In the name of democracy

Democracy is a key factor in 21st century politics.

Liam Hiller, Political Editor

Over the past several decades much has changed in the world. Wars have been fought and lost, nuclear development programs have taken a front seat in political debate, one tyrant after another has been overthrown and a new generation of colonialism has begun. All of this has happened for one thing: the good of ‘democracy’. Or so we are told.

It seems that democracy is no longer simply a political system; it is now also an excuse, a noble cause and the latest reason to crusade. Gone are the days of sending priests, clergymen and other religious representatives to far off lands in order to convert their populations to the ‘right’ way of life, our way of life. Religion lost its nobility and with it Western nations lost their power, or at least feared they had. A new cause was needed and, so, democracy prevailed.

Priests were replaced by ambassadors and nations created propaganda machines in order to get the new message out. Living in a democracy now became the only way to live and this new ‘free’ Western world was worth fighting for.

The key principles of Democracy are ones that most would struggle to argue against. The thought of everyone having the right to free speech, a fair trial, fair participation in the economy, a free but accountable media and the ability to vote for who you want to run the country is a good one. Even in action democracy has allowed many countries, including the UK and US, to prosper and create a healthy way of life for many of their citizens.

One has to wonder however, has it also allowed these same countries to capitalise on other nation’s and international problems in order to benefit themselves under the guise of ‘being democratic’?

An example of this would be the illegal Iraq war of 2003. When the British Prime Minister at the time, Tony Blair, along with his American counterpart and partner in crime George Bush, realised that the their accusations that Saddam Hussein’s regime had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) would likely go unfounded, they had to think of something to get as much of the public and their respective parties on side as possible.

In speeches leading up to the beginning of the war the double act, along with their small group of followers, started to spout fear mongering rhetoric regarding the safety of our society and ‘democracy’ in order to try and gather some popular support. Blair began to say things such as Iraqis “detest the freedom, democracy and tolerance that are the hallmarks of our way of life”.

He also stated that the war would “let the future government of Iraq be given the chance to begin the process of uniting the nation’s disparate groups, on a democratic basis.” These lines were clearly manufactured to make the public feel threatened by the lack of ‘democracy’ in Iraq and the threat that this may, however unlikely it seems, pose to our way of life.

Over time the mentions of WMDs decreased and if you listened to a speech by Tony ‘Laurel’ Blair or George ‘Hardy’ Bush you could be excused for thinking the reason for this war was to protect and spread our ideologies rather than disarm a ‘dangerous’ nation.

This is not the only time this message has been sent out either. When the Libyan revolution began and NATO forces decided to intervene, US President Barack Obama made a call to Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip. After this call it was announced that they “shared commitment to the goal of helping provide the Libyan people an opportunity to transform their country, by installing a democratic system.” How would this system be installed? Military action of course.

There are more and more examples of this happening over the past 60 years including the first Gulf War, the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Falklands War. It is certainly not a new thing to use democracy, or at least the word itself, as a tool for gathering support for issues were you would otherwise struggle. This makes it hard not to ask yourself, are we living in a real democracy or are we simply being tricked?

We are told that we have the right to free speech and this is generally quite true. We can say what we want in debates, stand in the street and preach, be of whatever religion we want, vote in a government to run our country the way we wish and protest against things we do not agree with. The latter two, however, are where we can start to see through the cracks in our ‘democracy’.

When the Egyptian revolution began in early 2011 and now ex-President Mubarak began his violent crackdown, the US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton quickly urged “the Egyptian authorities not to prevent peaceful protests or block communications including on social media sites”. This of course is a completely just message that would be hard to disagree with, however it was quite a different one that was sent out during the occupy protests across America and this protest held by students at UC Davis after the sacking of a favoured lecturer.

It is this kind of behaviour that leads us to ask: If we were to protest on the same level as those in Egypt, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain or any of the other countries involved in the Arab Spring, would we be met with the same methods used by the likes of Mubarak and Gaddafi?

The evidence is clearly piled up against the idea that we live in a Democracy. Yes, we have aspects of the system to which we adhere but there are most definitely too many aspects which our governments refuse to follow. And we let them, for the most part, without saying a word. And when a word is said, a protest is made or a poster is put up, they break another rule of true democracy and make sure that that word, protest or poster is only seen for as short a space of time as possible before being banished to the history books.

They repeat ‘democracy’ over and over to justify so many different, and mostly violent and expansionist, moves made by the West today and yet the people of our countries still fail to realise that the only real reason these moves are being carried out is to benefit those that are in power; those that we voted into power; those that have fulfilled so little of the promises they made at election time when they needed our support.

It would seem that today we, in the West, live under manipulative, expansionist, violent and imperial regimes that are not likely to stop their quest for a bigger, larger and more powerful empire as long as we let them, which as it stands could be a long time.

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