic paradox – if left to its own device it can disintegrate and can lead to tyranny”. Therefore, citizens have to play a meaningful role in strengthening political situations and institutions. In a democracy, it is the onus on the citizens to make the politicians answerable and to fix the accountability of every institutional mechanism through collective actions. Ordinary, informed citizens may play a vital role in reclaiming democracy and political regeneration. When the populous leaders are infantilizing the politics, it is an obligation of the common citizens in the mature democracies to check and balance such actions. Meaningless politics, therefore, must be controlled. Making democracies across the world strong and robust is the need of the hour.

Various scholars and thinkers have pointed out towards strengthening the political role for ordinary people as a solution besides increasing civic education and cultivating a strong sense of responsibility and obligation among common citizens. Kant in his essay on Perpetual Peace in 1795 based on contemporary liberal thoughts has proposed his peace program. Similarly, today, the universal unalienable right to life and liberty needs to be protected. Opposing the forces of domination and oppression is crucial.

In today’s democracies, whoever control people also regulate the power. Power can be evoked by wide range of actions ranging from protest for justice to massacres and the mob lynching. Essential is to understand the relationship between individual mass leaders and the citizens.Collective resistance build on solidarity of diverse group of people could challenge the power of fascist forces. Also, the lies and falsehood propagated by the populist leaders need to be contested with the truths. The uninformed utterances could be challenged with informed reasoning and facts. The language of fascism needs to be countered with the critical sustained dialogue and narratives of freedom and empathy.

In contemporary times, the need is to think beyond the role of citizens to vote and elect the candidates to monitor and survey the work being done. Civil literacy is the modus operandi in the given situation to create political awareness.Critically informed and socially responsible engagement may help to create new public spheres that may help to revitalize the democratic struggle. Civil society has to play an affective role in providing vigilance and creating more instruments such as Right to Information Act and similar such instruments which could held those on power accountable for their actions as well as inactions. The struggle for democracy in the appalling time requires agency and resistance. The concept of dollar vote needs to be re-examined. Decentralization of power has been suggested by many leaders in the past. The need is to think beyond the party politics to be understood as a vibrant ecology of practices to include wide range of perspectives, aspirations and innovations.

The market system is destroying the political system by relentlessly undermining the social institutions and depoliticizing the citizens while make democracy impossible. This need to be re-examined. Resistance at local as well at the global level is essential to prevent destruction by such powerful forces. Therefore, there is a need to connect local politics with the national as well as global political developments.

H.L. Mencken[74] in 1939 wrote, “The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out … without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, intolerable.” Thus, reclaiming ideals and promise of democracy require sustained critique of comprehensive politics along with the channelizing forces of fierce and courageous collective systemic, ongoing, educative and creative resistance at various level in and different forms in which radical and ethical imagination is being realized through mass demonstrations and protests. It is the process of engagement of informed citizens who confront the dark times with energized optimism to create a social movement that could bring change.This is a non-violent resistance that is transformative and emancipatory. It is a dissent of hope, conviction and courage that allows to think critically, dialogue effectively, questions the autocracy, deliberate thoughtfully, reveal and challenge the oppression and transgress the established norms.

Fredrick Douglass in his speech in 1857 said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. …This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”So, there is a need to cultivate hope and to imagine a sense of possibility. With the bankruptcy of the political language in the contemporary era, there is a need to develop a new language of hope and justice which could provide new meaning to the question of substantive democracy. Bauman[75] stated that “as inevitably as the meeting of oxygen and hydrogen results in water, hope is conceived whenever imagination and moral sense meet”.

The author is a practicing advocate and an activist working on human rights, gender, law and governance issues. She has written several books and articles. She may be contacted at shalu_nigam@rediffmail.com

[1] Nigam Shalu (2016) The Privileges of Being a Hindu Upper Caste Elite class Male in India, Countercurrents.org February 10, https://www.countercurrents.org/nigam100216.htm

[2] The term is propounded by John Milton in 1649

[3] Signer Michael (2009) Demagogue: The Fight to Save Democracy from its Worst Enemies, Palgrave MacMillan, New York

[4] ibid

[5] Huntington Samuel (1996) Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Simon and Schuster, UK

[6] Make America Great Again is the agenda which is being used by Donald Trump and in the garb of this agenda, the rights of minorities and refugees are curtailed. Similarly, the Hindutva agenda is being promoted by the Modi government which backed by the corporate sector is threatening the rights of women, poor, minorities, Dalits, tribals and common citizens.

