Michael Fitsumbirhan

We, humans, are the most curious creatures. We want privacy yet we are the most gregarious of animals. We are different yet we are the same. Our interests and behavioral dispositions are as unique as our fingerprints yet there are underlying facts that make us similar…our desire to live and live happily.

Even within a family, one’s way of being happy may not be the same with another. One, for example, may find that he is happier when he is in a contemplative mood and his twin brother, steeped in group laughter and fun, may find solitary disposition rather boring.

We notice that the differences grow bigger when one has to deal with people from other cultures.

It is this conflict that creates tension in any given society. The desire to be free while enjoying the warmth of the crowd. The desire to have privacy in a hall full of people is indeed a real challenge but it is a challenge that man must pull off nonetheless.

It is as a way of reconciling this dichotomy that the idea of democracy came in to being. It is the most natural remedy available to reduce the heat created by the tension in social dynamism. It has proven to be the effective balm that eases the attrition between the individual and the society.

Democracy is an idea that is meant to allow the happiness of one with out hindering the happiness of another. Its central point is that all men are equal before God. Once discovered, it does not apply to one society more that it does to another. It applies the same to all those that can rise to its worth.

Any body worth his salt will believe that he has the same right to life as others. He will also believe that his right to pursue happiness is the same as others. We all are passengers in this train of life, and we are all entitled to a seat. These are salient rights that we get to enjoy by virtue of our humanity.

The individual is born to enjoy these rights. They are natural rights. They are not rights that one gets as a favor from others. To believe otherwise is to insult your intelligence. And worse, it is to insult the collective intelligence of the people from whom you have come.

Democracy is the product of a liberal mind. Its hallmark is tolerance. It is a way of life. It is an idea that lifts one up to his summit. A life informed by the idea of democracy will realize that the only limit to ones freedom is the consideration of the happiness of his neighbor only.

A democrat at heart sticks to the maxim aptly given by the famous German philosopher Emanuel Kant: “ Act as if the principle of your action, through your will, could be elevated to a law of nature.”

Informed by the above maxim, a democrat is accountable only to his truth; he has no internal contradictions. His life is one of smooth integrity.

A democrat will live by this maxim in his household; he will not tyrannize over others and will not let others tyrannize over him. He will live it in his work place, in his town, in his country; he will not do harm to others and will demand that others reciprocate.

Democracy, though apparently simple, has truly become a term that is very malleable. We see people stretching it into the shape they want. They mold it at will. In the even that we fail to recognize what democracy is, it is wise to know what it is not.

A democrat will not manufacture excuses to reduce citizens into subjects…into dispensable objects rather. Neither will he create phantom enemies in a bid to remain on throne. Nor will he use scare politics. Nor yet will he proclaim himself a crusader against a world order at the expense of his helpless people.

Freedom loving good man will not abolish well established media forums and frustrate independent investigation of the truth. Such a man will not put his people in the dark and uninformed. Neither will he reduce his people’s God-given cognitive capacity into mere containers of his propaganda. Nor yet will he muzzle those that want to speak out.

Such a man will not snatch away kids from the warmth of their home and deliberately remove their ability to think independently. He will not deprave them of the signature sign of their humanity…their capacity to think on their own.

Steve Biko, the founder and leader of the black consciousness movement, described such a man, the undemocrat, as one who uses the mind of the oppressed to oppress others. He bends the mind of the susceptible and uses it to harass the free and independent thinker.

Such a man will not give direct answers to direct questions. He will utter a lot of mambo jumbo to confuse his subjects. He will endeavor to give the impression that he is up to something big while the condition of his people remains the same. Lewis Carroll has aptly captured this in his Poem titled the Walrus and the Carpenter:

…The Walrus and the Carpenter Walked on a mile or so, And then they rested on a rock Conveniently low:

And all the little Oysters stood And waited in a row.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things: Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–Of cabbages–and kings–And why the sea is boiling hot–And whether pigs have wings…”

having uttered all this seemingly high floating words with no meaning or no connection at all …words that are intended only to confuse the Oysters…the Walrus proceeded ro devour the oysters. This becomes evident in the last stanza of the poem:

“O Oysters,” said the Carpenter,
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none–
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.

It is when he observed such a thing that Fyodor Dostoevsky, the Russian novelist, said, “ it is not possible to eat me with out insisting that I sing praises of my devourer.” As such, a democrat does not reduce his people into mere voice machines designed to sing praises of him so that he can easily devour them at will.

A democrat will not subject his people to so many traumas that they become a case of Stockholm-syndrome…that they become rather like a woman who, being so traumatized, refuses to part with a husband who gives her a constant hiding.

Nobody likes attrition. But freedom loving man does not shy away from attrition because it is uncomfortable. He lives his life the way he wants to live it and resists the limit put onto him by others. He tells those who have no business meddling with him to take their hands off…he asks to be left alone. He knows God has given him carte blanche to be the sole author of his own life.

In contrast, the golden rule of treating your neighbor the way you will have them treat you is the guiding principle of one believing in democracy. It is for this reason that this gem of wisdom appears in almost all the major religions. In the bible, Jesus says, in reference to the golden rule, “…this is the meaning of the law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets.” Matthew 7:12

Anchored in this principle, a democrat does not trade one master with another. He does not allow himself to be dictated by a local apostate in preference to a foreign imperialist. He says no to all acolytes and becomes the master of his own destiny. He takes the matters of his life into his own hands.

He will not escape from serfdom and hail the effectiveness of a system that is based on slavery as a remarkable achievement. He is not a hypocrite. He will not line up twisted logic s to justify his deranged actions.

A tyrant, on the other hand, shows no integrity of conduct. He will tyrannize over the weak but will lick the boots of his masters.

When a tyrant cries out foul about absence of justice, the world laughs. He is like a thief who, upon discovering that he has been robbed of his loot, screams. The integrity of a tyrant is already compromised and no body pities him.

In the end, democracy is the most natural order of social organization. It is the system that accommodates all our differences and gives us a chance at molding our lives and pursuing our individual happiness.

And one thing worth highlighting a zillion times is the fact that democracy is not a one man system. It is collective system. It is a way of allowing the society to govern itself. In a system of democracy the rule of law resides supreme high. It is the constitution that sits in the royal podium in all its glamor….making it manifest clear that all men are indeed equal before God. And it is this fact alone that puts an end to the vertical relationship of man with man.


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