All entries for Tuesday 14 February 2006

February 14, 2006

On People's Perceptions of Democracy…

Democracy is set upon certain principles… And those principles are:
Number 1, respect for human rights, equality regardless of your gender, regardless of your colour, regardless of your political creed and regardless of your religion…
And also democracy is peaceful change, and also a renunciation of violence… violence does not figure as a tool in democracy.

We hear variations of the same kind of idealistic, cloy statement all the time and everytime someone says it the fundamental hypocrisy of it smacks me in the head.

I don't disagree with the idea that some forms of modern democracy do conform to the first set of principles. So I don't mind hearing that despite the actual development of these modern forms has never been rigid but has always been a mixture of fluidity and sudden, abrupt change.

I do, however, take exception to the idea that violence does not figure as a tool in democracy. Nearly all democracies have been founded in some way, shape or form upon violence and consistently use it as a tool both for protection and for wider, more offensive (militarily-speaking) "security". France, Britain, The US, Italy etc. – Take a look at all the nations you consider democratic and they will have been founded upon violence and not only defensive violence or violence to gain independence but often restrictive violence. In order to maintain the union, the US launched a civil war against the breakaway states. The Risorgimento, the American and French Revolutions, the February Revolution in Russia etc. were all violent struggles and subsequent overthrows and restorations of democracy were similarly based upon violence.

Violence has been and continues to be a tool of modern democracies and while less likely to use such a tool on the voters, they are now more than happy to go about and use it on others. You can't beat someone over the head saying "Violence is bad" whilst having invaded several nations in the past two decades.

Democracy does not equal Pacifism.


Great quotation from Tariq Ramadan on last week's Newsnight…

It's not a clash of civilisations… [but] it's becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy the way we're talking about it.

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