Global Village Idiot: When Anarchy gets a seat at the Democratic table
September 15 was International Day of Democracy, so I got to thinking and eventually realised that I love half-baked knowledge, just love it. It allows me to make bold statements, paint grand visions, construct surface-level premises with no depth and generally spare no effort in making a fool of myself.
Thankfully we are living in times where no one is really listening to what I am saying. That’s because everyone can - and is - expressing their own opinion. We are all equal.
Imagine if I were to be elected to a committee or become a member of a group for people. Or, if I were to start a community… or a technology company backed by investors. Then the matter would be different. Because there would be others who would have a vested interest in my opinion and its popularity and dissemination, and would, probably, support and even defend my opinions and positions.
Now let’s alter a variable and say that my bold statements were not about making a fool of myself, but something that would alter society‘s status quo if they gained support from others. Or change the way business is done. Or change the negotiating leverage of a section of society.
The stakes are now a little higher. Because I have support of others, it makes me an influencer. And with the support of my newfound community, and their hard work and intelligence and passion, slowly but steadily, my sphere of influence will increase, putting me in competition with other influencers, which in turn increases the chances of neighbourhood or local (definitely some social) media attention. Thus, my unimportant opinions now grow into some value. From here, depending on the momentum (all of the stakeholders generate) it can grow into a movement, a force, maybe even a policy if someone gets elected to a public body or office.
Now let’s specify the knowledge I am spewing and call it “data”. Let us also acknowledge that data is a resource. For any given resource, there are many different interests and therefore, many different positioning statements for each interest and therefore many different stakeholders for each of those positioning statements. Once a viewpoint gains momentum it becomes a force (small or big) and then it has political clout. And each political clout negotiates with all other political clouts, which works as a check and balance for overall society on most matters.
That’s how democracy functions.
Laws are made around this concept and the idea of justice is defined within this understanding. It’s like a free-market economy. This is also how nations of the world work with each other. In times past, there has been the age of monarchies, there has been the age of oligarchies. This is the age of democratic negotiations.
But all nations are not democratic, just as all power-centres are not governments.
We often assume that the opposite of democracy is autocracy (as in communist or theocratic or monarchial states). That’s a fallacy. At one end of the spectrum is organised rule and at the other end of that spectrum is anarchy.
Organised rule is the existence of control groups within a society of individuals - democracy, socialism, communism, monarchy, theocracy, oligarchy are different forms of organised rule. The objective of organised rule is to maintain order through negotiated homogeneity, or acceptance of a common uniformity.
Anarchy is the existence of individuals and small disorganised groups. The objective of anarchy is absence of controlling authority and absolute individual freedom. (If we replace the “individual” with nation, and “controlling authority” with world order, we can read this as: The objective of anarchy is absence of control from the world order and absolute freedom for the nation to conduct itself as it pleases.)
The history of human civilisation is the history of development of different forms of organised rule. For not so obvious reasons, anarchies have rarely survived since they have been usually assimilated by neighbouring organised-rule nations. But like with all ages, there are always voices of anarchic dissent. And with the right environment and some astute alliances, dissenting voices can easily become a movement, then a force and maybe even get a seat at the table.
The conflict in the current age is a conflict between religion and organised government for control of the human masses, their mind-spaces and their productivity. We have been through several ages and types of rule, and in each the control of human productivity was with the ruler of the times - religious leaders, monarchs, tyrants, governments - end result in each was the same for the individual - subjugation.
Democracy has emerged as the most effective of the types of rule because it provides an impression of freedom, and systematically dismantles the influence of religion and other power centres till the common wo(man) willingly conforms to the progressive life prescribed by the alliance between political parties and business organisations. That’s because the rhetoric of democracy is inclusion, equal treatment and participation.
What happens if an anarchic wave finds support from religious totalitarian and autocratic allies in an overwhelmingly large democratic environment? By nature, democracies first quote procedure, law, and rights, then they sanction (economic always, economic), embargo and use armed deterrent; then they talk, discuss, negotiate and eventually, if the dissenter has potential to damage the world order, they make space and accommodate with terms and conditions and start releasing resources to the new entrant.
But what is likely to happen when a primarily violent anarchic state with no common ground with democratic ideals, is accommodated in a democratic setup? Democratic nations will hope that the anarchists will come into the fold. History, however, shows that anarchists do not deviate from their agenda, especially religious anarchies. A violent theocracy is usually what emerges.
What does this mean for the displaced people of the erstwhile nation? What does it mean for the democracies of the world? And what does it mean for the democracy of the region? Is an appeasing democratic approach capable of addressing the threat of an alliance of autocratic, military dictatorship and theocratic nations? Is it responsible of democratic institutions to fork out billions of dollars in aid into the hands of violent regimes?
It is unfair and unjust (in a democracy) to suspect and persecute people on grounds of religion or caste or colour or creed or socio-economic background. Similarly, it is naive and dangerous to think of religious anarchic extremism as a form of plurality within the democratic vocabulary. These are twains that are unlikely to ever meet.
Thankfully, there are enough wise people to think about all of this and protect the world at large. Hopefully, our future and safety will not rest in the hands of the same wise people who have brought us to where we stand today.
Mukherjee, author, learning-tech designer and management consultant, is founder of Mountain Walker and chief strategy advisor, Peak Pacific. He can be reached @ firstname.lastname@example.org