All sorts of weeping and wailing (and gnashing of teeth in private by some) are going on about “the death of democracy” in the US after the insurrection at Capitol Hill. No such thing! Democratic governance has always been contentious – by its very nature. If trying to get members of your own family to decide on what to order when you’re at the drive-through at KFC ends up in glares and sulks, how do you agree on what to order for 300 million people, who aren’t even family?
The challenge for Americans, of course, is they’ve been trying to convince their citizens for the last 200 years that they ARE, in fact, family. The American Family…wherein all are equal. And this was where democracy came in. In the family, Mom and Dad make the final call. It used to be just Dad not so long ago.
After all, he had the wallet! But that changed after recognising that Mom also contributed to the family’s wellbeing in so many ways. And slowly, that the kids also should have an input. While we still haven’t arrived at a point where we actually count hands in the family in making decisions, this is what most countries do when it comes to national decisions. Democracy!
We invented this thing called “elections” in which – after much struggle – all adults vote for “Representatives” who would, on their behalf, make decisions on matters confronting the nation. These Representatives are members of “parties” who represent different perspectives on the said matters. And as we said before, this can get messy sometimes. Prompting folks to attempt alternative ways of making decisions for the nation – the main ones being dictatorships of one sort or another. Fascism, communism, paramount-party rule etc, etc.
But as Churchill – the veteran British politician – once pointed out in a debate in Parliament after WWII, “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government, except all other forms of that have been tried from time to time; but there is the broad feeling in our country that the people should rule, continuously rule, and that public opinion, expressed by all constitutional means, should shape, guide, and control the actions of Ministers, who are their servants, and not their masters.”
The insurrection attempted on Jan 6 on Capitol Hill has unfortunately been tried before in almost every democratic country in the world.
They eventually had to be put down and democratic norms returned to settle disagreements.
Who don’t listen must feel.
…are we to do here?
In Guyana, let’s not forget that we’ve had attacks on our centres of democracy by those opposed to the PPP government of the day. In the 1960s, PNC mobs laid siege to Parliament Buildings in “sit-ins”, and attacked Jagan’s vehicle when he attempted to leave. In the 1992 elections, mobs incited by Hamilton Green invaded the Elections Headquarters with US President Carter inside, and only a call to the sitting President of the US saved the day.
In 2003, we had an invasion of the Presidential Office by PNC mobs, with Mark Benschop at their head. Two persons were killed and several injured. That, of course, was in the midst of the PNC-promoted “slow fyaah, mo fyaah” strategy to “expose, oppose and depose” the PPP Government, in the words of then and (once again) PNC member Raphael Trotman.
But our democracy survived because of the PPP’s strength and fortitude to defend it.
Our Democracy will survive the coming PNC attacks!!
With new strains of COVID-19 spreading, those in charge of policing the adherence to the anti-viral protocols will have to step up their game.
All are involved, and all can be consumed.