[7] Mishra Pankaj (2016) The Globalization of Rage, Foreign Affairs, November/December Issue https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/world/2016-10-17/globalization-rage

[8] Ogden Chris (2012) A Lasting Legacy: The BJP Led National Democratic Alliance and the Indian Politics, Journal of Contemporary Asia, 42 (1) 22-38

[9] McCoy Alferd D. (2017) It’s Not Just Trump: A Toxic Right-Wing Nationalism Is Rising Across Planet, Alternet, April 2, https://www.alternet.org/world/its-not-just-trump-toxic-right-wing-nationalism-rising-across-planet

[10] The Hindustan Times, (2018) Appeals Court Declares Trump travel Ban Unconstitutional, February 16, https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/appeals-court-declares-trump-travel-ban-unconstitutional/story-lsoQepm5jtRISU3kJuAuPJ.html

[11] Supra

[12] Mob lynching, communal riots, polarization all are used to strengthen Hindutva agenda in India and the anti-Muslim frenzy is capturing the imagination of majority

[13]Daniyal Shoaib (2018) Video: How Could I Reconcile My Hinduism with These Mob Lynchers? Asks Shashi Tharoor, The Scroll, February 13, https://scroll.in/video/868482/video-how-could-i-reconcile-my-hinduism-with-these-mob-lynchers-love-jihadis-ghar-wapsi-types?utm_content=buffera612e&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

[14] Megan Garber (2015) What we Talk About When We Talk About Demagogues, The Atlantic, December 10, https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/12/what-we-talk-about-when-we-talk-about-demagogues/419514/

[15] The Hindu (2018) How Shah Made a Virtue of Modi’s Pakoda Remark, February 5, http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/national/pakoda-how-shah-made-a-virtue-of-modis-pakoda-remark/article22660316.ece

[16] Human Rights Watch (2017) World Report, USA https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/world_report_download/wr2017-web.pdf

[17] Roth Kenneth (2017) The Dangerous Rise of Populism: Global Attack on Human Rights Values, The World Report 2017, Human Rights Watch, USA

[18] Ardent Hannah (1966) The Origins of Totalitarianism, Harvest Book, USA

[19] The Wire (2017) Don’t Call Yourself Secular, Identify by religion or Caste Instead: BJP Minister, Anant Kumar Hegde, The Wire, December 25 https://thewire.in/208017/dont-call-secular-identify-religion-caste-instead-bjp-minister-anantkumar-hegde/

[20]Dhavan Rajeev (2015) Death of Secularism: This is Modi and Hindutva’s Dream of India, Daily O, September 21, https://www.dailyo.in/politics/hindutva-bjp-meat-ban-beef-ban-jk-hamid-ansari-mahesh-sharma-kalam-khaps-ar-rahman-fatwa-aurangzeb-nmml/story/1/6346.html

[21] BBC (2014) The Many Trials of Silvio Berlusconi Explained, May 9, BBC News, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-12403119

[22] Berry Deborah B (2016) Trump Says He’ll Open up the Libel Laws if He’s Selected, USA Today, February 27, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2016/02/27/trump-says-hell-open-up-libel-laws-if-hes-elected/81042044/  also, The Hindustan Times (2017) Rajasthan Govt Tables Bill to Replace Gag Ordinance, Oppn calls It Kaala Kanoon, October 23, https://www.hindustantimes.com/jaipur/rajasthan-govt-tables-bill-to-replace-gag-ordinance-oppn-calls-it-kaala-kaanoon/story-RUFuqEhtnwP5L0EM9iVlEK.html

