My ebook: Journeys with the caterpillar

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Journeys with the caterpillar: Travelling through the islands of Flores
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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

My article on Time Asia- But is democracy the final goal

In 2001, one of my articles appeared on,9754,170238,00.html

In that article I had argued that India's greatest achievement after independence was to keep the democratic system going. I reasoned that despite enormous failings of the system, democracy ensured some basic dignity for all.

Four years hence I stand not so convinced about this. I think that a lot of such democratic babble (including my time article) are based purely on emotion rather than facts. Given that an average Chinese has become so much richer than his Indian counterpart, what value lies in our pride in democracy? Many people would question whether happines is the ultimate objective of a society. The Bhutanese convinced about happiness actually started a National Happiness Index. Many would argue the objective of a society is rather the facility for its individuals to exercise free will. But with people like Edward Wilson, Dawkins etc. suggesting that there is no such thing called "Free Will" since all of us are genetically hard-wired, the aha of democracy seems subdued. Or is it the plain simple economy, stupid?

Our day to day lives provide some clue. For most of our waking hours we are unable to exercise our free will (if it exists). When we are young we are under the command of our parents who guide almost all our actions. When we get higher education, our whims are fancies come way below in priority when compared to the whims and fancies of our teachers and professors. When we pursue our careers, we have to bear with the most autocratic system of all - the corporate culture. And finally when we have retired and grown old, we are often at the mercy of society, doctors and our children.
So for much of our lives we are simply unable to exercise any hint of free will. So why make so much hue and cry about not being able to vote once every 5 years?

1 comment:

Minerva's priest said...

Every now and then I hear people claiming democracy is a waste of human effort and I do feel (for a second) the same when I see people electing incompetent governments. But look at the alternative.

BTW for every rich Chinese, there are some very very poor too and it is true of nearly every country. I can argue in detail but will spare the academic details, the economic progress or well being has not much to do with the form of government but with institutional super-structure(Economic, Market etc.). So to say that progress or lack of it is success or failure of democracy is judging on an unrelated criterion, a fairer criterion is to judge a democracy by increase in cohesiveness of the society. If Indians have become less xenophobic than past then the system has done a good job. If Indians are able to walk out of race/gender/caste, India has done a good job. And I do India failing on these counts.