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Sunday, 21 April 2013

Is The West Ready For Democracy?

The Czech Ambassador to the United States is worried because some Americans are confusing Czech and Chechen. In the aftermath of the Boston bombings that is cause for concern because a certain amount of street retribution will come the way of Chechens - or Czechs - or maybe just young men with olive skin and back-to-front baseball caps.

We already knew that many Americans are profoundly ignorant of world geography but only too happy to cheer when their government bombs far-away countries which those same Americans cannot locate on the map.

I don't think the "classical" theorists of democracy really foresaw this outcome to the "mass education" which they thought would create an educated citizenry, every one of them worthy of their right to vote.

Nor did they really foresee the continuation of  a kind of deference which means that the United Kingdom's - well, England's - political classte can still decide which issues voters are allowed to have opinions about and which are reserved to the judgement of their Betters.

Nor did they foresee that voters - and not just politicians - could be enthusiasts for Corruption as Usual. But at least a quarter of Italy's and Greece's voters knowingly and deliberately Vote for the Crook. They reckon that if they vote for Big Corruption they will continue to be allowed their own Little Corruption. As a result, the Greek government is bankrupt and stagnant debt-riddled farcical Italy's could still go that way.

Nor did the classic theorists of democracy reckon with voters' capacity to display the kind of  ostrich-like conservatism which we see both in conservative Britain and state-socialist France. Voters in these countries will sign up for Change in China, Change in Russia, Change in fact anywhere far enough away, and Regime Change anywhere where the faces are not very white and the bombs not very powerful. But change at home? Not a chance. That is why in Britain, for example, the Ministry of Education is nowadays always entrusted to a pantomime reactionary - Tony Blair gave the job to Work of God Ruth Kelly and David Cameron picked God, the Queen and School Uniform Michael Gove.

In China, the leadership probably reckons that if it can hold off Democracy long enough China will become the world' indisputable super-power. A billion strong population and ferocious growth rates will help. But so too will Democracy in the West, which prevents countries as different as those named above from focussing on the future. Of course, those countries will remain good at some things - in Britain, focussing on the past.

1 comment:

  1. Democracy may be pretty hopeless, but the alternatives are worse.