Friday, November 20, 2009

The Limits Of Democracy

Herald Globe
Tuesday 17th November, 2009

Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has singled out India as an Asian country that has 'made the mistake of being too democratic' and compared it unfavourably with China's authoritarian regime.

Mahathir said: 'India, of course, will grow, but more slowly than China. It has the numbers but is not making use of them well.'

He identified China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and, 'to a lesser extent', India as the countries which would lead the Asian charge, New Straits Times said Tuesday.

Mahathir, who ruled Malaysia for over two decades, told a seminar on Asia and 21st century that people 'do not understand the limits of democracy'.

'Democracy can be a hindrance to progress because you spend so much time politicking that you don't have time to develop your country.

'In China, there's not much politics. So, they can spend more time developing their country.'

He blamed the West for making democracy and freedom the cornerstone of progress.

It is the West's focus on democracy, civil rights and individual liberties - attributes flaunted by Western governments - that Mahathir identified as being the reason behind 'its economic flaccidity'.

'The British believe a lot in so-called freedom. Their workers must be allowed to go on strike all the time. So, they have the problem of being a very unproductive population.

'They must be free of everything. When you do that, productivity will drop. When productivity drops, you cannot compete.'

Talking about Asia, Mahathir ruled out a role for 'strife-torn' West Asia.

'They are not going to make much progress, unfortunately. They are not going to contribute to the Asia of the 21st century. But it doesn't matter because Asia is such a big place,' Mahathir said.

East Asia's emerging economic dominance over the West is due to its productivity and strong work ethic, he said.

However, the former premier warned of the increasing trend among young Asians to ape Western culture.

'Today, there are places in Tokyo where you see young people with multi-coloured hair. They look like Red Indians. These are the young Japanese who have adopted Western values,' said the octogenarian who continues to draw crowds six years after he quit office.

'They want to be free and be able to change the place they work, hop from one place to another and take marijuana. This is what the Europeans do. This is progress for those young people.'

Seperti biasa, setiap kenyataan yang keluar dari mulut Tun Dr. M akan mendapat riaksi dari pembaca, seperti di bawah ini. enjoy debating...itulah demokrasi.

Enemies of the state - Art Harun (Malaysian Insider)

NOV 19 — India, apparently is a country which has made the "mistake of being too democratic". And, "democracy can be a hindrance to progress because you spend so much time politicking that you don’t have time to develop your country. In China, there’s not much politics. So, they can spend more time developing their country.”

Those are statements attributed to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in a IANS report as quoted byMalaysia Today on Tuesday.

I love it when Dr M is being philosophical. Because he makes philosophy, especially political philosophy, interesting. Interesting in a comedic way, I mean.

First and foremost, to put China and India in the same political sphere is an act of questionable wisdom.

India is a parliamentary republic deeply entrenched within the Westminster-typed democracy as practised in the United Kingdom. Malaysia, which was governed by Dr M, practises the Westminster-typed democracy as well, save for the fact that we are not a republic.

China, on the other hand, is not a democratic country at all. It is a communist country. The people have no freedom of speech or at all. They kill their own people for having the guts to stand up and be counted. The so-called leaders do things according to their own whims and fancies. The people just have to accept. There is not election. No voting. No nothing.

(The only good thing about China's administration is the fact that they shoot their civil servants for corruption.)

Dr M must have confused China with Malaysia during his days as the Prime Minister. Save for the fact that Malaysia is not a communist country and we do not shoot our civil servants for corruption, of course.

According to Dr M, the people "do not understand the limits of democracy”. And that dear Doctor, includes the leaders too, if I may add. Which begs the question, what can the people do when they do not understand, or misunderstand, the limits of democracy? Create chaos? If so, isn't it the duty of a responsible government to educate and to protect the people and the state in accordance with the law and the power entrusted by the people?

The real danger to the state is not the people not understanding the limits of democracy. The real danger to the state is the leaders not understanding the limits of their powers.The real danger to the state is the leaders not understanding democracy in itself and its inner working. Because there lies the root of abuses. There lies the root of wrongdoings, corruption, nepotism, cronyism and totalitarian absolutism.

While a responsible government could crush, with all its might and powers, a revolt by people who do not know the limits of democracy, what, on the other side of the fence, can the people do to stop government-sponsored terrors, abuses, financial misdeeds, tortures, transgressions of universal human rights and even downright murders?

Remember Memali? What could the helpless people who, in the mid-80s, were still eating ubi keledek for dinner, do? Other than to bath the dead, pray for them and bury them six feet in the ground? And believe that the dead are going to heaven as "syuhada"? What? And what danger were those people to the state?

