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March 09, 2006

Comments

eevilmidget

re: wrath on article...
I just thought the writer's statement was careless, thereby disregarding the more significant spirit of filipinos honestly seeking democracy, illusive and elusive though it may be. For me, it also reeked of the supremacist notion that the western world is better/more democratic, thus implying we third-worlders are backwards etc. Brings me back to my historical arguments of my youth that today's instabilities are still the effect of yesterday's colonialism...

So long story short, I just thought the article was rubbish, but realise it's not a historical/sociological dissertation so I guess I could forgive the author's lack of acumen towards the subject...

keita

most people that join rallies are weel-paid and are feed enough

so its not good to say that its better...

the point of gloria, in my opinon about the 1017 is that the media has a very strong presence and influence with the people, so .....

Tomas Henry

When you mention the democracy of Athens - well it did apply to Athens, not to the whole of what nowadays is Greece. So if you say, the protesters on the streets represent the true democratic movement rather than those staying at home (disregarding the fact that many protesters are well payed for protesting) that may well be true for Manila. It does not represent the rest of the country though. Giving rise to a separate Republik of Manila...

torn

Yup, that's a good point -- in protests as in so many things, Manila reigns supreme. It was the same in 2001 -- there were a few anti-Erap demonstrations in Cebu as I recall, but it was a few hundred thousand people in the capital city who decided an issue that affected the other 75 million.

I've always been of the view that nation states can never be remotely democratic because of their size. My ideal polity would in fact be something along along the lines of a city-state, with active participation rather than representative democracy and all the distortions and trade-offs that entails. My friends tell me that is naive and perhaps it is, but still it's what I believe.

And before someone else points it out, I know Athenian democracy did not include slaves or women so I'm not suggesting it be adopted wholesale.

Carla


Elections are essential--you can't have a democracy without elections. How would people express their choice of representatives? By acclamation? That's how tyrants justify their reigns: the people love me, they said so when I asked them in a referendum where soldiers stood outside the voting booths.

This assumes that elections present a range of choices, are free of fraud, coercion, patronage and are not dominated by money (which many elections in the West are, I must point out. Just look at campaign financing in the US.) The electoral system also plays a huge part in ensuring that elections reflect the will of the populace, and not just the majority. That is why I think certain systems like proportional representation are more democratic than others.

But while elections are necessary, they are not sufficient to guarantee and sustain a democracy. I tend to favor deliberative and participatory models, where communication among citizens and with the government is constant and allows for civic participation between elections. There are many requirements for this and it's easier to envision in theory than to implement in the real world. We could use it as an ideal, though. Which means we have a long way to go in transforming a "democracy" where elections are rigged, there are no real differences among candidates/parties, voters are coerced and bribed, and where there are no opportunities for political participation other than voting or protests.

torn

That’s eloquently put and I would agree with nearly all of it. However, the question at the beginning of your comment assumes that representative democracy is the only kind. What about direct democracy? For that you need either much smaller political units and/or the utilization of new technologies that will allow the holding of referenda. Actually you don’t even need new technology; take Switzerland, they have referenda there on just about anything, the last time I was in Geneva there was one about the siting of a museum.

However, for the time being I have to reluctantly agree that elections are necessary but not sufficient. The question is where do you place them in the spectrum of political activity. For many people elections seem to be the *only* aspect of democracy that they acknowledge, which seems incredibly narrow to me.

Finally, I quite agree that we have a long way to go if we are to improve on the current situation where “elections [are] rigged, there are no real differences among candidates/parties, voters are coerced and bribed, and where there are no opportunities for political participation other than voting or protests.” I have participated in or observed many elections in my life and in nearly all of them I either voted or saw others vote in a wholly negative way—to kick out the Tories, to stop FPJ, etc. If that is the best electoral democracy can do it is a pretty pathetic way of reflecting the public mood. We have to find another way, or at least to add some flesh to the skeleton provided by the electoral process (as you suggest).

Carla

Yeah, I totally bypassed direct democracy, haha. I must confess that I find the idea untenable, especially since I come from a megalopolis like Metro Manila. Maybe the barangay would be the ideal size for such a set-up. But do you really think that is manageable?

Also, we would have to distinguish between issues that can be subjected to referenda/consensus-building on that level, as opposed to national issues. I emphasize this because the Philippines is still in the process of threshing out its national identity. We need to instill the practice of democracy, which can be done more meaningfully within smaller political units, as you suggest. But we also need to foster shared political culture and a unified political system, which a more localized set-up could undermine. It is for the same reason that I'm wary of federalist proposals. There are very entrenched local elites--warlords, even--that can easily thwart and co-opt direct democracy at the local level.