[23] Dilutions have been made in the RTI law in India, the policies such as demonetization and GST have been introduced which have affected the masses, Labour laws are being diluted in the garb of making environment business friendly, agrarian distress has increased and farmers are committing suicides, the freedom of press is being restricted and even the judiciary is being targeted

[24] In India, many people protested when it was observed that the Prime Minister followed those on Twitter who pompously cheered the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh. See Sanyal P (2017) PM Modi Follows Twitter Accounts Who Think Gauri Lankesh Deserved To Die, Daily O September 6, https://www.dailyo.in/politics/gauri-lankesh-twitter-trolls-hindutva-narendra-modi/story/1/19367.html

[25] PTI (2013) Narendra Modi’s development Model is Pro-corporate: MedhaPatkar, The Hindustan Times October 28 https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/narendra-modis-development-model-is-pro-corporate-medha-patkar/articleshow/24827531.cms

[26] Giroux Henry (2017) The Culture of Cruelty in Trump’s America, Truthdig, March 22 https://www.truthdig.com/articles/the-culture-of-cruelty-in-trumps-america/

[27] In India, recently many people lost their life because Aadhaar was made compulsory and in its absence, citizens were denied basic services such as food grains, medical services, etc. In Jharkhand, many people died because they were denied rations. Further, in the hospital in UP many kids died in the hospital because of lack of oxygen because the government could not made budget available to get the supplies

[28] Corbridge Stuart (1999) The Militarization of All Hindudom? The Bhartiya Janta Party, The Bomb, and the Political Space of Hindu Nationalism, Economy and Society, 28 (2) 222-255

[29] KeenSualeh (2016) Militarization of Civil Society: Theodicy, Double Standards and Schizophrenia, July 13, The South Asia Citizens Web, http://www.sacw.net/article12864.html

[30]DeshmaneAkshay and VishnoiAnubhuti (2016) JNU Videos Doctored: Forensic Report; Smriti Irani’s Aide Shilpi Tewari Under the Lens, March 3 The Economic Times, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/jnu-videos-doctored-forensic-report-smriti-iranis-aide-shilpi-tewari-under-lens/articleshow/51232360.cms

[31] Kaushik K (2016) The Big Five: The Media Companies that the Modi Government Must Scrutinize To Fulfill its Promise to End Crony Capitalism, The Caravan, January 19, http://www.caravanmagazine.in/vantage/the-big-five-the-media-companies-that-the-modi-government-must-scrutinise-to-fulfill-its-promise-of-ending-crony-capitalism

[32] Pane James Di (2017) The Festering Religious Violence That Underpins Modi’s India, The News Week, April 14, http://www.newsweek.com/festering-religious-violence-underpins-modis-india-583835

[33] Thatcher Leslie (2016) We No Longer live in Democracy: Henry Giroux on a United State at War With Self, TruthOut September 25, http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/37738-we-no-longer-live-in-a-democracy-henry-giroux-on-a-united-states-at-war-with-itself

[34] War is being waged in Syria, Iraq, Palestine and many countries where civilians are suffering the most.

[35]The insurgency in the Kashmir valley in the North India and in the states of Manipur, Nagaland, Assam and Tripura in North-East reflect the rampant militarization. The war against the poor in the tribal regions of Central India to capture their mineral-rich land for corporate interests has resulted in increased use of the Armed Forces in Internal Security.

[36] Balko Radley (20013) Rise of Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, Public Affairs Books, USA

[37] Raj Yashwant (2018) Florida School Shooting: Easy Access to Guns raises Questions, the Hindustan Times, February 16, https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/florida-school-shooting-easy-access-to-guns-raises-questions/story-N2BvsMe9oy4WA1enSVbHjL.html

[38] Carpenter Ted Galen (2016) The Creeping Militarization of American Culture, The National Interest, May 13, http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-skeptics/the-creeping-miltiarization-american-culture-16207

[39]SonwalkarPrasun (2018) India overtake UK in defense spending, China Remains a Major Challenger, The Hindustan Times, February 15, https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/india-overtakes-uk-in-defence-spending-china-a-major-challenger-report/story-JSWeQtP6SfNsuQ1wWqx31K.html

