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DEMOCRACY

- The Non-violent Resolution of Conflict


"Government by Discussion" [words of John Button]


 Mrs Ogg took a suck at her pipe and her eyes twinkled at Susan through the smoke.
'I don't know how much experience you have with this sort of thing, my girl, but sometimes when the high and mighty make big plans they don't always think about the fine detail, right?' Terry Pratchett: The Thief of Time- A Discworld Novel

 

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Democracy, Why we cannot survive without it

Popper's Argument.

Indonesia - an example

The True Cost of War 

  

Why we cannot survive without it.

Aside from the butchering of opponents, dictatorial regimes also imprison large numbers in various kinds of concentration camps and "psychiatric hospitals". Apologists for tyranny try to say that these prisons are temporary aberrations caused by the unique historical situation and the problems encountered in re-establishing law and order, or some such. 

The reality is that a dictatorship can only survive by killing dissidents, physically imprisoning them or paralysing them with fear. Just which of these methods is used is a matter of expediency. There are always dissidents however because tyrannical government of its very nature produces economic inefficiency, social distress and injustice. People act against these when they feel that they can achieve something or when they decide they have nothing left to lose. 

Popper's Argument Navigate this page

If you doubt that tyranny will always result in economic inefficiency, please meditate on the following argument put forward by Karl Popper * [his argument, my words]: 

All policies of whatever kind of governing body will have unforeseen consequences. On average about 50% of these unforeseen consequences will be bad. The nature of tyranny prevents people who are suffering from the bad consequences of the policy from making their problems known. Because of this there is a gradual (if not always a really fast) accretion of problems being experienced by an ever increasing proportion of the population. Because the problems remain unacknowledged and unsolved and grow in number the people suffer. Eventually the situation explodes.

What follows from this is that, amongst other things, prison camps and various forms of constant surveillance of the population are mandatory for tyrannical regimes so that the inevitable growth of dissent can be curbed. This is an important point, made by Alexandre Solzhenitsin amongst others. Such prisons or death camps and death squads are a logical consequence of the insistence of the regime that its policies must not be questioned. Without the feedback of information via a free press or free access by electors to their representatives about what is actually happening in the society and its economy, which would allow the policy makers to adjust policy and rectify mistakes, the problems of the society and the dissatisfaction of the people must increase. As this happens ever greater numbers of the population become aware of the problems and of the fact that it is the regime which is the main cause. This in turn causes the regime to become ever more determined to put down "trouble makers", "subversives", and "enemy agents" who are asserted to be undermining the wonderful policies of the regime and "law and order" in general. A gruesome, vicious spiral of ever more widespread, dirty and deadly attacks on different classes of scapegoats eventually results in the regime, that is the ruling elite and its army, police and secret police, pitted in open warfare against the people. 

Indonesia is a current example of this though of course the twentieth century saw it in Russia, China, Spain, Germany, Italy, "Eastern" Europe, Argentina, Chile, Cambodia, Uganda, Rwanda, South Africa, to name just a few.

It is important to note that Popper's argument is not dependent on the particulars of the culture, but rather on the inherent logic of what happens when some person or group tries to control the actions of others. The "leaders" do not, and cannot, know the future so cannot possibly be right all the time. The details of how such situations evolve will of course be largely determined by the culture but the underlying condition will always be that without free flow of information [free press, free trade unions, etc.] and the ability of electors to remove leaders they no longer want, disaster must eventually and inevitably ensue.

I see no reason why this should only apply to political parties. Work organisations such as private corporations and public departments, and public associations, clubs and societies must also be subject to this tendency. 

The prevention of open and honest feedback to the leaders concerning problems caused by their policies is a hallmark of religious cults also.

 

The True Cost of Warfare Navigate this page

Democracy can be characterised as the Non Violent Resolution of Conflicts. Just how important and precious this is becomes most apparent when contrasted with the consequences of warfare. Warfare does not just cause death and injury to the combatants but traumatises the civilians caught up in the immediate battlefields or who are killed, raped, pillaged and/or enslaved by soldiers foraging or looting. It makes no difference to the civilians if the soldiers in question are victors seeking spoils of war or the vanquished fleeing for their lives and seeking what compensation or revenge they can from inocent bystanders. The widows and orphans left by those killed in battle suffer also. Their inheritance is grief, accompanied usually by poverty, and very often by starvation and disease.

Armies, being large numbers of men living and travelling close together, are natural breeding grounds for infectious dseases of all sorts particularly those that spread by coughing or contact with faeces or by parasites such as lice, flees, etc. Additionally soldiers will want to have sex with women of the countries they march through and the disruption of war will cause more women to be threatened with poverty so causing them to prostitute themselves.

 

References Navigate this page

Popper, Karl - The Poverty of Historicism, _ ,_ ,_. Popper discovered the logical force of this particular argument after he had written the book, it thus appears in the introduction to later editions.

Modern Indonesia.
Indonesia seems to be a quasi feudal military dictatorship. The basic flaws in the authoritarian/dictatorial cast of the this regime are that they lack the essential processes of feedback and self-correction provided by the institutions and traditions of democracy. In other words the people cannot freely elect representatives who can freely say what they believe to be true in a parliament [what they have in place of this is a sham "consultative congress"], the newspapers, radio and TV cannot publish any significant criticism of the regime and people cannot freely [i.e. legally] hold public meetings to hear and discuss views contrary to those of the regime.

It is the inherent inefficiency and associated corruption characteristic of such regimes which brought about the collapse of the Indonesian economy during the "Asian Economic Meltdown" which started with the collapse of the Thai currency in 1997. [The same could be said for the rest of the countries so badly affected of course.]

The thoroughly anti democratic nature of the regime is shown by the way the results of the national election [June 1999] seemed to have been invalidated and ignored once it became apparent that the GOLKAR party - the party representing the military and the status quo - did not have a majority. The generals who have ruled as quasi feudal warlords under Suharto since the 1965 coup will not give real power over to an elected civilian government without the spilling of much more blood. They have all spent so much time and effort feathering their own nests at the expense of the common people that it makes no sense to them to let elected representatives of the people and non-bribed public servants unravel it all with audits and exposures and democratic lawmaking.

[And more than a year later, in January 2001] We see the military still have the upper hand. Sure, Abdulrahman Wahid or "Gustur" has been president for a year and a half but large numbers of East Timorese refugees in west Timor still want to go back but can't, the peoples of Acheh and West Papua want independence but can't even have regional autonomy. If the military wanted to get the East Timorese in the camps back to East Timor they could just do it. This would be the compassionate thing to do. [Of course those who were members and relatives of the pro-Indonesian militias should not have to return if they don't want to.]

 [And in late 2001] With the almost impeachment and eventual resignation of Abdulrahman Wahid and the accession of Megawati Soekarnoputri to the presidency it will be interesting to see just how much leeway the generals will give her.  Return

 

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Many pages on this site are unfinished, some are only just started.
They are none the less here because it is the ideas that are important.
You don't have to believe what I say about things, but if you come across a new way of seeing your world as a consequence of reading something here then your ability to think and act freely has been enhanced.
If that be so then my efforts have been worthwhile.


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