Friday, December 13, 2019

The Social and Political Destabilization of Western Democracy or Why I do not like Anarchy

Red Capital Letter A with a red circle
Part of me has a certain affinity if not downright sympathy with anarchy and what it stands for. It is indeed the ultimate form of rebellion, the overturning of established political structures with a seemingly boundless expression of freedom and liberty. It promises a wholesale change, a revolution that takes out the old, stale, and corrupt and replaces that with invigorated ideals. It is the very opposite of The Who’s fear and concern that we would get fooled again as the new boss might be just like the old one.

And yet, I say that only part of me finds agreement because a larger part of me is in fact against anarchy and the expression thereof. While the violent act of smashing the established order may be cathartic, preservation of established law and its authority is the preferred choice. There is something about the Law that is appealing, fascinating and, most importantly, comforting in my mind. This may come as a result of my German upbringing, but I have a deep respect for rules and regulations provided they are fair and respectful to begin with.

I might sympathize, embrace and flirt with anarchy on ideological grounds; nonetheless, I generally dislike disobedience and destruction and shall remain married and committed to the harmonious promise of law and order. Anarchy might look like a romantic solution to one’s problems and it may carry with it the whiff and promise of an unrestrained boundless freedom, but in practice, I find it messy, of poor taste, and even inherently disrespectful. I much prefer order not in the sense or at the expense of stifling differing viewpoints and opinions, but more along the lines of everything falling into place, existing in relative and overall harmony and not interfering with or being damaging to other parts or beings.

I do not think that rules merely exist to be broken, but that rules are there to ensure harmony and stability across the board and for everyone involved, the same way traffic lights and signs precede and presuppose the smooth flow of traffic. In fact, rules are not to be broken but ought to be respected, again provided they make sense or have utility and that they are not only a means of controlling and subduing others. The Law ideally uses rules to create harmony and to ensure that democracy is upheld and that nobody's toes or any other body parts are hurt or trampled upon.

The Law is supposed to give structure and is ideally enforced by legitimate authorities; hence, the latter deserve our respect while they are following and applying the law equally and impartially. Corruption and abuse should be the exception and not the rule, so that the public and the citizens continue to trust and have faith in the authorities. Otherwise, mistrust, distrust and even rebellious acts could be fostered and encouraged to rectify the imbalance and moral void caused and left behind by misuse and abuse.

That said, we ought to tread most cautiously when it comes to rebellion and rebellious acts. It could lead to the proverbial throwing out the baby with the bathtub; if we are not careful, we might end up being worse off than before. We have evidence of this in various movements that have led to revolutions. In many of those cases, there has been violent uprising against and overthrow of the state and the status quo but at the expense of well-being, freedoms, and human rights.

Some revolutions were fought in the name of freedom and democracy, but often they would lead to tyranny and bloodshed. A coup d’├ętat can have disastrous consequences and end up as totalitarian regimes. We may oust one leader but then inadvertently open the pathways to one who may be much worse.

The French revolution with its idealism of fraternity, equality and liberty was waged with unprecedented violence, resentment and cruelty upon the reigning nobility. The Iranian revolution replaced a monarch with an even more restrictive clergy; the Arab Spring revolution may have brought some positive and necessary changes in some countries, but in others, it led to bloodshed and more restrictions than before.

Currently, there are waves of dissent challenging governments and authorities. This is now on a global scale, not only in the Middle East and Latin America, but also in clearly established and generally robust democracies of affluent Western countries. This is an era that has given us Brexit, Trump, riots in France as well as spats, trade wars and ideological differences with China and Russia. In each of these cases, the authority, and worse, the legitimacy of the state and government has been put into question.

In cases where fresh blood is pumped into a tired, biased and unfair system, this could potentially represent a good thing; yet if it means overhauling something that has passed and endured the test of time, if it entails completely or largely rewriting constitutions and dispensing with pillars of freedoms and rights established in the codes and fabric of one’s nations, then we could be facing serious problems and issues.

It brings us back to the Law, not just as a compilation of rules and laws but as the state’s very foundation: it is the beating heart that with freedom of speech and freedom of the press shall ensure that we have a voice and that we are allowed to and continue to be allowed to speak and write our thoughts and minds.

Nonetheless, certain movements disguise themselves as being free and liberal-minded, when they are nothing of that ilk. In fact, they hide a hideous and cruel face. This is the promise of tackling corruption, of draining the swamp or making the country great again; this is waving the banner of equality or fighting climate change when the ultimate aim is to gain access and control of power; this is choosing and electing authoritarian-leaning individuals over democratic and fair-minded government representatives. This is not unlike national socialism that brought to power one who had touted law and order but who used that for his own benefit, namely to undermine and destroy the rights and freedoms of its people alongside all the other citizens of the world.

