Democracy and the extreme

Farooque Chowdhury | Published: 12:27, Oct 09,2016


It is more than a childish imagination to imagine or expect that an extreme position or behaviour does not exist within democracy even if democracy is imagined as an abstract something or something neutral of all economic interests. Emerging conditions compel democracy to chart the route of extreme, whenever required, as it has to safeguard the stakes the system was devised to defend.

Examples are in abundance in support of the above statement. A number of times in history, democracy had to resort to extreme measures to defend itself. Even, a number of times in history, democracy behaved in an extreme way simply to extend its reach on behalf of the interests it represented. Those interests were ‘hungry and thirsty’. It is, therefore, more utopian than utopian tales to imagine democracy is always free from the extreme and democracy does not resort to the extreme. The system is not free from interests, turning vested over time as it does not suspend it from the sky or hover in the air.   

It is a similar dream to imagine that democracy does not nourish the extreme. History is abound with examples, where, to put it in a simple way, democracy nourished the extreme even when the nourished extreme was going to tear down democracy. Examples show, in cases, democracy happily, and without any concern, patronised the extreme, which later subverted democracy.

Therefore, an important task in looking at the problem of the extreme within democracy is to define democracy and the extreme, the positive/negative relation between the two, find out the perspective it is operating within or against compulsions that it is facing, duties that it is trying to deliver to its constituents, interests that it is upholding and interests that it is opposing or trying to crush. The exercise will, at least, free ‘well-informed’ brain in quest for an all-neutral democracy from childish imaginations, ambiguities, expectations and demands.

Childish imaginations help nothing and nobody but bolster confusion and arm antagonistic forces. Superficial ideas, superfluous expressions, semi-constructed concepts, half-baked theories, erroneous ‘reasoning’, copied words and styles without caring for full meaning, implication and requirement is, ultimately, suicidal and, initially, enough to make one a laughing stock, but unable to contribute a single shilling to facing the problem with the extreme within democracy and in identifying circumstance giving rise to the extreme. This practice is nothing but mockery of the self. No mockery has ever helped solve problems of economy and politics, problems of society and management, problems of theory and practice.

Societies are there where statements devoid of facts and logic are made, marketed and consumed. Societies are there where interesting sounding statements are much respected even if the statement is stupid. Societies are there where statements proved erroneous and discarded more than a century ago are sold with much haughtiness and consumed with much merriment. These societies ultimately find dreaming dwelling in democracy is difficult. Extreme easily overwhelms these societies and it finds that it is incapable in securing the status quo on which it was thriving.  

Cherishing to look at the problem with the extreme within democracy should look at problems within democracy, the problems created by the interests that the political system is trying to secure. There are problems of cooptation and compromise and problems in limits of capacity to cooptation and compromise.

Something is rotten in the state of democracy when democracy spreads itself as a breeding ground for the extreme or democracy is compelled to resort to extreme measures as it traverses thorns threatening its existence and it finds that its soft measures are blunt.

Problems of the extreme within democracy cannot be identified if politics is looked at through a prism of irrational emotion as politics is entirely different from individual emotions, emotional chattering of individuals and suggestions of individuals having no practice with politics.

Searching the soul of the system that claims to be democracy is another task while planning to look at the extreme within democracy. One has to find out the place the soul of the system sleeps in or keeps itself awake. A half-hearted search never finds the soul but comes across confusion.

The soul, then, is to be defined. It is concrete, not abstract. It is lively, not moribund. Again, something is rotten in the state of democracy if the soul roams around as a ghost after falling dead.

Any system faces peril whenever it fails to balance conflicting pushes and pulls, balance competing demands, and conclude compromises. Consequently, a rupture facilitates ventilation of one extreme or other. That is a problem within the system.

Pushes and pulls are to be identified. These are manifestations of interests; and interests shape ideology, including ideology of democracy of all brands, although many minds with wisdom consider that ideology stands without any foundation and it is self-powered. They decline to invest their labour for searching the source of ideology as getting anything without investing labour is profitable to them. Enjoying every little flake without labouring for a single second is always comfortable to them. Actually, identifying source nullifies a lot of magic marketed in the name of democracy. That is the real trouble for them as their comfortable position vanishes away the moment the magic melts down.

Policing perceptions is impossible although a number of scholars suggest the crude method while they exercise with the problem of the extreme. They forget or they like not to recollect the Nazi experience.

The Nazis faced their hour of humiliating defeat. Policing people failed to save the Nazis, however. The black shirts failed to instil a black heart of hatred within human bosom. That sergeant with a marshal’s baton, as Churchill used to describe Hitler, spent a huge resource to police human minds. But his Berlin bunker bore the destiny of the Nazi-ideology — absolutist, hatred-spewing, racial, sectarian, supremacist — while the victorious Red Army was bombarding the Nazi den to dust.

Billions of dollars were spent for decades on keeping common people away from questioning the despicable 1%. Tempting commodities were produced, and its nefarious net was spread end-to-end. The size of porn industry tells a part only. A giant gambling industry is there. A powerful part of economy was transformed into casino, which gambles, among others, with war and the dead and already has emerged as the centre of gravity. Facts are suppressed and information is meticulously manipulated. The mechanism is a part of a chain to shackle human brains. There is dominance of politics of lies and misinterpretation of economy. And, hardship was kept active to press down the multitude. However, nothing of these succeeded in subverting the unprecedented rise of Occupy Rising in the very heart of monopoly finance casino and in countries, including Spain.

Perceptions can neither be manufactured nor coerced. Perceptions can neither be policed nor chained. This is in case of democracy, in case of the extreme, and in case of problem in facing extreme within democracy.

