Whither democracy? Is there something causing it to Change?
Why should there be a change?
Democracy needs to change because there is a gap between the defacto practitioners of democracy, and its ultimate beneficiaries, the citizens.
The first indication of such a void, and a sign that a change might be called for, is the way our politicians, the part of democracy that is visible the most, appear in our daily affairs.
Tell tale Signs
Politician bashing is a common sight of these days. Whether in west or east, irrespective of presidential, military or democratic dispensation, no country is free of this entertainment. (My aim is not to belittle politicians, but the way they treat each other, embolden all others) Nowhere else can this be seen more clearly than in the violent and widespread objections to the continuation of a few privileges, the politicians used to enjoy.
May be as a result of this, politicians in general find citizens, either not cooperating enough or disinterested with such an important task as governance. Consequently, they may also find the populace undeserving of a good, trouble free life. A proposal to make voting an essential duty of all citizens, and more or less mandatory, seems to be in the offing.
There are signs that a significant number of citizens do not feel that their concerns are being addressed by the mainstream parties or the political system. There are two main reasons for this. One, from the citizen’s side; they confuse government with politicians, which is because they are more easily identifiable with governance. And two, from the politicians’ side, they take the rather lighter responsibility of delivering governance, rather than thinking about governance in the abstract, their rightful job. This is because, unlike the past, the best of the generation do not opt for politics as a natural destination.
What can be Done?
This is giving rise to a layer of political dissatisfaction amongst members of the majority of people, 'the white working classes’ in some countries and, the middle class in some other. An immediate reaction to this, disengagement of a considerable part of the populace from playing their role as citizens, further accentuates it. We need to recognize the role that the well to do, educated and empowered working majority, mostly white collared, should be expected to play. Lower participation in formal democratic processes may not mean disengagement from all forms of politics. On the contrary, it should be seen as warning to alter the political processes appropriately to enable the participation of the majority. There could be many methods to see that such a thing happens, rather than forcing a huge populace to tune themselves to certain archaic systems and procedures. This, of course, might entail a shift in our basic approach to governance.
For example, many new opportunities exist to collate wants, opinions or desires of a large population if the capability of information technology is put to use. Also, appropriation of resources or other forms of wealth becomes a child’s play, that too, with hardly any possibilities of dissatisfaction or mistake, in the face of the computing power made available by the digital revolution. Even the introduction of a new type of governance, 'real time democracy', is possible if all citizens are connected to a central server directing the various elements of government, which is programmed to act on the input from citizens thus connected, appropriately. Computer programs, in this case, shall be usurping the role of politicians who in turn, can be making a graceful exit!
Just as we saw earlier, how the growth of communication made the profession of ‘commission agents’ redundant, the strides in IT have the potential to make whatever is left of politicians, fade away. In the interim, quite sharp and rather unexpected reactions can be expected from all politicians, even to events that are not very noteworthy. And some of these, mostly from those who presently are in positions of power, would be of grave consequences. These are but the gasps of a dying profession.