Saturday, May 20, 2006


I believe it was Goethe who once said “Nothing is more terrifying than ignorance in action”. We have become an ignorant society that is governed by slogans without even questioning what those slogans mean. Even worst; we act based upon those slogans with no regard for the consequences. The concept of Democracy just happens to be one more casualty of the slogan vortex.

There is no democracy if people do not have a clear concept of “freedom”. The problem is that this “God given right”, which is also a slogan, has been given in different measures and by different Gods.

For Christians, the freedom granted to us by God has no limit or boundaries. So much so that we believe we are free even if we are agnostic. To say it in other words, our concept of freedom allows us the right to even negate God himself.


The prophet Muhammad though has granted Muslims a much more restrictive right to freedom. For Muslims there is no freedom outside religion and the boundaries of their freedom are clearly set by the teachings and rituals of the Muslim religion.

In the Muslim world, democracy, which is a by-product of freedom, has to be part and bound by the principles of religion.

Our concept of freedom and democracy will never set roots in the Muslim world because in order to do so, they would have to renounce to their religion. I am sorry to break the news to all of you but the fact is that this will never happen regardless of how many troops and/or money we send to the Middle East. They might end up holding elections but they will certainly not embrace the western concept of democracy.

Our leaders know and understand this truth perfectly well, but, since the truth does not suit their purposes, they are now portraying democracy with another slogan; “casting a ballot is democracy”.

Well; it is not!

For starters, freedom has not been granted to us by God. We, as a species, have agreed and decided that freedom is inherent to our condition of human beings and that therefore we have the right to be free. We have also decided that other species, such as animals, do not have the same right to freedom.

It should be noted that, not long ago, we had a more restrictive view of this concept. Until 1854, black human beings were also excluded from the right to freedom and even though slavery was abolished that year, it has taken almost 15 years, until the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, for blacks to be able to exercise the right to freedom they were entitled to.

Since we, as a species, also decided to live together in what we call societies, we needed a set of rules we could agree on to define and protect the boundaries of each others freedom. Initially, those rules were set by religious leaders and/or by self proclaimed rulers.

In the Christian world though, since our concept of freedom has no limits, eventually we decided to do without the intervention of religion and rulers and, we the people, became our own rulers through a process of electing representatives to act on our behalf.

This system is what we have come to know as democracy and in order to qualify as such it has to be implemented at every level of the decision making process. It also has to include the independent institutions that protect the people against government abuse and a check and balances system that guarantees that no single branch of the democratic organization can abuse the power vested on it.

More important, it has to come about by the will of the people. If the people have the right to be free then it is up to them to decide how that freedom is going to be protected and nurtured.

In Western civilizations the implementation of the democratic system has not been an easy process. In fact, it has been a long and very bloody process.

Even in today’s western concept of democracy we find some remnants of how the process came about and this is why we have monarchic and imperial democracies as well as the ever present struggle between state and religion.

Further, we still do not have a full consensus as to what exactly we mean by freedom and that is why we continue to pass pieces of legislation such as The Bill of Rights of 1791, The Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 and The Voting Rights Act of 1965 in an ongoing quest for the perfect definition.

In contrast, since in the Muslim world there is no freedom outside religion it is absolutely logical that religious leaders and secular rulers who swear to protect the teachings of religion, are the ones who have been entrusted, by the people, to be the keepers of such freedom. I say entrusted by the people because no social system can survive without the will of the people.

With globalization the differences between these two opposite concepts of freedom have been exacerbated and ended up colliding in an area of the world that is completely foreign to us, the Middle East, but that holds something we need; oil.

If the Middle East had no oil, our foreign policy in the area would be very similar to the one we have in Africa and/or Oceania. We do not need anything from those continents so at best we would send a small contingent of troops once in a while to look good but we would certainly not be caught in a major military adventure there.

We are in Iraq and the Middle East because we need the oil and since this simple truth is not politically correct our government has used, without shame, the suffering and fear of our people after September 11 and a bunch of meaningless slogans to make believe that we have a moral reason to kill and be killed in that region.

There is a literary say that reads, “A text used out of context is a pretext” and that is precisely what the following slogans are; “War against terror”, “Weapons of mass destruction”, “Axis of evil”, “Imminent danger” and, lately, “Casting a vote is democracy”. Text used out of context to serve as a pretext. In fact, we could substitute all of them with the Nike slogan “Just do it” and it would serve the same purpose.

Though I have many concerns about the actions and policies our government has undertaken in the last couple years justified by the above mentioned pretexts, nothing compares to the anguish of realizing that by doing so it is leading the country down a path that neglects the basic principles of freedom and democracy in which we believe and that so many Americans have died for.

Misconceptions, like the ones promoted by empty slogans, misleading and false information, a culture of secrecy and the total absence of hard facts have been the tools of the trade of every single totalitarian government and dictatorship in the history of mankind. So have been assassinations, kidnappings, tortures, violation of civil rights and the timeless excuse that their actions and decisions are righteous because they are for the good and protection of the people.

For centuries this has been the language of all kind of oppressive regimes and as amazing as it may seem this has become the language of our democracy.

A system that uses slogans to create misconceptions and hence generate support for a secret agenda is not a democracy. It is a manipulative autocracy and, by definition, that system of government is not a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

This is where we are today in America. Further, we are being brainwashed with propaganda to make us believe that these rough methods are perfectly normal under a democracy and nothing is farther from the truth.

We desperately need to reclaim the principles of our democracy. We need to tell the truth to the people and trust that they will support any action that needs to be taken.
Attacking a country because we need their oil is immoral, but, if you give the people the facts and the reasons why we need to do it, I believe the American people would support such action. Americans are not stupid and, as well intentioned and compassionate as they might be, they understand that, sometimes, you have to do what is needed to survive and/or guarantee the well being of our society. Basically it all boils down to giving the people the chance to assume their responsibility and accept to live with the moral burden of a dreadful decision.

That is what democracy is all about and it is the responsibility of democratic leaders to explain to the people the hard facts that make it necessary to take certain actions and to inspire them to support these decisions.

If we are to walk down the path of the beast to preserve our society and beliefs, we should be able to do it with no regret, because we have freely chosen to do so. Those in the world who believe otherwise have the right to oppose us and it will be the natural law, survival of the fittest, that shall determine who will prevail.

No comments: