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Developing Democracy


China has become one of the richest countries in the world and exponentially raised the standard of living of its people. Yet, it cannot afford democracy. Indeed, democracy is an expensive affair as it denies governments the numerous short-cut ‘solutions’ that can otherwise be deployed. Indians are extremely troubled today because of the chaotic, almost anarchic, manner in which governance takes place. ‘Freedoms’ are over-exercised, while ‘responsibilities’ are overlooked. Development and progress percolate down to the grassroots in a complex, frustratingly slow manner. People actually question decisive government action as ‘autocratic’. The last thing that voters do is exercise their franchise after due consideration of the options being offered – caste, community, bias and short-sighted greed determine choices.

So, is acceptance of a democratic system just due to the laziness of the people? Or, are there benefits not so visible to the critics? When they have a choice, which nations do Indians prefer to emigrate to? Are democracies not their first choice even if they have the most menial of jobs to sustain them? Why is there not a line outside the Chinese Embassy for immigration visas? Even refugees from Myanmar accept the miserable conditions in Bangladesh camps rather than cross the border into China, where the basics of life would be more easily available?

It would seem that even the delusion of freedom is preferable to others exercising real power over oneself. If that delusion transforms into anything like reality, people seem willing to accept all the concomitant difficulties, even suffering. They no longer are willing to accept a ‘lower’ state of being. This is what has allowed India to develop over the ages into a nation of vast diversity bound by the basic principle of spiritual freedom. This force is not to be taken lightly as, like gravity, it is universal, even when absent.

For a more smoothly functioning democracy, it is perhaps necessary for people to realise this basic characteristic in their nature, even work on developing it. This requires space for oneself, and allowing space for others; the confidence to debate, even argue, rather than use physical force! One should develop the strength for self-defence and the defence of the weak and helpless, while otherwise adhering to the norms of civilised behaviour. Democracy will then find its natural course, even lead to material well-being and an ordered society.