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October 21, 2011 / Siobhan Argent

Democrazy is an almost-Calvin Klein model


Published in Farrago‘s Batmania blog

Image from a nifty little article about Americans and democracy - click to read.

If I’m lucky, you are already a pro-democracy believer. You veer away from the oh-so-attractive ‘democracy smells’/’democrazy’ invective, which is trying to tear my argument down. I’m here to confirm it; democracy is not actually that bad! Like that dorky guy in the corner with the glasses and the ‘Science rocks’ T-shirt, democracy has a plain exterior, but a Calvin-Klein-model six-pack underneath. And he knows how to cook. Doesn’t that make you want to go on a democracy-charged sexual bender?

And you shouldn’t think you’re ‘into’ democracy just for the physical stuff. For starters, democracy covers much more than a piece of voting paper. After centuries of development, democracy has become a marker of the evolution of society, ranging from the stone-faced Greeks and Romans, to being dabbled in by the French and flag-waved to death by the Americans.

Democracy is so intrinsically linked to our ability to communicate without fear that this political concept largely hinges on freedom and our access to free media, even social media. Radical anti-government protests were organised in Libya via Facebook, and Egypt fell more deeply into revolutionary chaos once the government, led by Hosni Mubarak, systematically shut off the entire nation’s access to the internet. Nowadays the worst thing a despot can do for his own cause is turn off everyone’s access to Twitter.

And let’s not forget the wonderful mercantile nature of the democratic system. More often than not, democracy nurtures business and commerce, particularly in a neo-capitalist, let-the-CEOs-run-free kind of way, allowing us to the achieve the great Australian/American/Japanese/Indian dream of owning whatever and working ourselves to death. Democracy promises the individual some sort of control over their country’s destiny; in fact it is this emphasis on the ‘I’ in ‘nation’ that makes an entire group of people feel collectively responsible for that state’s wellbeing. Not to be confused with nationalism, pride in taking part in democratic elections or that other stalwart of the democratic field, protests, are the kind of rituals that will always be a pain in the ass to somebody all the time, but will be treasured by others whenever that freedom becomes relevant to his or her own cause.

And if you’re scoffing now, think about feminism, the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam protests. Despots crack down on that stuff quick-smart, but democratic governments generally stand up and take the punches like, well, a man. Democratic governments seem to act as an individual entity when enforcing policy, yet they are still collectives that disperse power and limit the ability of any one person from having too much of an influence over policy. If democratic societies didn’t allow the populus to challenge their government, the nation’s women would still be child-rearing machines, men would still force-fed into violent wars and racial minorities still segregated and denied the right to, well, just about anything.

I don’t know why, but for some reason, I thought everyone was super-lovey about democracy. Of course they’re not; we’re all too busy complaining about it. It’s a proud and long-standing Australian tradition to complain about stuff that’s done more for you than it has limited you. So while my opponent on the other side of this spread advocates the dangers of democracy, I’m going to get the pom-poms out and chant ‘yay for democracy’ until the next up-and-coming Australian despot decides to arrest me. Oh wait, Australia hasn’t had any of those! That’s because democracy is awesome—deal with it.

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