One of the most popular political debates currently ravaging the millennial mind is the efficacy of our beloved political system that we know as Democracy. A surge of popularity can be seen favoring nationalist, right-wing political ideologies. The elections across the world are showing that people are inclined to try the alternatives more than ever since the second world war. Democracies such as the United Kingdom, India, Turkey, Brazil, Hungary, and The United States have witnessed the growing contempt against the current political system, and the millennials are the flag bearers of such campaigns. Naturally, the question surfaces, are these the telltale signs of the dreaded “Fall of Democracy?” Or is it just another cycle of belief that will pass with time?
Democracy has been the stalwart of the political beliefs that the world has considered as the ideal (well, almost!) one. Expressing yourself through the election, emancipating yourself through the power of exercising your rights and promoting good governance- these elements can be attributed as the prime duties of an individual in a democratic state. A government of the people, by the people, for the people- Mr. Abraham Lincoln would not have summarized better than this. The word Democracy comes from two Greek words, Demos (The People) and Kratos (To rule). Indeed, the people have to shoulder the responsibilities to make a system worthwhile, and this dependency has also been the biggest flaw of Democracy. Most of us have witnessed a representative democracy, in which the common people choose a representative amongst themselves to participate in the government on their behalf. But time and again, we have gone through painful betrayals on the part of those representatives who alienated themselves once they assumed office and abandoned voters’ interests. These practices strike at the core of the belief people lay on the system, pushing the entire system towards Aristocracy- The rule of the few- where the power resides among the wealthiest or elites.
The great Greek philosopher Plato had already predicted in his famed book “Republic” – an ineffective democracy would inevitably lead to a rule of Tyranny. The reasoning behind this mortifying assessment echoes the voices of modern critics of Democracy; the people collectively are inept of governing or ruling. Plato argued that the system would ultimately turn into chaos as the uneducated wield influence over the knowledgeable. Populism, favoritism, and manipulation would act as the weaponry of such influence. And if we pay close attention, it goes beyond doubt that the current political scenario across the world resembles the emotions mentioned above.
The prevalent sentiment is by no means unfounded. The growing wealth inequality, the dwindling health care system, and the sheer incompetence of the government in ensuring basic rights- these symptoms point towards the inability of the current political system to deliver on its promises. The millennials feel the effects at the highest level, as the prime of their lives is spent fighting the flaws of corrupted morals engendered by politics. They witness the gradual deconstruction of the traditional norms of liberalism, which they followed in their childhood and adolescence. They do not want to see the change, and protesting the current system is the only medium to vent out the dissatisfaction- which shapes Anti-Democracy.
But is there any way to stop the snowball from rolling towards the annihilation of Democracy? The answer is yes and no. Democracy has been tested only a handful of times; notable is the last 75 years post-second world war and ancient Athens. In Athens, the first Democracy helped critical thinking and philosophical discourse prosper, yet the collective intellect of Plato, Aristotle, and other enlightened thinkers could not save Athens from perishing. The rise of demagogues and despots who manipulated the people’s opinion led the grand city to its demise when the commoners fell for the populist propaganda shared by the politicians. The story of Athens does not paint a rosy picture of the legacy of Democracy as a system.
Thankfully, we are much ahead of 500 BC Athenians in terms of, well, almost everything. Hence, we may not end up in the same pit if we follow Democracy. We have all the tools we need to recognize the wretched politicians, and we are well versed in the schemes they use. Before putting the alternative ideologies into action, we should focus our resources on an effort to make the existing system more robust. It is never late to remind everyone- Democracy is still the best we got.