In a democracy the people trade some of their freedom for the greater societal benefits that the state manifestly offers. The government is the trustee of the people's freedom and the powers conferred by the people. Those trust properties are to be used only, and only, for the betterment of society and the state. And the people choose those who are to govern. That is the crux of democracy. But does it end there? We vote and so it is democratic? That's it? And upon being elected, we are at your mercy?

What about the performance of the trust?

And so, apparently, if the people know their limits, the leaders can concentrate on developing the country. Like in China. Oh, how blessed is our developed Malaysia. During 22 years of Dr M's rule, when all of us knew our limits, or made to know our limits, he so concentrated on the development of Malaysia. Let's see. We have:

• spanking nice highways but we have to pay tolls and the toll rate keeps on going up like an elevator to nowhere.

• an education system which serves as a fertile breeding ground for racial segregation and good for manufacturing humanoids.

• health care services which are almost non-existent.

• a huge new administrative centre with no viable transportation system and parking space.

• a transportation system which is high on technology but really low on delivery.

• nice tallest twin towers in the world.

• nice race track which hosts three international races per year.

• broadband services which is anything but broad.

• etc, etc

If Dr M was right, that being undemocratic or not so democratic was productive in terms of development, why is Malaysia still not a developed nation after 22 years of benevolent absolutist rule? Why are we now mired in:

• racism — the least said the better.

• religious extremism and persecution — Dr Asri was just charged as I am writing this.

• corruption — look at the Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2009 published two days ago.

• governmental abuses — need I list them out?

• human rights transgressions — read Operasi Lalang.

• societal beliefs in tahyul, bomoh and superstition.

• a societal transfixion with celebrity weddings, house decor, body and physical decor and upliftment.

• semi-feudalistic idolatry of leaders and mini emperors.

• stupidity, even in the House of Parliament.

• a bunch of generation Z whose idea of progress is upgrading their iPhone3G to iPhone3GS.

• fill in the blank.

Twenty-two years after. And we have these. Do these exist because our people did not know the limits of democracy for 22 years? Or because our leaders did not know the limit of their powers for 22 years and beyond?

Yes. According to Dr M, the Westerners are wrong for making democracy and freedom the cornerstone of progress. The British are so free they go on strike every other day. Well, who sent people to the moon in 1969? Which part of the world had an industrial revolution? Why have Russia, East Germany, Romania et al embraced democracy and freedom? From whom did we buy our Scorpene? Why glasnost and perestroika? So the people know the limits of freedom and how to behave themselves properly and in accordance with the government's code of behavioural acceptance?

And finally, according to Dr M, apart from China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan will lead the Asian charge.

Which made me thinking, were Japan, South Korea and Taiwan governed by a benevolent absolutist government? Do the people in these countries know the limits of democracy? If so, to what extent? And who impose and define these limits on them?

Because the last time I checked, the South Koreans will come out on the street in droves to protest even the misuse of an office eraser by a minister. The Taiwanese, on the other hand, would fight tooth and nail for the right to hog the microphone in their House of Representatives. As for the Japanese, they just booted out their long non-performing government.

So, India is too democratic and therefore they won't succeed?


Lawyer Art Haron's critic of Dr Mahathir's views on democracy has been answered by fellow columnist at The Malaysian Insider

And I answered -

I'm pretty sure,
those starving hard working farmers in India who has to fight drought and fertilizer prices don't give a damn about freedom of speech or expression. It is those comfortably well paid lawyers with some extra time on their hands who are more concerned about these things and write about it.

Before you talk about democracy perhaps it is wise to first elevate the people's (rakyat) quality of living, because like the maslow's hierarchy of needs there are more important things to fulfill before they get to the self actualization level.

India has one of the most open democracy in the world yet the people are still racists. Now what does that tell you, democracy does not make you less racist, education is. In fact during the times of Soviet Union Russians aren't racists at all because communism knows no colour, yet now in a democracy they have the biggest population of skinheads and nazi groups because of economic factor.

If given the chance to an Indian labourer on whether he would prefer to go to Shanghai and lose his democratic rights yet get a good job and stay in Bangalore and be paid peanuts yet he can vote, I think we can pretty much guess the outcome.

And yes Dr M says China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan will lead the charge.
Japan has been ruled by the same party for over 50 years before, South Korea and Taiwan was once ruled by dictators who are horrible in human rights but spur fast economic growth and efficiency during their time.

There is such a thing as too much democracy, look at Pakistan, apart from cricket the national's favourite past time is politics and it is dominated by lawyers, look how screwed up it gets.

On the other hand, China is being ruled by a group of Engineers and they are flying high.

Dr M is a lousy philosopher yes I agree, and that's why people like him because Philosophers will only talk and do very little while technocrats (like Doctors) do more and talk less. Philosopher ini macam Anwar Ibrahim.

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