Democracy and Brute Force
PROF G R MALIK
An episode relating to Voltaire’s life has become so proverbial that it has acquired the status of a universal parable. The story goes that a young writer who had just completed his first book approached Voltaire and requested him to write a foreword to his book so that he could find a publisher and a wide readership. Voltaire was then at the height of his fame and a foreword by him was sure to make the book sell. He asked the young writer to leave the book with him promising that he would write the foreword after going through it. After going through the book Voltaire found that he was not in agreement with the ideas expressed in the book but he wrote the foreword none-the-less. It was a marvelously written one-sentence foreword:
I do not agree with a single idea expressed in this book but I will defend with my blood the writers’ right to say it.
This single sentence distills the essence of democracy. The writer of these lines is not an unqualified and unconditional admirer of democracy. In spite of having great regard for its principles of Rule of Law, Separation of Powers, Independence of Judiciary and above all Freedom of expression, he has serious reservations about Western democracy. Since it has originated from materialism, it runs like life-blood through every fibre of its being. Its values emanate from this source and cannot escape the inevitable corruption and pollution that accompanies all that springs from the womb of blind materialism. Ethical relativism, hoodwinking and clap-trap characterise all systems of materialistic democracy. Having said that, one must add that at the moment there is no available alternative to democracy and any change for the better even for a better alternative to democracy is achievable only through the democratic path. Hence one is pleased to hear voices expressing a sense of pride in democracy. But of late some fascist tendencies have alarmingly raised their head to threaten the existence of the adorable democratic value – Freedom of expression. These tendencies have come to the fore from groups about whose fascism no one was ever in doubt and also from groups who had been camouflaging their fascism with diabolical cleverness. If you attack a person because you do not agree with his ideology the votaries of his ideology may do the same with the spokesmen of your own ideology. If this is allowed to happen we will soon be under the sway of the law of the jungle – a jungle where beasts have been let loose against each other.
Here is a moment of introspection for those who swear by democracy day-in and day-out. The question is not whether you agree with someone or not, the question is how you express your disagreements. It is easy to be nice and courteous to a person with whom you are in agreement. Your humanity is put to the acid test when you deal with those who differ with you. If you exhibit large-heartedness and tolerance to your adversaries your claims to democracy may have some substance in them but if you silence them through brute force, you misuse the freedom that democracy allows you.
A question of still greater significance relates to those who are in charge of governance. They have to allow disagreement as much as agreement without letting it degenerate into a violent and brutish free-for-all. If they permit or condone the use of force against those whose ideological wave-lengths are different from theirs, they should not forget that tomorrow they may themselves be at the receiving end. Meanwhile those who change their colours chameleon-like with the change of place and clime and refuse to look beyond the moment should seriously and sincerely rethink and re-examine their stance.
Lastupdate on : Thu, 2 Dec 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 2 Dec 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 3 Dec 2010 00:00:00 IST
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