Does Democracy Work Without Values? | 2017-10-24 |

Does Democracy Work Without Values?

    24 October, 2017 12:00 AM printer

Does Democracy Work Without Values?

Dr. Siddhartha Shankar Joarder

What does politics do for the people? In other words, what is politics that makes human life livable? Importantly, the question comes after, what should be the relationship between individual and society? Bertrand Russell after First World War makes an overview of political ideals and writes, “Political ideals must be based upon ideals for the individual life. The aim of politics should be to make the lives of individuals as good as possible. There is nothing for the politician to consider outside or above the various men, women, and children who compose the world.” (B. Russell, Political Ideals, p. 14.).  I think Russell is very contemporary on the question of a society that is supposed to be the target of modern politics. It comes from the utilitarian principle which is pondered to be the corner stone of democratic stature. Since politics has nothing to do without human society; therefore its aim is to make away with all odds from the human activism. Accordingly, politics becomes the only tool in human society on which man cannot run without. In his famous book Authority and the Individual, he asked, “how can we combine that degree of individual initiative which is necessary for progress with the degree of social cohesion that is necessary for survival?” This question is thus pertinent in politics because individual composes greater unity and individual’s action reflects in politics.    
Political aim is targeted thus to create an atmosphere where people of all kinds would find their possible ways to have a mutual coexistence. It is the Politics, Aristotle says, “which is supreme and all-embracing, must at sovereign good”. To remember, human being by nature is political but politics itself can never be the way of human promotion alone. In fact, this is democracy which can be the best form of social paradigm and it is considered to be suitable for human purposes among so many experiments in political exercise.  
Back to primitive age, society was dangerously disassociated and perhaps more back to that there was no idea of society. Individuals tended to show the strength with all speed. People of heavy muscle had been victorious with might and main. This is why biological instinct comes into prominence and it supposes to govern other human desires. And, it was only the way to demonstrate individual strength for his unparallel registration at human procession. Power, for obvious reason, thus becomes the centre of all convexities. The question remains thereafter, how can the nakedness of power be overridden? It is believed that unbridled exercise of power pushes human beings off.
In modern society, political thinkers find some ways to tame power for a just society. I will make an overview in this essay to analyze the possible route of human thoughts in order to propose an ideal democratic state.
The first and foremost requirement for democratic exercise is cultural patience. Cultural patience includes the system of thoughts that makes human life more flexible and soft but not quite losing personal purview. Patience is a merit that always allows others to speak or learning logic from others. Democracy, in fact, is a combination of diversity and a wonderful proposal for combining that logic with maximum patience. Further, democracy is a rule of law that applies equally to all citizens regardless the statues. Let us see the corner of the history and its possible nodal line from where the democracy of the country had been gone off.
Before and after independence  
Bangladesh always struggled for a democratic land—a society that is to be absolutely even and multicultural but as a part of Pakistan, a religiously biased nation; it was not very easy way to think about a secular state or a land of multi believers. Rulers of the state as well as a good section of citizen were tremendously influenced by religious ethics. So, thinking about a truly democratic nation was almost impossible. In fact, East Pakistan a geographically isolated part of West Pakistan had something common in religious activism but there was a gulf of gap in culture and economy. There was a huge deprivation and thus arrives sense of liberty. The first attack was on the language which dangerously shocked the entire Bengali-speaking nation. And, the people of East Pakistan put to rout the plan of west at their cost of lives. This was the first time Bangladesh makes their positive way on her costly independence. Meanwhile, a nation-maker leader which is crowned with the epithet father of modern Bangladesh Sheikh Mujibur Rahman becomes the centre of political activities. For his charisma and uncompromising socio-political morale, people of Bangladesh named him Bangabandhu (friend of Bengal). He had a long plan to liberate a usurped land, a deprived and depressed nation which finally culminates at the greatest war in history. The leader cautioned his citizen in an open address, the greatest address in history as it is conceived, to the nation and apprehended a great war in the offing. This war had multifarious purposes — it was not a war merely for an independent land but for a philosophy–a philosophy of liberty, equity, multiculturalism, economy, politics, and secularism.  It was a war that confirms all citizens to live with their prestige and promotion. That was a war for the downtrodden mass who don’t have any taste of being self reliant. After heavy cost, the nation is liberated finally but something lurks more thereafter. Lot of intrigues waylaid behind the appearance. The leader who sacrifices all happiness in his life was killed by the own countrymen–a perverted group of military—who did never believe in the ideals of independence.    
