In response to my post about the KGB and Indian democracy, one reader responded by writing that “should we abide by your definition of democracy, there would be very few truely democratic countries around.”
My response to that was that perhaps my insistence that at a mininum voters actually exercise an informed choice for a society to qualify as a democracy is indeed too stringent a requirement and we should all be content with a cargo cult democracy (please do click on the link to see what I mean.) While we are at it, we should also paste pictures of a monitor and a keyboard on every school desk so that we can also claim that we have a fully digital school system, since we cannot really afford a computer (for whatever it is worth) on every desk in our schools.
I think that we Indians have been brainwashed into worshipping an idol called “democracy” without an understanding of what democracy means and what is implied in terms of rights and responsibilities for the functioning of a democratic society. Democracy is definitely not an event such as periodic general elections; it is a process that permeates the fabric of the political lives of all its citizens. It has something to do with the people taking ownership of their own governance at all levels–from the neighborhood citizens’ group involved in keeping the streets clean to the national level where the matters relate to which party most effectively does the job that a government is supposed to do.
Merely having periodic elections full of sound and fury with totally clueless voters every so often does not constitute a democracy any more than having a very loud wedding full of hired guests consitutes a marriage. A wedding however lavish is merely an event and is not a substitute for the daily process of sharing and caring and coping that goes into the making of a marriage which is a process.
I have seen too many fancy weddings which end up as lousy marriages.