[40] Singh Rahul (2018) Union Budget 2018: Defense Spending Increased by 7.81% but Lower than Expectation, The Hindustan Times, February 2 https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/union-budget-2018-defence-spending-increased-by-7-81-but-lower-than-expectations/story-UzfVvX6tjYEIHlynWwho1K.html

[41]Brimelow Ben (2018) Trump’s Military Parade Could Cost as much as $30 Million, Business Insider, February 14, https://www.businessinsider.in/Trumps-military-parade-could-cost-as-much-as-30-million/articleshow/62921989.cms

[42]Haque Umair (2017) The Psychology of Fascism: Fear of Father and Fear of Freedom, February 4, https://umairhaque.com/the-psychology-of-fascism-118c6e7d60fc

[43] Cruz Elfren S. (2016) Demagogues, Phil Star Global, April 23 https://beta.philstar.com/opinion/2016/04/23/1576170/demagogues

[44] Modi claims 56 inches chest is being thumped on and oft by his followers though opposition taunts him for the same. See Kumar Manish (2014) Narendra’s Modi Talk of `56 inch’ chest Draws Acerbic Response from Sharad Yadav, NDTV January 24 https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/narendra-modis-talk-of-56-inch-chest-draws-acerbic-response-from-sharad-yadav-548777

[45] Rai Valay Singh (2018) Modi’s Speech in the Parliament: What is this Obsession for Nehru? Daily O February 7

https://www.dailyo.in/politics/modi-lok-sabha-motion-of-thanks-congress-jawaharlal-nehru-sardar-patel-gandhi-family/story/1/22240.html

[46] Adolf Hitler in his Mien Kampf wrote that physical intimidation is an effective way to stir the masses

[47] The Print (2018) TalkPoint: Modi’s Remark on Renuka Chowdhary’s Laughter – it is Wit of Misogyny? February 8, https://theprint.in/2018/02/08/narendra-modi-renuka-chowdhury-wit-or-misogyny/

[48] PM of India promised Achche Din or Good Days as a candidate but four years after he has ruled the country is yet to see good days. The opposition leaders are hailing him as jumla man.

[49] The Print (2018) TalkPoint: Is the BJP Falling Back on Communal Polarisation Ahead of 2019 Elections? February 13, https://theprint.in/2018/02/13/talkpoint-is-the-bjp-falling-back-on-communal-polarization-ahead-of-2019-elections/

[50] Giroux Henry (2018) Shithole Countries: Trump Uses the Rhetoric of Dictators, The Conversation, January 11, https://theconversation.com/shithole-countries-trump-uses-the-rhetoric-of-dictators-89850

[51] Scroll (2018) SAD Serious Acronym Disorder: Twitter Users are on the TOP of the World Over Modi’s Latest Word Play, The Scroll February 4, https://scroll.in/article/867518/sad-serious-acronym-disorder-twitter-users-are-on-top-of-the-world-over-modis-latest-wordplay

[52] ET Bureau (2015) PM Modi’s Promise of `Rs 15 Lakhs in Each Account’ an Idiom: Amit Shah, The Economic Times, February 6, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/pm-modis-promise-of-rs-15-lakh-in-each-account-an-idiom-amit-shah/articleshow/46139139.cms

[53] The Hindu (2018) How Shah Made a Virtue of Modi’s Pakoda Remark, February 5, http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/national/pakoda-how-shah-made-a-virtue-of-modis-pakoda-remark/article22660316.ece

[54] Howard Adam (2015) Trump on ISIS: `You Have to Take Out Their Families’ February 12, MSNBC, http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/trump-isis-you-have-take-out-their-families

[55] Holmes Jack (2016) Donald Trump Longs for the Good Old Days Where He Could Punch the Protester in The Face, February 23, Esquire, http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/videos/a42370/donald-trump-punch-protester-in-face/

