This is what democracy means
Writer: Lord Bobo
Published: Fri, 08 Feb 2013
What is the use of elections if people continue to protest after casting their ballots? (@Klchan3, via Twitter)
What an honour to receive a question from the head-honcho-editor-person from the Selangor Times! Sadly, the question shows that he hasn’t been paying attention to the Ask Lord Bobo columns.
Democracy is messy. And it is particularly messy for nations coming out of a dictatorship for years, with massive unemployment, high inflation and hopelessness in the face of a mighty bully of a leader.
“Democracy” is the rallying cry of those living in the shadows of what could be better.
At times what “democracy” means is not fully understood, and without the necessary institutions or implements in place we see much instability and chaos.
With the fall of a dictator through non-violent direct means, many dissatisfied with the new regime will resort to like means – because there is no other way.
This is what happened to Egypt.
That is one extreme: where direct democracy let alone representative democracy is non-existent. What else do you expect those who may be unhappy with the current government to do?
So, is this a good thing, or bad thing?
Well, that’s for the people to decide – whether to continue in that manner, or to put an end to it. We must bear in mind that, all the way over here in Malaysia, we only read the headlines of rallies and counter-rallies. From our own experience here, we know that the media is not always a reliable source of the truth.
The protagonists play the “Rebel” role. But do we hear about those playing the roles of “Social Change Agent” or “Reformer”?
We must accept that if you want to have a government for the people and by the people, there will be people who will take this maxim to its fullest extent.
But what choice do they have? Would it have been better to continue to be oppressed under a dictatorship? Should people be happy to continue under a corrupt, authoritarian regime posing as a democracy?
Think about this – does electing a government through the ballot once every five years or so mean that people should lay down non-violent direct methods of protest, petitions and pressure in different ways?
His Supreme Eminenceness has noticed that this argument has been voiced in Malaysia – if you’re not happy with the government, then vote them out at the next elections instead of protesting.
Really? Does a democracy mean our voice can only be heard once every five years? And what if the elections are not free and fair?
Instead of saying that protests and other methods of non-violent direct actions are bad, celebrate the base observation that at least the people have found their voice, uncovered their inner courage and will risk life and limb to take action. The diversity of democratic actions is instrumental in keeping the very concept of democracy – the best of the worst forms of governing nation states – alive.
Malaysia has been going through some interesting times in recent years. We are still getting used to some of these freedoms. Now we see BN politicians speaking up as if they champion freedom of speech and freedom to assemble – when in fact just a year ago citizens were being gassed and beaten, assemblies were deemed illegal, and roads were blocked and razor-wired.
Our politicians may have short memories, but people tend to not forget the experience of being tear-gassed and beaten up by the authorities who are supposed to be serving and protecting them.
If we truly believe in freedom of speech, assembly and association, we cannot fault the people who will seek to overthrow the revolutionaries who overthrew the dictator.
Freedom of speech, assembly and association does not just apply to causes that you support – the freedoms are for everyone.
Lord Bobo is not saying anything new here. These cycles of social justice movements have been in existence since time immemorial. All democracies in the world have gone through periods of revolution.
We are sure there are people who would have preferred Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr and Aung San Suu Kyi to shut up, stay at home, or do things through “official government channels”.
We forget history or don’t study it enough (or study it from government approved textbooks) hence the misunderstanding or lack of it.
That’s why you have to move with UndiMsia! – educate, activate, gesticulate, propagate, stimulate, agitate, and celebrate.