I agree with you regarding the limitations of representative democracy and the misplaced emphasis on elections. I mean just look at the voter turnouts in the Philippines and how vigorous they make our democracy look. Over 80% turnout each time--miraculous compared to the pathetic turnouts here in the UK, for example. We need elections but there have to be norms about their conduct and they should be only one of a variety of means for political participation.

torn

Alas, I don't think Athenian style direct democracy is feasible, but it is an idea I have espoused for so long I am loath to give it up completely. Broadly I agree with you -- representative democracy coupled with some sort of broader and more participatory political culture and values, what used to be called "civics". It's such a chicken and an egg thing in the Philippines though -- one of the barriers to a more egalitarian society is the corrupt political process yet the political process will not be reformed until society is less polarized.

My real beef with representative democracy as practised in most countries though is that once the bastards are in you have no control over them. How many of the Labour voters in 1997 and 2001 thought they were voting for a government that would involve the country in Middle East war?

Major Tom

In my mind, democracy should need to evolve and adjust to the nascent changes in the world order, in order that it may still be relevant. Pure (or hardcore) democracy that we practice nowadays is just leading nations into a boisterous and noisy place, akin to a supermarket, where everyone feels he/she can lead but in fact only a few, or none could.

A small sprinkling of socialism may just do the right mix and cook ourselves a tasty meal for a government.

Carla

Isn't socialism an economic model rather than a political one? What does it say about the relationship between states and citizens?

torn

Carla -- Interesting question. But doesn't socialism have both political and economic elements? I know it is an elastic term and has been used by very differnt groups, all the way from the Nazis to Mao Tse Tung (though some might argue that is not a very long way), but generally I think most people would regard it as a model that distributes the some of the benefits of the means of production to society as a whole (rather than allowing them to remain with the owners). Some people would argue that the state must also own the means of production, but I would guess that is a minority view these days.

The only way such a system can be implemented is through political processes. For example, the prohibitive rates of taxation in Sweden can only be implemented through the agreement of most of society which can only be determined through democratic processes.

This link can be seen in the names of the European parties to the left of the political spectrum, most of which call themselves social democratic parties.

So, I think I agree with Major Tom, some form of socialism is essential for the Philippines if the huge gulf between the rich and the poor is to be closed in a managed and orderly way.

Carla


The reason I ask it is that I've heard a lot of "socialists" emphasize redistribution of resources and economic equity, but never talk about democracy. The assumption is that addressing the economic welfare of the majority poor will in itself be a democratic process or will bring about democracy , when experience has shown that it may not. The Soviet Union is of course the primary example of how socialism can be authoritarian.

I strongly agree with the need for redistributive reform in the Philippines and from that, I could put the question another way: Does democracy or *should* democracy *also* address questions of economic inequality? It is often put forward as a political model rather an economic one; or else, it is always linked with capitalism and markets (in the absence of proof that it can flourish in a socialist context). On one hand, there are those who will argue that this is the best system we can come up with given the world order, that we cannot completely eliminate all sorts of inequalities and therefore, the best we can do is to establish elections, put up institutions and guarantee a minimum of civil liberties. On the other hand, if people remain poor, elections and "civil liberties" become meaningless. Also, poverty and social exclusion most certainly affect the way and the extent to which they can participate in political processes.

Democratic but starving: shouldn't that be an unacceptable irony? Just like being socialist and oppressed.


torn

I think the key word in your question is not "socialism" or "economic inequality" but "address". In other words, do something about it! Philippine politicians fall over themselves to mouth pious platitudes about the poor and ending the gap between the rich and the poor but when is someone actually going to do something about it?

What you say is exactly right, political progress has to be accompanied by economic progress, in other words the growth of the bougeoisie. In the papers here we get occasional stories of the poor boy from Tondo who now runs a multinational company. Fine, but that doesn't change a thing. However, if a whole subclass moves from the poor into the middle class then I think we have the makings of a stable democracy, under which further economic reforms can take place, thereby creating a virtuous circle. Arroyo is correct that the first stage in that process has to be jobs, the next is land ownership. As Thatcher recognized, once people start owning their own homes, their whole outlook changes.

endometrial oblation

Implementing it proves out that they are still in favor on doing things on a democratic way.

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