Don’t Praise Democracy-Globberers in the Developing World
In response to the incessant elite Western praises of the peoples of the Third World for using their voting ‘rights’ in the face of poverty and war, (as though their votes did anything to alleviate those ills, or even showed a resolve to build democracy) it is worthwhile to examine what must come before a vote has any meaning.
Voting in a nation that is not ready to vote is about as effective as having three-year olds manage their parents’ financial and legal affairs. This isn’t saying anything about the intelligence or maturity of the citizens of democratizing countries- this is saying lots of stuff about the health and condition of the societies and states within those countries, which for the most part is never at the standard it must meet in order for democratic governance to become viable.
Look around at the truly successful democracies and democratic republics of the world- the United States, Australia, Britain, a lot of Europe, etc- and note their common characteristics. (None of these are perfect and all of them deal with their own critical fractures and imbalances, but they all at least meet a definite societal and political standard.) Can the democratizing nations of Africa and Asia and the Middle East at all compare?
Generally, there’s a hierarchy of political goods that goes something along these lines: first security must be achieved against external forces. Then internal order must be maintained, and all serious threats of disunion and anarchy tamped down. Then a certain level of physical prosperity, enough to produce dynamism and development, must be reached. Then society must develop to the point where there is a common stake in the maintenance of security, order, and prosperity- in other words, a civil society complete with its own culture, values, and traditions must be maintained. And finally, once all these are present, the method of politics can be discussed. If democracy will work, then democracy ought to be pursued. If technocracy is more effective, so be it. If oligarchy and aristocracy can maintain the necessary goods, then they are best. If a confederacy of autocracies works best, then it should be embraced.
Security, Order, Prosperity, Society- and then, only then, perhaps Democracy! This is the natural order of political development, if democracy is to be attained, and though it is assuredly possible to pursue multiple ends at once, it is utterly foolish to pursue lower ends without first having established higher ends, or at least entered the process of pursuing them. Those individuals and governments working to promote democracy in the undeveloped regions of the Earth are doing those peoples no favors, for a vote cannot buy protection from vultures, insurance against parasites, a lifetime’s worth of bread, or one’s place between Heaven and Earth.
The true heroes of all developing countries, who ought to be unreservedly praised, are those working for the four higher goals- the ones seeking territorial integrity and political security, the ones campaigning for order and rule of law, the ones striving to produce and maintain sustainable wealth, the ones seeking to build society and community from the first possible levels. These are the ones with their nations’ interests before their eyes, upon their hands, and within their hearts. Alas, these, also, tend to be the ones viewed as villains by the West, and indeed many times they must conduct villainy in order to pursue the ends necessary. Many times, too, they are indeed detestable individuals. But their actions serve the highest interest of their peoples- civilized life- and, though we may cringe, we must not forget that the development of our civilization endured, even required, too, such atrocities. The vague appeals of the democratizers, by contrast, do next to nothing, if they do not in fact hurt the efforts of the movers and shakers aforementioned.
It is interesting that the ends necessary to make a people fit for democracy may render them, in the end, and over time, less fit for it. For the safety brought by security and order brings with it a lazy apathy, a forgetfulness that danger is real. The wealth produced by prosperity encourages avarice and material dependency, upon which all peoples grow soft and fat. The moral certainty espoused by civil society tends to render public thought homogenous and insipid, and discourage creativity and ambition. Thus it is well that all nations, even the most happy of democracies, periodically undergo trials and tribulations, which in all ages have the effect of replenishing the manliness and self-reliance required for self-rule and civilization. Were their blessings never to be called into question, it is not clear that the inhabitants of advanced states would be any better off than the inhabitants of struggling ones. The only thing worse than anarchy is decadence.
In no way are the nations of the West superior to the poorer regions of the Earth, and in many ways they are far inferior. They have, for the most part, forgotten true pain, and indulged in a material resplendence which shines forth in their publications and media. In many instances they have slowly lost the ethics of community, and hyperindividualized to dangerous levels. The family has degenerated, and social values have reached a point where they are very nearly merely utilitarian and subjective. Consumer homogeneity threatens the ancient and varied customs which gave true identity to former generations. Most importantly, they have in many instances forsaken the notion of their own imperfectibility and limitation, and acted out as though they were the gods. In every way here listed, traditional societies around the globe are far superior to their counterparts in the West. It is not clear that those of the West will even be able to maintain their own societies, much less their democracy.
But it cannot be doubted that there are definite benefits to life in societies fit for democracy, chief among them individualism, various freedoms, mobility, high material standards of living, and the capacity for unlimited achievement in accordance with individual effort. And it is an honorable effort of the leaders within the poorer nations of this world to develop their societies further, that they might one day match or surpass the societies of their Western neighbors. But the advocates of democracy- the ones who most dearly want to see the sort of life just described, and therefore promote democracy- are doing the least to realize that vision.
It is interesting that among the academe and within American political culture in general, democracy-worship and democracy-exportation are so profoundly revered. It makes sense, I suppose, given our heritage and idealism. But democracy-globbering is an activity unfit for a mature empire, and I pray that with time and experience our people- and more critically, our leaders- will accept that truth and act upon it.