(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)
Everybody’s favourite failed state and South Asia’s #1 source of terrorism and the sort of music which makes you want to rip your heart out, throw it in the air and shoot it with an AK-47 just to make yourself feel better, was having a ‘crisis of democracy’ again. Pakistan has had more crises of democracy than the number of dossiers the Indian government has sent them.
The Pakistani Supreme Court thought that the best way to preserve democracy was to kick it in the nuts and bloody it’s face with a sledgehammer. Prime Ministerial careers were dying faster than a North Korean rocket. Just like a superhero franchise losing popularity, Pakistan rebooted its government and appointed a new – allegedly corrupt – Prime Minister. What are the odds! If a guy who looks like Ratan Tata mated with Killer Khalsa cannot restore the trust of the people in democracy, I don’t know who can.
Speaking of failed states, Greece, the birthplace of democracy and toga parties, also got over it’s weird Nazi phase and elected a semi-coherent government. Since the new government is made of coalition partners diametrically opposed to each other, this bodes well for the Euro. Because if there is one thing coalition governments are good at, it’s taking tough, unpopular decisions.
Which brings us to Egypt. For the first time in modern history, Egypt has an almost-popularly elected President who is not beholden to the army. Since he belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, right wing nutjobs all over the world are wetting their pants in both fear and gleeful anticipation depending on their chosen theocracy of allegiance. Are you saying that a ruthless dictator supported by the United States who was lording over a middle eastern country with an iron hand and who – among other things suppressed religion, and was overthrown by a revolution led by young people – has been replaced by religious parties? If only history had given us some indication that this would happen!
People presume that just because they ‘liked’ that photo of all the people gathered in Tahir Square and re-tweeted actual revolutionaries, that they have a say in who Egypt elects as President. They don’t! It’s like we’re telling them, Hey Egypt, you can have a democratically elected President as long as we get to approve who it is! Even if the new government goes south very soon, having had even a small say in the policies of the government which lords over them is a big step. The old system is not going to give way so easily. And democracy is not something you get right from the get-go. You’re always striving to be better at it. Democracy is the ability to choose which road you want to pave with your good intentions while you lazily saunter towards hell.
Back home in India, we still continue to try different combinations even after sixty four years. Our current head of government is a man who started playing ‘statue’ when he was five years old and till this day ignores everyone who asks him to ‘stop.’ The last President of America did not know his way around a pretzel. Democracy in Pakistan has had more false starts than a Scooter manufactured in the 80’s. Even people in Greece behave like amateurs when you send them to the voting booth.
Dictatorships are like the iPhone. They may look good and have a controlled environment nearing perfection, but the slave labour required to achieve such a state remains invisible. Democracy is like Android. It’s messy, it’s chaotic, and nobody who makes it agrees with each other and it’s always in need of improvement.
Electing religious parties to government is not all that bad. Many countries have had governments led by parties which have religion deeply embedded into their DNA. It’s not like these governments started killing members of other . . .
Be afraid, Egypt.
Be very afraid.