Friday, 22 February 2008

What is it Watt? Watt, what is it?

Goons fans will recognise the quotation in the title, which has nothing to do with this post about 'democracy'. But I was reminded of a previous post I made about the use of particular the word 'democracy' (see here)...that post was about the dangers of translation as a discipline.
My question is about the use of politically loaded panaceas to cover the multitude of sins
What sort of 'democracy', for example is being promoted by the electoral process in Pakistan? The struggle for 'democracy' in Kosovo, as it asserts its independence this week; what is that about?
The trouble with the word is that it is bandied about...but ill-defined
America in high flight leading up to democratic election, would seem to be the plumb line by which democracy is gauged and yet:
  • Never yet has there been a woman president or a black president.
  • Women are grossly under-represented at almost every level of government
  • Health care in the world's most influential democracy would seem to be almost totally dependent on how wealthy you are, and whether or not you have a job.
  • The US seems to have little regard for any small country that stands in the way of its self-interest, and little or no compunction about invading the territroy of other independent nations
  • By and large the elected agents of the government in the federal and state legislatures of the US are the rich and powerful elites

We have little discussion anywhere in the world about what constitutes a democracy. And so we can assert that anything American is whilst anything Russian or Chinese is clearly not!

But we surely need to have some discussion about rights to education, healthcare and housing. Access to government, and the ability to genuinely influence policy. In this regard the most 'democratic' nations on earth are not neecessarily without spot.

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