Thursday, 27 December 2007

What price democracy?

I’ve often wondered why the Western world is so keen to see democracy installed (or imposed?) across the world. Is it such a good thing?

There are inherent problems with voting systems. For example, hanging chads in the US; over 100,000 spoilt ballot papers in the most recent elections in Scotland; not to mention the intimidation and corruption that seems to characterise elections in many countries.

Earlier today I came across this quotation:

“The people are always said to know best. But the fact that democracies do not like sacrifices, do not listen to bad news nor wish to think about bad possibilities in the future, do not want their comfort or profits interfered with, should be accepted with apprehension, not complacence. Why is it evident that democracy and liberal values will prevail? The evidence is very limited, the historical experience with modern democracy brief, of a little more than two centuries. We do not know the future of democracy."
—William Pfaff, The Wrath of Nations: Civilizations and the Furies of Nationalism

My reaction was to think – “that’s a lot to get my head around, so maybe it’s best left alone for other to worry about!”

A few minutes later, I read the news of Benazir Bhutto’s murder and I realise that these are issues that affect us all. Admittedly, the impact of her assassination will not be felt directly by me, but in the nature of security threats (real or imagined) there will inevitably be a reaction for us all.

So is democracy worth dying for? Clearly Benazir Bhutto was fully aware of the risks that she faced, and some of her recent words seemed to echo the sentiments of Martin Luther King shortly before his death. For them, personal sacrifice was a price worth paying because their cause was so important to them.

There is more than a hint of the tradition of the Old Testament prophets in the actions of Benazir Bhutto – going to a place that she cared about, but where she would be in danger; speaking the truth whatever the consequences; trusting that good would come out of her actions. I don’t know what other motivations she may have had – I’m certainly not very familiar with the politics of Pakistan.

How should we respond? As Christians we should pray for Benazir and her family, and that the potential for turmoil and chaos in Pakistan is averted.

Maybe we need to think through how our ways of governing look to other people, and also to God. But most of all we should pray for a world where power corrupts and evil deeds are justified by those who should know better. However we’re governed, violent responses to opponents will always be wrong.

What does it mean when we say

“and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end”?

May Pakistan know peace in the days ahead.

1 comment:

nonprofitprophet said...

Democracy, as a form of government, is probably the most preferred of all the political systems man has created so far. Not that is doesn't have its flaws and failures, but in a comparison, is much more desired over the others. I too was saddend by Bhutto's murder, as I had always admired her courage and straight talk. But she, as others, knew the importance of self governing, of will of the people and their desire to be in charge of their own destiny. But with this "being in charge" business lies great responsiblity. It is probably much simpler to let a monarchy or dictatorship make decisions for you. But our yearning to be a part of something much larger than ourselves lends to the representative form of government. at least we have a say so in the screw ups we create, instead of just being imposed upon.
it is sad however that people resort to killing one another over differences of opinion. ~npp