What comes next? That was a saga of tragedy. Soon after the killing of the father of nation, same ideals of Pakistan were willfully reverted. Political climax touches at the point where the successive rulers took the advances in turn. Accordingly, militarization in politics had been institutionalized and the anti-independent elements make their space permanently both in administration and political thoughts. A generation had been forcibly pushed off into the dark and very intentionally they were kept the real history of Bangladesh off. A new political polarization appears at the post-75 political climate.
Politics devoid  of values
Value is supposed to be the heart of democracy. It is often called political ideals. In history, there were different kinds of political structure and political ideals as well. As a result, people had to experience different taste of political activism i.e. monocracy, aristocracy, autocracy, socialism, despotism and democracy. Among all, democracy is practiced with minimum hazard because this system includes individual participation and also it has nothing to do with the one man’s whim. Democratic value is a very wide concept that encompasses transparency, accountability, patience to other’s opinion, perseverance, and cultural upbringing. Democracy doesn’t obstruct individual freedom; on the other, it forbids excessive egotism. There should be a balance of craving – balance between subjectivity and sense of impersonal forces. Man as a semi-gregarious animal is neither a lion nor a bee. Lion leads a very forlorn life loves to live alone; and bees are always very much social which are never seen to work outside of the community. As a very medium animal, human being acts such a kind that is neither social nor anti-social. So, obviously, values or moral action would have been needed to control these two passions. Society as a greater organization than to that of family structure, so ethical codes should maintain the balance of those units.
Bangladesh, very unfortunately, follows the wrong foot step at the huge shake after1975 politics. It takes very little time to change the scenario. Men who were seemed to be loyal to their leaders came out with their nature – a real nature of course. The deposed, dejected and routed politics came to the centre. It takes at least two decades to make an opportunity in 1996 to bring back the glorious spirit of the independence when Bangladesh Awami League came to the politico power.  Perhaps, it was the first time after twenty-one years radio, television and other media freely uttered the name of the enemies of independence. To be sure, if the spirit of the birth of a nation is overshadowed; no nation of course can run through. Bangladesh was perhaps the only land in the world where the anti-liberation spirit still does politics with same vigour in the name of multi-political system.
Democracy, development and election  
In Bangladesh, the fiercest debate targets among the political parties over the system of government during the time of election. Experience shows, election in Bangladesh has never been accepted by defeated parties; so the necessity of a caretaker government or interim administration became paramount. Interestingly, even after an election under such circumstance none would accept the result happily. Furthermore, the experience is rather bitter because the very administration during election does involve in so many activities except functioning election. As a result, the faith had been slaked largely on the caretaker government. For obvious reason, this system has been nullified. Major opposition political parties didn’t accept this move. As a dramatic follow up, Bangladesh had to face the toughest time some four years back. The same thing may happen at the last part of the next year.
However, the question remains very important today: can an election be the only condition for democracy? Of course not, an election, more importantly a fair election, can guarantee you people’s participation but not democracy. Democracy is a very comprehensive term in which an election may be an important function but it is not everything. And, history says, an election can give people’s satisfaction for a certain time but not for all the moment they think for. It is believed that an election, who conducts the process doesn’t matter, should be fair and give the people satisfaction. Certainly, fairness and satisfaction are not very friendly term to each other. If you win the race it is fair and satisfactory; if you don’t then it is worse.
This political trouble is very common to the scene. In Bangladesh, to come across the trouble democratic norms should be practiced. And, it is to be remembered that the basic pillar of democracy is to change the mind set. This is culture which can only make over the undemocratic politicization.

The writer is Professor and Chairperson, Department of Philosophy,
Jagannath University, Dhaka. E mail: