Thursday, March 24, 2011

Democrats & Humanitarians...In Name Only

Consider the following names of these countries:

  • People's Democratic Republic of Algeria
  • People's Republic of Bangladesh
  • People's Republic of China
  • Democratic People's Republic of Korea
  • Lao People's Democratic Republic
  • Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

I wanted to post these names to exhibit one commonality with all of them: none of these nations are for the "people", but rather for a ruling elite who hold onto power tightly and with significant firepower. None of them are "democratic", either. There is a simple, immutable point that I made whilst speaking with a friend a while back about such things: that any nation that has to inculcate "democratic" into its title is, without exception, undemocratic. More than likely, it is a brutal dictatorship. (Can anyone say that North Korea, aka "Democratic People's Republic of Korea" is anything approaching? Additionally, it is barely a republic, but rather a monarchy of sorts, with Kim Jong Il grooming his son to take over after he passes, just as he took over from his father Kim Il Song.) Perhaps one of the more interesting choices of names was the German Democratic Republic, aka East Germany or communist Germany. The contrast of this name with its western counterpart, the Federal Republic of Germany, and you get the idea. Kind of hard to justify one name against the other when the denizens of the German Democratic Republic were continually shot attempting to cross over into the Federal Republic of Germany; one would think the opposite would've occurred, one being a "democratic republic" and all. The truth of the matter was that East Germany was one of the most oppressive police states in history, certainly in European history. But the title certainly belied that, at least to the eye and the ear. Certainly Libya, given its terrorist history (Flight 103 in 1988, which I actually took six months prior) and current internecine butchery, doesn't qualify as for the "the people".

The wider implication behind this is simple: dictatorships know that they're truly illegitimate, ergo they go to great lengths both in spoken and written word. Orwell keyed in on this in 1984, with his labeling of the edifice dedicated to torture as the "Ministry of Love". In the real, non-fiction world, this would be the equivalent of "Arbeit macht frei" (translated, "Work will set you free", stated in sign at the entrance of several work/death camps by the Nazis, the implication of hope where none truly existed.) I recall during my college years a professor, who's name still stays with me but will not be published here, who said that the Soviet Union made a point of glorifying greater citizen participation in its elections simply because an overwhelming majority brought themselves to the polls, and as a result, bestowed upon themselves greater democratic credentials than the United States. Not lost in this was that there would be only one candidate per office, and that any unfortunate soul who failed to show to the voting location would be paid a visit or called to ensure their presence. Again, the show of democracy was more important than the reality of it, and considerably more importance, the show of humanitarianism was more important than an actual policy of it.

Men of power are fully aware of their wrongdoing. Titles and words matter to them, for in some respects, rhetorical cover for tyrannical murder serves as some semblance of spiritual emollient for them. But the conscience knows something that words can't gloss over.

At least I hope it does, if there is any justice in the world.


Fowl Ideas said...

Some terrorists are more honest than others.

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