Thuggish methods torpedo democracy as democracy is related to people while the despised method robs people. Thuggish practice is of a few, an extreme opposite of people, many in number. Thuggish everything is secretive and is not accountable to people. It is decided by a self-‘righteous’ few — an extreme opposite of democracy.

A people mobilised can foil thuggish practice by the self-‘righteous’ few and a democracy can mobilise people. People’s area for participation can create scope for mobilisation. Otherwise, gathered members of public with thunderous slogans in a few hours’ march bear marks of an amalgamation of hired individuals. Similarly, discussions and dialogues afar from people fail to mobilize people to defend democracy.

Capital’s practice is extreme as it can survive only by expanding it and by demolishing all — an extreme method. On an ever-expansionist path, it tolerates no opposing forces. It, even, demolishes its allies if the allies stand as an obstacle on the capital’s track of expansion.

To capital, it is the absolute — an extreme position, contrary to relative considerations and changing perspective. Capital cannot tolerate others, cannot tolerate diversity although capital exploits all diversities in nature and life, and, thus, capital stands opposed to nature and life, because nature and life thrive with diversity. Moreover, nature supports life with diversity. It is the capital’s position of self-denial; it is suicidal — an extreme position.

Therefore, democracy, or whatever a system is, based on and defending capital takes the extreme, absolutist position hurting self while it tries to hurt its foes as an extreme, absolutist position is always against nature, the globe, humanity. No system can survive based on self only. Seeds or strength for survival do not come from a single source in nature. Denying diversity is tantamount to denying reality. By denying reality, one only cancels scope of analysis.

The democracy of capital (in this case, demos has no positive connection to people other than dominating and coercing people — a negative connection) goes to that extent where lies, telling lies and liar that harm the system are considered better than nudity and business with nudity as long as it finds that the lies and the liar serve its immediate interests. Lie is holier to it! The statement has been confirmed very recently in an advanced bourgeois democracy as one finds pages of a newspaper splashed with photographs of one connected to a competitor. This was done to influence voters. It is confident about its power of manipulating public mind! 

But, capital, the absolutist, (and as an absolutist, it is monarchial, tyrannical, dictatorial) the extreme, does neither have the power to deny reality nor to float above reality as it always lives within a reality that it always tries to deny in futility. It is the very failure of the extreme, of the absolutist, a condition that ensures its fatal failure although the absolutist does not admit its destiny of failure.

Market and imperialism, the two organisations bred by capital, are extremes, are absolutist — a self-destructive position. These two deny everything but the self — a position against humanity and nature.

Democracy of market, market democracy and of imperialism are destructive as their extreme position stands only for them. Market democracy, like all extremes, is intolerant. It does not tolerate any competitor, tries to destroy all competitors and destroys diversity as it cannot flourish in an environment of diversity and tolerance — a condition that the extreme relies on for survival.

To market democracy, it is the only form of democracy. An extreme idea! This consideration pushes it to impose its system on land. An extreme practice! To impose its will, it demolishes all prospects for flourishing of creativity. The extreme does not tolerate creativity as creativity questions all around.

Imperialism considers it all-powerful although in the world stage, it has faced defeat a number of times. It is, actually, accountable to none. For all misdeeds, imperialism has not faced any trial and tribunal till today. It can overrule its taxpayers simply to advance its interests, an interest of a few, an interest that poses as democracy. ‘[T]he US government […] centrally collect taxes, and then spend […] $1.2 billion on 1,200 cruise missiles in the first day of the war against Iraq.’ (Mitch Ratcliffe, ‘Building on experience’, in Mitch Ratcliffe and Jon Lebkowsky, ed, Extreme Democracy, 2005) The amount cited above is only a fraction of total expense of a single day in a long war. It is an extreme position in many terms: waging war, demolishing a country and a people’s way of life, and all these were done to advance an interest of a coterie. All these were also done in the name of advancing democracy. All these were done with taxpayers’ money. All these were done by a democracy, the type and character of which have to be defined. This type of democracy, and agents advancing interests of this type are antagonistic to the democracy people cherish, strive for.

Therefore, the extreme and democracy and the extreme within democracy are relative issues with many variables, perspectives and contexts.

To counter extremism, countries in Europe had to resort to measures during the inter-war period (post-WWI to pre-WWII), which appear extreme and repressive to a group while necessary to another. The measures included enacting anti-extremist legislation; and the anti-extremist legislations, among others, were on protecting democratic institutions and personal honour; against false news, infiltration of foreign propaganda, party uniforms (symbols, etc), party militias, military training of members of private associations, wearing of arms, glorification of political crime; on suppression/suspension of political parties and political associations; on restricting the freedoms of the press (newspapers, periodicals, pamphlets, books) and assembly (Giovanni Capoccia, ‘Defending Democracy: Strategies of Reaction to Political Extremism in Inter-war Europe”, ‘UI Working Paper SPS No. 2000/2, May 9, 2000, European University Institute, Florence). These measures, to a part in society, appear extreme while, to the rest defending the system, appear necessary.  

Democracy is like a tumultuous rough sea, like a tranquil lake, like high mountains reaching to the sky, like a lush forest, like free wind crossing the horizon, like a flowing river bringing in prosperity, influencing and impacting all around, and getting impacted by contradictions within and around. People defend the system if it represents people. People get disenchanted and rise in revolt whenever drunkards of power for minority interests usurp the system and turn the system into a royalty — an act of treachery in democracy. The system turns into a shell and faces a destiny of doom when people are denied scope for participation in making the system workable, when minority interests seize the system from within, and thus create conditions for rise of trends including extreme hurting the system.

Farooque Chowdhury is a Dhaka-based freelance writer.

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