To Save Democracy, Check Deceptocracy

direct democracy

The progress of democracy has been one of the noblest chapters of the history of humanity. When true democracy progresses, this also leads to steadily increasing possibilities for equality and justice in society. This however is not acceptable to those sections that have concentrated wealth and privilege among themselves and they often have a tendency to resist this.

In societies which have been rendered weak by historical circumstances, democracy brings the strength that only people’s power can provide. However this also is not acceptable to those more powerful societies, or certain strong sections within them, that were able to plunder and use to their  advantage other societies as long as these were weak, but find this more and more difficult with growing people’s power in these societies, the result of democracy.

Hence no matter how helpful, empowering and liberating democracy is for people, very frequently there are strong internal and external forces that do not want democracy to progress in the right spirit. Without saying this openly, as it is not considered politically proper to criticize democracy openly, these forces try to obstruct as well as seriously distort the path of democracy in such ways that the true spirit of democracy cannot be realized. In brief this is the reason why the progress of democracy has been badly obstructed and distorted despite the undoubted great potential of true democracy to contribute to the progress and improvement of humanity in very meaningful ways.

This tendency to deliberately obstruct and distort democracy, evil but nevertheless widespread, is sought to be realized by deliberately creating widespread deception, mass deception among people at various levels. Essentially the powerful elites tell their cronies to create a system in which people can be led to believe that their priorities are being met while actually giving a big preference to priorities of the powerful elites, and/or to keep people engrossed in mutual hostilities (while positioning elites as the arbiters of their disputes) as well as in frivolous entertainments (while positioning the powerful elites as the providers or arrangers of these).

The ruling elites try to create deception that they are essentially pursuing welfare of all people, even though they take steps to perpetuate, or even accentuate, high levels of income inequality and concentration of wealth. Although welfare of the weaker sections can be increased very significantly by better distribution of resources, the entire discourse is distorted in such a way that instead of mobilizing to try to achieve this, people are quite happy to accept crumbs for themselves while at the same time praising those who are willing to share only crumbs with them. If the ruling elites give away billions to very rich corporations making weapons, this is justified or even praised in the name of strengthening the security of the country and its people. If billions are siphoned off to those who are guilty of profiteering in a big way at the expense of the health of people or even children, this is justified or even praised in the name of protecting people from serious disease. Billions are thrown towards big corporations which are creating serious risks for small farmers and family farming, for safety of food and for environment, by somehow spreading the word that these corporations are feeding the world and are essential for food security.

In other words, powerful elites are able to present their pursuit of high profit and privilege in such ways that the majority of people get convinced that this is somehow necessary for them too, or else that this is the only way possible of running the country or world.

Regarding external relations, the ruling elites of powerful countries are often able to co-opt the elites of weaker societies in such ways that they continue their relationship of dominance and exploitation merely by presenting this as one of either help or even indispensability. Such is the level of deception that even when the ruling elites of the most powerful societies clearly act time and again to obstruct or even remove democratically elected governments and help to install or strength terrible dictators, they continue to speak of themselves as the worldwide promoters of democracy and what is more, such statements by them are accepted by a very large number of people. This is possible only because of the systemic spread of deception at several levels by the ruling elites of various societies, particularly the most powerful ones.

At another level, the way in which people think about what they desire or can hope to get in life is also distorted. Instead of people having a realization of the terrible harm caused by systemic inequality/ injustice and also a vision of the great improvements that are possible for them and their children in much more equal and just systems that are possible on a path of true democracy, they are led to believe that these systems of inequality/injustice are a given that will always remain and they must snatch or grab whatever little they can, even if this is at the cost of friends or neighbors. In such conditions it is easier to spread hostility among neighbors based on narrow identities, while such infighting among people only increases the hold of the ruling elites and helps them to keep the people distracted and dependent. The way forward, people are led to believe, is to somehow get whatever they can from the power patronages of the existing system. If all this is difficult to accept, at the same time the system also provides various relatively cheaper forms of entertainments, providing identity points with attractive celebrities and stars, also provides a dream world to escape from the grim reality and make it more acceptable. People tend to find their idols and heroes among the same celebrities of the same system which is responsible for the existing inequalities and injustices.

As the doors of opportunity become very narrow in economically weak and exploited societies, there is an increasing tendency among the people there to see the richer societies, that in direct and indirect ways may also be the societies responsible for their deprivations and difficulties, as their lands of opportunity to which they should somehow escape. Hence the thinking of most of the ordinary people is not about how the world can truly improve to be more just, safe and harmonious, but instead to accept it as it is and somehow snatch or manage a better place within it.

Even in some of the societies with high levels of education and regular elections, indicating for many people that these are relatively better democracies, election time may not see a real chance for seeking a better society but instead a more reluctant choice between various political forces aligned more or less to similar systems of power and privilege.

This can be seen very clearly in the US elections where the most serious issues of inequalities and injustices at the domestic levels, or the even more unjust external policies which have been resulting in death and destruction in many countries at a massive level are not seriously questioned or do not even become the leading issue for any of the two major political parties or their presidential candidates. Yet because of the mass deception to which society is exposed, such distortion of democracy—the glaring neglect of very important issues—in the electoral campaign is just routinely accepted.

Such a distorted form of democracy is not capable of playing its historical role of the progress of humanity on the path of justice and equality. Hence democracy should be saved by first checking mass deception, by checking the spread of deceptocracy. Save democracy, stop deceptcracy.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children, When the Two Streams Met and A Day in 2071.


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