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The U.S Department of State defines democracy as 'The institutionalization of freedom.' (http://usinfo.state.gov/products/pubs/whatsdem/whatdm2.htm) It is probably the best definition around, it is at least clear and succinct. It is a definition which is likely to bring a glow to the hearts of the champions of democracy. Yet it is fundamentally flawed. It espouses an idea, freedom, which is at best a moral vacuum. At worst, combined with its cousin capitalism, it provides an intellectual justification of selfishness, greed and exploitation. It is precisely this combination of institutionalized freedom and capitalism which permitted the Western powers to destroy one of the world's greatest civilizations: imperial China. |
The champions of democracy look back to ancient Athens as the source of modern democratic virtue. Yet it was the democracy of Athens which judicially executed Socrates, the father of western philosophy. Confucius and Mencius, who were rather more openly critical of their rulers, died peacefully in their beds.
Western democracy resembles the early medieval cathedrals you see all across Europe. They were so poorly built that they had to be propped up by external buttresses. Even then many of them collapsed. Pure democracy, the simple notion of majority rule is such a poor model that it has to be propped up by ideas such as human and minority rights, the separation of powers and so on. It's not so much that these ideas are wrong but that they are not what democracy actually is.
Since the end of World War II, and especially since the election of the current U.S. president, we have seen the emergence of a new and dangerous phenomenon: democracy as religion. The champions of democracy are the new missionaries. So convinced are they that democracy is the only path for all humankind, they seek to impose it on every country in the world. Just as the Spanish Inquisitors burned people for their salvation, the modern missionaries bomb and shoot the innocent in order to bring them freedom. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have died at the altar of democracy. Anyone who dares question the singular superiority of democracy is labeled as evil, or at best an apologist for dictators and terrorists.
This onslaught of democracy as religion cannot be overcome by force. It can only be challenged by the presentation of a superior idea. Such an idea exists. It was born in China 2,500 years ago. It is Confucianism. Not the maligned version of Confucianism popular in the West but the real Confucianism to be found in The Analects and especially in the works of Mencius.