Photo by Chun Kit Soo on Unsplash
Almost every government of every variety has done terrible things, and will continue to do so. So, some of the distasteful actions of our current government is neither surprising, nor particularly evil. It’s simply self serving.
All governments try to control the media to a greater or lesser extent. All governments try to influence institutions and independent agencies that are supposed to serve as checks and balances.
Then what recourse do the people have?
Why, themselves, of course! The one thing that governments crave and need, is the approval of the people. Just ask Louis XVI.
So What's The Problem?
When good people keep quiet, or worse express support, even when they disapprove of the actions of a party they voted for, that’s when the situation becomes disastrous. When politicians succeed in equating their own failures to failures of their voters, then voters become incapable of executing their duty of being the most effective check against poor government decisions. When the identity of the voter is closely tied to the one they voted for, then society becomes a cult.
If you find yourself disagreeing with, or hurt by the actions (or inactions) of your favorite politician, but unable to bring yourself to publicly admit it, ask yourself why. Ask yourself when things became this way. Ask yourself what went so terribly wrong.
What happens when people are trolled or harassed for disagreeing with or criticizing the government? It makes them resentful. It leads to a lot of pent up anger. This anger is in a constant battle with fear. Fear suppressing the expression of strong anti-establishment beliefs and anger demanding it. This cannot make for productive citizens or a stable society.
What about the people who support the government? I find it impossible to believe that there exists a large enough number of people who wholeheartedly support every single action of any government. That would be quite a phenomenon. Yet, in polarized times, once you have thrown your lot in with one group, you don’t really have a choice but to be loyal to it through and through. And that is very scary. It’s the destruction of the very last and most effective check on the government.
Why do people, who voted for today's governments, find it so difficult to openly criticize policies and stances they disagree with? Why must it be all or nothing?
For Or Against?
I simply cannot bring myself to believe that so many women were happy with rapists being garlanded and celebrated. Yet many have defended it.
What about government itself? Can there be no disagreement among it’s own members? Did not a single powerful woman in government find the garlanding or rapists unacceptable or distasteful at the very least? Did not one feel any sadness or sympathy for the victim? I find that very hard to believe.
Yet, not one said a word. Now that is truly terrifying. If even such powerful women are being silenced, then what hope do the rest of us have? And why are they being silenced? Is our government so fragile that it cannot survive differences of opinion among it’s members?
I have no doubt that counter examples exist, and that only strengthens my argument. When the government does something even critics believe to be good, they find it difficult to openly admit as a result of pent up resentment from times their voices were suppressed and they failed to find support among even those in government who agreed with them. Admitting their approval, they come to believe, is a betrayal of the causes in which their voices were suppressed.
Bring Back The Moderates
A binary model does not serve society well. Consider the farmer’s protest. There were several issues clubbed together, there. Many people might have agreed with some, while disagreeing with others. Yet, the climate of the country made it such that you had to pick a side. Either be for the farmers, or against them. How can tackling complex issues in this manner ever lead to productive solutions?
Moderates are the guardians of democracy. They enable slow and steady progress. Their roles lack glamour, but they are the ones who make democracy possible.
Once the moderates are extinct, can democracy last long?
While democracy still exists we need to fight down the forces of polarization and remember who we really were, before we were swept away by one group or another.
Without our individual identities and diverse voices, democracy does not stand a chance.
It's not easy, but there is a way.
Before we extend our support or objection to something, against all our screaming instincts, we need to first shut out clamor of rival groups already ripping apart the country, dig deep within ourselves, do some soul searching and figure out what we really think and believe, and find the courage to express that, no matter which camp that belief belongs to. That is the only way we can succeed in rebuilding this damaged democracy.
WE Must Nurture It
Democracy, like a growing child, needs to be nurtured. It needs constant care and attention to thrive. It needs us, the people, to not take it for granted. It needs active voices and willing compromise between different points of view.