Changing times and our narratives
It was CNN anchor, Mr Fareed Zakaria, who said that democracy is a system marked by free and fair elections, freedom of the press, rule of law, protection of individual rights and religion, association i.e constitutional democracy. That, “it’s when these rights are abused that people resort to extremism to challenge an affront to their rights”.
Judging by our current political paralysis and social disengagement, one would assume the end is nigh.
However, don’t despair or turn off the light just yet. We still have the comfort of the partitions, saving ‘us’ from ourselves and those hellbent on controlling our narratives.
In the red corner, are the community of believers who assume our democracy is under attack. Probably, they are right because democracy is being constantly redefined - surprisingly, not by the usual downtrodden mobs but by the self-indulged political zealots and vampires.
The yellow corner offers refuge to the sceptics, those who believe democracy is overrated. That, it is an effective tool used by those in power to keep the powerless sedated. This line of argument is based on the fact society is more polarised, disfranchised and poorer now than ever. An average 'Joe' who is waiting to be served at the nearest foodbank would love to be reminded what democracy has done for ordinary people lately.
Why does it matter, anyway? Well, we are now hung up on being either a leaver or a remainer; because anything else is presumed unpatriotic. Yet, we want our personal space and freedom.
Secondly, we seem to forget that political power is generic and ever-changing. That, the will of the people would eventually outlive the ambition of any leader and politician, or the fascist for all we care. Nothing (power included) built by man, or woman last forever.
Thirdly, we are losing trust and relationships among various segments of our society due to the scarcity of empathy. Frankly, we are all compromised.
It is within these oversights and cacophony of misrepresentations that the bigger picture is lost. Many of us no longer see beyond our tents and bunkers because we have been programmed to exist within 'we and them' mentality.
As Andre Gide put it, "one doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time". Migrants and conquerors alike would understand and empathise with this statement most.
If I am not mistaken, it was the desire to discover and a spirit to challenge the unknown that added the ‘Great’ to Great Britain. It was the same spirit that emboldened the powerless to challenge and defeat their oppressors.
We are also losing the spirit of trust, which is the bedrock of all transactions and meaningful relationships. This exists within the premise that promises and commitments would be met. Importantly, there is no peaceful coexistence and lasting relationship with the rest of humanity, if we do not play our part, or adapt to these changing times. The failure of our leaders and those in the position of power to adhere to this simple lesson is what stokes up amber of discontent and resentment.
There should be a point in our busy life journeys when we have to pause, to listen and reflect on lessons learned from experience and other people’s mistakes. Our failure to embrace usually brought forth a circle of regrets, stress, broken relationships and missed opportunities.
Ideally, we should aspire to apply a reflective approach and principles to governance and our democracy. Otherwise, the rise of anarchy, extreme views and the impending revenge of those ‘presumed powerless’ may be the least of our worries.