Monday, April 29, 2013

The price of a community

Last year, when meeting a Malaysian senator in London, I was asked, as a political science enthusiast, who is my favorite political theorists. It did not turn out to be a shining moment for me. In two sentences, I blurted about my being a comparative politics student as a reason for never having given more thought on political theory than I should have. When I reached home that afternoon, I immediately racked my brain (and notes) on which political theorists who I find most agreeable with. I came up with Schumpeter.

When thinking of the days I spent reading Schumpeter, I would like to imagine that I may have strained my neck by all the nodding I did, agreeing with his understanding of democracy. Schumpeter’s democracy seems to me as the most realistic—and therefore the best—description of the system most countries aspire to these days. Democracy is not about rule by the people, it is about people choosing the best leaders to rule over them. My agreement with Schumpeter may have been the result of a previous teacher’s fervor in discussing Plato’s concept of the philosopher kings. In short, my view of democracy was an elitist one: I do not believe that every person who walks this earth is capable of making the best decision for the good of the community, less so to actually lead a country.

That was before I decided to mentally shift away my devotion from western precept of philosophy, ethics, and politics. Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to make the full intellectual transition to alternative views, but from what little knowledge I have acquired so far, I have come to question my own elitist beliefs. Mostly, it has to do with the same Quranic verse I cited previously (Quran 49:11). I am just one person among a sea of humans, with limited understanding of the challenges faced by others, thus I am not in a position to judge whose view of the world should take precedence over another’s. I am not better by my education or even ibadah. A different experience is just that: different. Forever, while on this earth and beyond, sovereignty belongs only to God, and all we can do as His slaves is to consult one another before promulgating laws that are to affect our neighbors alike. Democracy, as famously proclaimed by Churchill as the worst form of government except for the rest, should not be an institution that risks manipulation under a few elites.

Yesterday I did my part in the democratic process of my beloved country. After years of learning and reading about participating in an institution only imagined about in years past, I finally understand why democracy should not be left achievable through the stewardship of enlightened elite, because the idea that one could make a difference is an empowering experience that is to be shared. Maturity in a society is too valuable to be held at arm’s length.

As in any competition, there will be winners and losers; let’s all be good sports over the outcome.


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