SOME HAMILTONIAN REALISM REGARDING THE REVOLT OF THE MASSESPundita
posted a provocative essay on modern democratic revolutions
of the kind seen in Georgia
and, to a limited extent, underway in Lebanon
. Sort of a political cry of Caveat Emptor !"The stage-managed Orange Revolution in Ukraine was a product of what could be called the Democracy Stage Show Kit. The kit comes complete with instructions on how to stage civil disobedience, how to use the media, and coaching on how to line up your talking points. The basic kit is not new. It's as old as big money buying mobs. In the modern era the kit was refined by Western governments and used to peel some former Soviet regions from the Kremlin's influence.......On paper, that's not such a bad idea--provided foreign government influence can be kept out of the confrontation process. Yet there is an insidious drawback to the packaging of democratic revolution, which works greatly against real democracy. That people in a democracy have the right to stage mass protests is not the same as saying that mass protests are a demonstration of democratic government. They're demonstrating a benefit of such government. Yet many people who use the Democracy Stage Show Kit are not clear on the fact that democratic government requires the rule of law, not the rule of a crowd.--and that democracy demands increased personal responsibility on the part of the self-governed. These two concepts--rule of law and personal responsibility--are strikingly absent in the sales pitch for the Democracy Stage Show Kit. What you hear most in the pitch is "freedom." People are encouraged to seek more freedom. But freedom is not free. It's a tremendous responsibility, which imposes considerable discipline on the individual and takes up much time. "Pundita's skepticism on establishing democratic rule is tempered by later acknowledging an important statistical reality with political implications: " Humanity will work through the conundrum; we have no choice, given our current population and where the figure is headed. Democracy is not only the best form of government in terms of protecting human rights, it's also the only workable form of government in the era of huge human populations. We have simply passed the era when a small elite could be counted on to properly manage the problems of governing a populace. It takes large numbers of people to efficiently govern populations that run into the hundreds of millions. "
This point is not merely one of functionality but of political legitimacy. When an oligarchy or a dictator loses the confidence of the state bureaucracy, when the nomenklatura of terror has its will sapped by uncertainty, even an efficient police state will unravel with unnerving speed. Erich Honecker ruled East Germany for decades. His successor, Egon Krenz, lasted a month.
Democracy is a potent legitimizer of power because it is an affirmation of the consent of the governed. Other forms of government can be implicitly
legitimate but democracy is explicitly
so - being measured at regular and predictable intervals. The rulers of other kinds of regimes realize this which is why so few of them dare to ideologically challenge democracy head-on like the Fascists and Nazis once did. Instead they proffer sham elections to the world as if form could still be mistaken for content, usually to universal derision.
Democracy has reached the point of ubiquitous acceptance where, without recognizing the irony, the accidental, absolutist, King of Nepal is being chided by the world community for being anti-democratic !
Oriental despots are expected to be good democrats these days because without popular sanction they are just so much gangsters with an armed mob behind them. When al Qaida ideologist Ayman al-Zawahiri and beheading maniac Musab al-Zarqawi rant against democracy
as sacreligious and illegitimate their videotaped tirade falls upon deaf ears - most likely with al-Zarqawi's contribution
weakening whatever case al-Zawahiri might have.
The real question today is not democracy as an irresistable force meeting totalitarianism as an immovable object but of democracy irresistably meeting peoples previously seen as ungovernable except by force.