It is the duty and responsibility of the press to inform, but since humans cannot be entirely objective, we cannot expect their reporting to be either. Add to that, personal agendas of individuals and publishing companies combined with the need and desire to make money, and we will have distortions of mirrors within mirrors. But the main issue should be ethical integrity; the press ought to be at least ideologically if not financially independent from the state and should not merely represent the state’s interests or worse be its mouthpiece; the press should not engage in control nor should it feed its citizens rehashed propaganda and misinformation. 

This is where things have become more confusing and complicated since the advent of the admittedly ingenious term of “fake news” and “alternative facts.” First off, in an offbeat postmodern vein, these terms have been driven by the assumption that truth is subjective and open to interpretation. Now this may be true to a certain extent and more so in certain fields and domains than others, but facts are not debatable opinions and are not open for discussion. In fact, postmodern thinking has been put on his head in true Orwellian fashion.

Casting doubt upon this vital distinction between fact and opinion / wishful thinking while simultaneously and indiscriminately accusing the press of being a constant source of falsehood and misinformation, and worse, designating it as the enemy of the people is indeed a trademark move of dictators or wannabe dictators. However, when significant swaths of the population take these statements at face value, journalism becomes eyed and viewed as the supposed embodiment of fake media and becomes the breeding ground for suspicion; this, in turn, seriously undermines freedom of the press as well as democracy itself.

In fact, apart from books, universities and intellectuals, the entity of the press is a thorn in the side or a pebble in the shoe of every aspiring and conspiring dictator. The press if it is not merely praising their leader can and will question the legitimacy of the state and government. It is the real weapon for ensuring democracy, more so than the right to own guns.

Incidentally, gun ownership as per the US constitution was considered a potential safeguard against corrupt, ineffective and illegitimate governments and gave the people the choice to rise and stand up to the state; nonetheless, we should keep in mind that the pen is mightier and more effective than the sword or any other weapon for that matter.

A common trend nowadays is a mainstream acceptance of anarchy in its various shapes and guises. These ideas of anarchy generally tend to lead to the destabilization of democratic governments. Democracy may be imperfect and have its share of flaws, but it essentially guarantees people the right to choose the government they want.

The majority would choose the party or leader they would prefer to helm their country. Their choices may not be in the best interest of their own nation, and the majority can be wrong or make terrible decisions, yet this is the beauty of democracy, the will of the majority will be respected and followed upon.

Whether it is a Trump presidency or Brexit, it is the majority that has spoken. But there is a caveat. What if the decision of the people has been coerced and manipulated in ways unknown and imperceptible to them? What if the fake news is propagated by the very same people who wish to come to power? Or what if the aim is not so much to get certain people elected but to destabilize the nation at hand?

In fact, I was shocked to hear that on the day of Trump’s presidency there were two protests organized online by the very same entity: one that was supporting the president, the other that was opposing him. The goal may not have been to have that candidate in question as president but rather to have one that is seen as divisive and controversial and the seeds of doubt have been placed into the nation’s soul.

The current impeachment process follows similar lines. On one side, it is the constitutional right of politicians to free themselves from a president who has engaged in misdemeanors and felonies so long as it is based on substantial and credible evidence. As we speak, the Democrats have finally taken the measure and initiative to follow upon the impeachment of Trump.

It is their right to do so, and it should not be stifled as it is a guarantee encompassed and enshrined in the constitution. The process should not be mocked, ridiculed or dismissed by the accused but it should be taken seriously and be treated with respect as no one is or should be above the law.

Evidently, the guilty party would view trials with suspicion and mistrust and label them a priori as unfair and biased against them, even before a verdict has been proposed or reached. Doubting the result and outcome of trials before a verdict is reached is questioning the very fabric of the courts as an upholder of justice and democracy. 

Yet at the same time, the circumstances of the impeachment, however noble and justified, arise out of dubious circumstances. The fact that Trump is accused of overriding channels and overreaching and extending the laws and regulations of his office is a serious matter; the power of the commander-in-chief has to account for some necessary checks and balances to ensure that democracy is functioning unimpeded and the way it should. But since the spark or final straw was a matter of great personal importance to the political party itself, namely the proposed investigation of corruption of one of their own top candidates, i.e. Joe Biden in the upcoming presidential elections next year, it emits an unfortunate air of partisanship.

Put differently, if the Democrats had chosen to impeach the president much earlier on any other grounds and offences, they might have had a better standing and reputation with the public than with an incidence that has personally affected their hopes in the upcoming presidential election. Moreover, the fact that this whole initiative is merely symbolic in gesture and will be most likely defeated in the Senate, which is run by Republicans, undermines its sting and effectiveness.

