Despotism of Democracy

Elections are the major rituals of the modern day secular religion of Democracy. Elections in four states and the grand 2019 Loksabha election, were the fate of the Modi government will be decided, are coming up again. Now round the clock people will be bombarded, by the mainstream media, with the message of how important voting in these elections is and how your one vote can decide the results of these elections and how India is the biggest democracy of the world and so on and so forth. Many people will mindlessly reproduce quote of Winston Churchill that Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time. But is it so?  

Unlike Churchill, Alexis de Tocqueville was a 19th century French political thinker and a historian. He is best known for his excursions in, then newly born country, (United States of) America. In 1835 and 1840 he published his famous work, Democracy in America, on the basis of his observations of the American society and its democratic political state during his excursions. In this book’s later part – volume 2, Part IV, Chapter 6, What Type of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear (Liberty Fund edition) – he warned the people of the world about the kind of possible despotism that the system of democracy can entail. I am reproducing his warning here because his prophesy turned out to be totally true. As Robert Nisbet, after reproducing the same paragraphs of Tocqueville in his The Quest for Community, said, here, in these paragraphs, lies one of the most astonishing prophesies to be found anywhere in political literature. Here is Tocqueville writing in 1840:

I think that the type of oppression by which democratic peoples are threatened will resemble nothing of what preceded it in the world; our contemporaries cannot find the image of it in their memories. I seek in vain myself for an expression that exactly reproduces the idea that I am forming of it and includes it; the thing that I want to speak about is new, and men have not yet created the expression which must portray it; the old words of despotism and of tyranny do not work. The thing is new, so I must try to define it, since I cannot name it.

I want to imagine under what new features despotism could present itself to the world; I see an innumerable crowd of similar and equal men who spin around restlessly, in order to gain small and vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls. Each one of them, withdrawn apart, is like a stranger to the destiny of all the others; his children and his particular friends form for him the entire human species; as for the remainder of his fellow citizens, he is next to them, but he does not see them; he touches them without feeling them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone, and if he still has a family, you can say that at least he no longer has a country.

Above those men arises an immense and tutelary power that alone takes charge of assuring their enjoyment and of looking after their fate. It is absolute, detailed, regular, far-sighted and mild. It would resemble paternal power if, like it, it had as a goal to prepare men for manhood; but on the contrary it seeks only to fix them irrevocably in childhood; it likes the citizens to enjoy themselves, provided that they think only about enjoying themselves. It works willingly for their happiness; but it wants to be the unique agent for it and the sole arbiter; it attends to their security, provides for their needs, facilitates their pleasures, conducts their principal affairs, directs their industry, settles their estates, divides their inheritances; how can it not remove entirely from them the trouble to think and the difficulty of living?

This is how it makes the use of free will less useful and rarer every day; how it encloses the action of the will within a smaller space and little by little steals from each citizen even the use of himself. Equality has prepared men for all these things; it has disposed men to bear them and often even to regard them as a benefit.

After having thus taken each individual one by one into its powerful hands, and having molded him as it pleases, the sovereign power extends its arms over the entire society; it covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated, minute, and uniform rules, which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot break through to go beyond the crowd; it does not break wills, but it softens them, bends them and directs them; in certain moments of great passions and great dangers, the sovereign power becomes suddenly violent and arbitrary. Habitually it is moderate, benevolent, regular and humane; it rarely forces action, but it constantly opposes your acting; it does not destroy, it prevents birth; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, it represses, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupifies, and finally it reduces each nation to being nothing more than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.” (bold mine).

Nisbet further said, the merit of Tocqueville’s analysis is that it points directly to the heart of totalitarianism-the masses; the vast aggregates who are never tortured, flogged, or imprisoned, or humiliated; who instead are cajoled, flattered, stimulated by the rulers, but who are nonetheless relentlessly destroyed as human beings, ground down into mere shells of humanity.

And that’s exactly what the system of democracy has done to India. Democracy is a new type totalitarian despotism, and it is the most dangerous form of despotism that we have seen so far in human history. Because its form of despotism is very subtle, it is not easily perceived by its victims. The Indian nation state has perfected this democratic despotism. In the name of democracy, Indians are being enslaved by the elite class who are the guardians of the democratic nation state. There is no area of our lives where the Indian government doesn’t have control over us. Indians cannot eat, drink, breathe, work, marry, give divorce, visit temples, wear clothes, build homes, keep their privacy or stay alive without the permission of their democratic overlords. Even after dying they need a death certificate otherwise the crematorium will not cremate their mortal remains! In coming elections again the Indian masses will be cajoled by all political parties in the end only to destroy them as human beings. Indian masses are now reduced to a mere Aadhaar card number!

As long as people will not realize that they are victims of this democratic despotism, it will be impossible to get rid of this totalitarian democracy. Elections will come and go, but the pathetic condition of Indians will not change as long as this despotic system is in place. As long as people don’t demand freedom from this despotism, they will continue to be ruled by despot politicians.

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