Thursday, November 27, 2008

Czech "Democracy"

The Czech Republic, like the rest of the Eastern Bloc, like parts of Africa, like parts if the Middle East, like parts of Asia, had democracy imported; after years and years of differing foreign tyrannical rule, they instituted "democracy."

Take everything that I'm about to say with a grain of salt. I've been here three months, but I still don't speak the language. Still, I read the news, hear the faces, and these are my thoughts about the situation.

It didn't work out as great as they'd have liked. Granted, the Czech Republic hasn't slid into Russian-style autocracy, or Lebanese-style chaos. But the two-party system seems to have entrenched itself into a two party system; politics of the worst kind reigns, with most political appointees being unreconstructed Communist. They had a recent uptick in voting: 34% turnout.

What went wrong?

From what I can tell, when the concept of "Democracy" arrived, it was mostly limited to the idea of elections. Political parties still believe that once they win an election, they are the representatives of the people, and therefore power lies with them. So they do stupid things, like appointing extortionists to government positions (due to loyalty), or attempting to censor their public radio on trumped up accusations of fascism--and hiding behind "democracy" when public outrage raises its head.

The point is, that when America severed its ties with England, it was being led by some of the finest political theorists of their period, influenced by the finest political theorists of history. Rosseau, Locke, Montaigne; Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Franklin. And yet, when we first declared independence, the American people still were not the most democratically inclined people; farmers rioted and fought any tax collection, the states refused to cooperate, the people wanted George Washington to be coronated as King.

But the founding fathers leveraged their respect, exerted checks on each other, and by our current age, there was a certain degree of understanding of democracy. Now, not a perfect understanding--even in 2008, the idea of persecuting people based on their un-Americanism still has some traction.

Here in the Czech Republic, it seems that democracy means voting. And once you have won the vote, you have won. It is your turn to rule. That's not democracy. I think George W. Bush might think it is, but most of us agree--the ruler must respect everyone, not just the people who won.

And think--if after 278 years of practice, we still don't know what should or shouldn't be acceptable in a nation of democratic laws, how are we expecting people here to understand?

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