Are the impeachment efforts then just mere showmanship? Is impeachment undertaken to gain favor with the voting public? Is it to ensure that their own candidate will be safe from onslaughts of accusations, justified or not? In the end, what we may end up with is the exact opposite. This right to impeach and remove a supposedly rogue president from office may backfire in the sense that it would only add to the destabilizing elements of the nation.

If the people alongside their own divided and divisive government cannot trust their own elected official at the top, what are we left with than chaos and anarchy? Would the real enemies of the state, those who reap discord and havoc in order to break up democratic foundations not come out as the eventual and veritable winners in this conflict? Would our democracy weather the storm or would it become an unfortunate victim or collateral damage to these onslaughts, which could potentially have disastrous consequences not for the nation herself but for the entire world?

In fact, the controversial and unprecedented presidency and its shocks and after-effects are not the only eroding tendency at work here. The Me Too movement started off as a credible, noble and respect-worthy endeavor of exposing those who commit atrocities and hide behind wealth and political influence. However, the recent bombshell that the women who initiated the movement have settled with the alleged perpetrator Harvey Weinstein has been a serious blow to their credibility as well as their motivations.

At the same time, the movement itself is getting out of hand and out of control and is now blindly and haphazardly attacking men with accusations that do not always stand up in court. That is where the real witch hunt is occurring nowadays where accusations are taken as, equated with and even taken in lieu of court verdicts.

What this essentially does is undermine the legitimacy of the court, even more so than the aforementioned impeachment process, as it affects not only politicians but all of society. Currently, people are accused and persecuted via social media and media networks concerning misdemeanours, which they may or may not have committed. But the fact that any accusation immediately equals conviction is a mob mentality that should not be a sign of these modern and supposedly more enlightened times.

Indiscriminately, prematurely and carelessly destroying people’s reputation without given them due representation in court is not only what occurred during times of revolution and revolt, but it happened in the darkest ages of history. A just and peaceful society cannot exist in an environment that is running on hatred, chaos, and instability. Anarchy is then not the solution but is the cause of disorder, especially if it is unbridled, indiscriminate and disrespectful of established law and order.

That is also why what is currently occurring under the banner of feminism is a dangerous and destabilizing concept. Feminism should be the fight for equal rights, i.e. men and women have access to the same opportunities, but the way it is waged, it reveals other objectives and hidden agendas. It is run with the belief that women are essentially superior to men and are always right in their views and endeavors and that their fight against the male patriarchy is just and justified.

Ironically, these radical feminists - also referred to as femi-nazis - have chosen to copy and embody the worst and most toxic aspects of male chauvinism, such as aggression, violence, and utter insensitivity. The toppling of the perceived patriarchy is ideologically akin to the Storm of the Bastille, and it is waged without a plan or strategy; it indiscriminately wishes to empower one side of humanity by pitting it wholesale against its other half. It would lead to even more chaos and destruction with its plan to throw out everything, bathtub, water and boy, with nothing concrete to replace it with.

Viewing men as suspicious and threatening is not only a projection of paranoia, but it is discriminatory in nature and essence; likewise, the perspective that women are the superior race is totalitarian and certainly not egalitarian in its mindset. If this mistrust, frustration and anger was currently directed at and waged upon ethnic minorities, we would immediately rush to stop it, but since it is undertaken by women, many tend to applaud and encourage it. Those women – incidentally, they are not the majority - support this radical form of feminism tinged by acts of anarchy, disorder and destruction while wanting to undermine all types of authority and government, as they see it as a mere embodiment of male power and chauvinism.

This movement also wants to dispense with court and often accuses men based on hearsay and gossip without providing credible evidence. No doubt, there are many women who have suffered and continue to suffer injustices under the hands of their male counterparts, but women are not infallible nor saints either; they should not be automatically sided with based on their gender. They are human beings and like men they also contain the whole gamut of existence, the good and the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. The claim of righteousness and superiority is a serious case of distortion and misjudgment.

When we choose to fight against injustice, we need to focus on what it is and equally who it is that we are targeting. Sexual assault as well as corruption and abuse of power and authority sadly exist in all societies around the world, and we need to tackle this with fervor and conviction.

We need to ensure that human rights are protected and respected by all and everyone and that includes children, women as well as men. It is an odd and disconcerting by-product of today’s world that men’s rights have become an issue, and even more so, that there are anti-feminist movements. The latter are often led by women who disagree with and criticize these radical, gender-divisive and discriminatory views.

To have democracy, we need a strong foundation, which is symbolized in trust and respect for law and authority in the form of constitutions and the courts. The latter are certainly not infallible; they have led to mistrials and wrongful verdicts, but they stand hand in hand with our democracy and are the best we have got under the circumstances.

Instead of ignoring, disregarding or discrediting them, we should bolster and fortify our courts and laws so that our system becomes stronger, sturdier and more just and so that they do not succumb to vain and destructive attacks of anarchy and of radicalism.