A friend asked me this, this weekend. My answer was that I do not believe that to be the case but democracy is still indisputable the only path to go. The reason being very simple. Democracy relies on the consensus of humans and that has been proven to be hard. Even within a tight group you might experience some very strange sociological effects proven via studies. For instance without doing any major buy-in into the has been recently identified even in the field of social media. (http://shirky.com/writings/group_enemy.html) Here is an attempt to shed some light on my beliefs in the area not claiming to put any big justice to the discussion.Let us first define the term democracy in which form I would choose to use it here. Democracy in my eyes and in itâ€™s purest form is consensus decisions for any question, topic or issue a group should address.
Clear directions are the most important thing in any decision process. If the direction the group should go in is unclear in any way the group usually gets lost until the direction has been made clear again. In a consensus driven decision process the direction might be built up over time and the community/society needs to go through the pain of having vague to no idea what the direction might be. During this time the good faith of the group must prevail. Therefore, a consensus driven process puts a tremendous faith in the individual and their willingness to align themselves into the group consensus decision. Funny enough the absolute majority of the group will in the general case not get their will through which might be unsatisfying to the group as a whole.
Related here is something very important to the global society of today. The society needs to be willing to accept the direction as well. This could be argued to be part of the decision process, but I choose to refer to this as a separate component of the decision process. For instance let us look at Iraq today, Vietnam in the 70:s or even the shattered Germany after the Versailles peace. All these examples point to the fact that â€œdemocracyâ€ can never be forced upon a society if the society is not ready for it of various reasons and that creating a vacuum in the society as for leadership and direction is extremely dangerous. This is of course a dramatic over simplification of the situation as it has many facets and angles which I do not necessarily consider in this argument.
It can however be concluded that different types levels of leaderships is required to keep the society on the â€œrightâ€ progress path depending on the circumstances in the society. What a â€œrightâ€ societal progress path really means is a challenging concept in itself but let us be a bit loose here in our definition. I will make the argument that under extreme circumstances the flock or the society will look for a very clear direction and that normally means looking for a leader to give them direction. A strong leadership does not necessarily mean that we are looking at an undemocratic path it is more a matter of guiding the society towards the future. The complexity here is that leaders can either be parasitizing on or guiding the society. You can either have a Churchill or a Stalin. This will tie into the responsibilities of the individuals to questions their leaders and the direction.
Basically the more you look at this it all comes down to the individual. The individual in all democratic societies has both rights and responsibilities. This is a pretty broad discussion on the structure of the society. I will therefore focus on the responsibility of the individual in representative democracy and only scratch the surface. The hypothesis of representative democracy is that the elected representatives is a reflection of the society. I find it hard to claim that it will generally be the case in the structural form of representative democracy as we have define it today. Others have claimed that it is a case of only having representatives open and competent enough to understand what the society they lead wants. They are right and wrong at the same time, but again it comes down to the individual and what responsibility that person has.
Representatives as the rest of us are colored by their own opinions, their own biasses and beliefs. We all have a level of subjectiveness where we project our own beliefs on top of any information we collect. We can learn to be more or less biased but basically I think we should just accept the fact that we are biased by nature. In the collection of these biasses lies the truth. (I do not think this is anything but something very human and nothing sad in any way. In fact that is what makes humans interesting – the differences. We should embrace those.)
It all comes down to the fact that each and every individual of any society have fundamentally two responsibilities:
- They should all participate in free elections where you have enough choices and openness for debate (what defines a free election in itself is an interesting topic that I will leave out here.)
- They should also be active in controlling their elected representatives. Here media plays an important part of course but the media should be free, and diverse.
Looking around the world we see a lot of issues with both these fundamental points. In Europe amongst other things, we have seen issues with falling voting numbers which in itself means that the elected representatives are not very representative for the society. Many claim that the unwillingness to vote is the lack of differentiating elements between the alternatives which has lead to a strive to move towards the extreme and tragically for Europe with its history to the ultra right wing. We also see passiveness to question where we are going or taking an active part of controlling where we are going or trying to change it for the better due to pure laziness, inabilities or just pure lack of information. This issue is in my eyes spreading around the world and hence a free, diverse and multifaceted media is a very essential part and sadly also mostly overlooked around the world. Historically this as most issues around is nothing new and known facts. Free media and universities are the first targets to strike down on when trying to gain control over any society. The examples are many: Russia, China, Europe during the early civilization here and Germany before World War II.
When you look at this on the high level you can therefore see that the challenge here is the nature of the human itself than in some ways will counteract the very nature of democracy. In fact I argue that it is this very tension between the will of the individuals and the collective will of the society is the seed for progress and necessary.
It all comes back to one ironic thing: The key to democracy is the individual and their willingness for democracy.