[56] Swain Ashok (2017) It’s Not What Modi is Saying About Muslims, Its Why He Shouldn’t Say it At All, Daily O, February 21, https://www.dailyo.in/politics/modi-fatehpur-communalism-gau-rakshaks-love-jihad-gujarat-riots/story/1/15774.html

[57] Johnson Jenna and David Weigel (2015) Donald Trump Calls For Total Ban on Muslims Entering United States, Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2015/12/07/e56266f6-9d2b-11e5-8728-1af6af208198_story.html?utm_term=.139fe31bd569

[58]Makarechi Kia (2015) AT GOP Debate, Carly Florina Effortlessly Bats Away Trump’s Sexism, September 16, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2015/09/carly-fiorina-donald-trump-gop-debate

[59] Singh Rajgopal (2018) Modi’s Exam Warrior: It’s All About Politics Stupid, The Print February 13, https://theprint.in/2018/02/13/modis-exam-warriors-its-all-about-politics-stupid/

[60] Alford Henry (2015) Is Donald Trump Actually a Narcissist? Therapists Weigh In, Vanity Fair, November 11, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2015/11/donald-trump-narcissism-therapists

[61] Sharma Dinesh C (2015) Kalburgi Killing: Rational Thinking and Free Speech are Under Attack in India, Daily O, August 31, https://www.dailyo.in/politics/mm-kalburgi-rationalists-free-speech-dharwad-bangladesh-sanal-edamaruku-dabholkar-pansare/story/1/5977.html

[62] Pereira Fr Myron SJ (2017) Modi: From Democracy to Demagoguery, UCA News December 8, https://www.ucanews.com/news/modi-from-democracy-to-demagoguery/81018

[63] Mishra Pankaj (2017) How to Understand Modi’s Magical Political Appeal, The Economic Times, March 14, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/markets/stocks/news/how-to-understand-modis-magical-political-appeal/articleshow/57625930.cms

[64]Sidharth Arjun (2018) BJP and Science: From Ganesha’s Plastic Surgery to `Yoga Can Cure Cancer’ The Alt News, February 9 https://www.altnews.in/bjp-science-ganeshas-plastic-surgery-yoga-can-cure-cancer/

[65]Nayar Kuldip (2015) The BJP is Lethal for India’s Secular Democracy, The Citizen, February 2, http://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/en/newsdetail/index/4/2386/the-bjp-is-lethal-for-indias-secular-democracy

[66] The Gulf News (2018) Fake News: Viral Video Clip in Indian Media Spread False Propaganda on UAE, February 11, The Gulf News, http://m.gulfnews.com/news/asia/india/fake-news-viral-video-clip-in-indian-media-spreads-false-propaganda-on-uae-1.2172114?utm_source=mobilesite&utm_medium=socialbar&utm_campaign=twitter

[67] Burns Alexander and Maggie Haberman (2016) To Fight Critics Donald Trump Aims to Instill Fear in 140 Character Doses, The New York Times, February 26, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/27/us/politics/donald-trump.html

[68] Acharya Devparna (2017) Why Does Narendra Modi Follow Trolls on Twitter, Ask Author Swati Chaturvedi, FirstPost January 24, http://www.firstpost.com/politics/why-does-narendra-modi-follow-trolls-on-twitter-asks-author-swati-chaturvedi-3176476.html

[69] Malhotra Swati (2016) I am a Troll: Inside the Secret World of BJP’s Digitalized Army, Juggernaut, India

[70]Huntington Samuel P (1965) Political Development and Political Decay, World Politics 17 (3) 386-430

[71] Fukuyama Francis (2014)  Political Order and Political Decay, FSG Books, USA

[72] Manor James (2016) Politics and State Society Relations in India, Hurst and Company, London

[73] Signer Michael (2009) Demagogue: The Fight to Save Democracy from its Worst Enemies, Palgrave MacMillan, New York

[74] Mencken HL (1926) Notes on Democracy, Republished in 2009, Dissident Books, New York

[75] Bauman Zygmunt (2004) To Hope is Human, Tikkun 19 (6)

One Comment

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    Analytical article exposing the degeneration of politicians and criminalization of politics. We are living in ‘ Hard Times ‘ … !