Have We Corrupted The Meaning Of Democracy?

2014-02-13 10:59

It might have in some way been amusing for a duration that under certain circumstances, you could bribe your way through specific consequences and predicaments. (Predicaments on a small scale per se). But to find oneself living in a full blown bribery republic can be an entirely dis-empowering experience altogether.

Our democracy is rather new to find itself at the tender age of only 20 already socializing with experienced hookers and dangerously playing dice with seasoned crooks. South Africa is like that young lad held in high regard and fondness by the neighbourhood folk – always tucked in and ever so polite in discourse and manners. But once out of view, SA’s true colours begin to show, and there’s absolutely nothing rainbow about them.

Don’t get me wrong with respect to patriotism and general optimism, but I’ve experienced too much to not reconsider. Once I was one to wax lyrical about the bright prospects of this new Democratic dispensation, and Madiba’s triumphant declarations ceaselessly reverberated in my young head. But today, my scars, my downcast tone and my torn and bloodied garbs tell my true story vividly.

In expressing my long denied rights, and feeling free from the imperious shackles of now deceased and forgotten apartheid, the last thing I expected was getting robbed and threatened with lethal force in a new-born democratic nation. My brain, being the Pentium that it is, eventually figured out that as much as it was my incontestable right to move about freely, it equally was criminals’ democratic right to rob and/or assault me at will for whatever it is in my possession they feel entitled to.

Even when the criminals do get caught, it is still within their official rights to bribe the officials at hand and procure their own tickets to freedom, and possibly pursue the informant or victim who got them incarcerated in the first place. As much as we got suspiciously endless lauding from the European Union for our ‘progressive constitution’, I started feeling like criminals had more rights than the common man in our democracy.

Corruption was a word I never exactly paid attention to until I started reading newspapers on a regular. I thought either journalists were obsessed with the subject or this was a real case of moral degeneration taking place on a massive scale. But of course, South African leaders will be quick to remind you that we are one of the least corrupt States in the world. With regard to violent protests, they also assert that our Police are some of the best trained in crisis management. It maybe management in the sense that they see a crisis and they react with lethal force.

When the sacred ushers of the Rainbow Nation proclaimed we were now ‘United In Diversity’, I wasn’t bright enough to guess the diversity included wealth and power among other things. I literally thought the mantra alluded to people of different cultures living together in equal rights and opportunity. I didn’t guess that it required of me to be content living in a corrugated iron shack while another man has more houses than can hardly recount.

If certain people excruciatingly sacrificed their lives for our collective freedom, then why aren’t certain others also sacrificing their material comforts for our collective growth? Does democracy mean having the right to be an individual when it suits one and only a zealous collective when convenient also? Does Unity In Diversity actually translate to all the carts pulling in different directions all at once?

I wonder if the problem is with the philosophy of Democracy itself or if the average South African is simply misinterpreting this otherwise diplomatic system. I understand democracy is as old and as western as Greece itself. In its application since ancient times, it seems democracy has always brought more problems than solutions.

As a science it is ridiculed in Plato’s The Republic, which was supposedly written over 2300 years ago in the aftermath of Alexandra the Greek’s international exploits. In the book, Socratis the thinker says of Democracy: “These and other kindred characteristics are proper to democracy, which is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.”

Despite the Scientifics, Democracy in layman terms means a prosperous society wherein individual and communal rights are protected in a nonetheless intricate but sustainable balance. But I think in the South African context – and perhaps the Global – we have thus far battered these afforded rights viciously. I also think Democracy is pointless without unity. ©






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