For democracy to prevail over the ominous threat of the return of tyranny to the Maldives, it is imperative that enough politicians and Maldivian people take seriously this notion that democracy really does start from the heart through the cultivation of what one may call a democratic ‘culture.’
Etymologically, culture simply means something which has been cultivated.
Structural approaches to democratisation which have not vigorously attempted to cultivate an attitude of tolerance, compromise, willingness to listen and work for the people, have failed.
In the seventies and eighties, the US Government supported right wing dictators all over the world preparing these nations for “liberal democracy.” (Commonly termed the top down democratisation approach.)
The dictators main job was to secure the economic interests of the rich and control the poor with both religion and brutality until the poor were rich enough to be trusted with freedom.
However, wealth did not always trickle down the way it was supposed to. The rich got richer and the poor got poorer. Dictators did not simply step down once an economy was ‘ready’.
Amartya Sen’s idea of bottom up democratisation, seemed to have more success, as so many struggled and suffered at a grassroots level to bring down dictators through activism. Many freedoms were won. Yet can they be maintained without the cultivation of a democratic culture?
Some would suggest that once people are economically developed and free, a democratic culture would emerge naturally.
Karl Marx, offering an inversion of Ludwig Feurbach’s application of the Hegelian thesis on Consciousness, said that consciousness does not determine one’s economic well being and life, but that ones economic situation determines ones consciousness. This seemed to be taken for granted in much of this bottom up democratisation theory. It was thought that if people were poor, they could not be reasonable, and if they had wealth, they could be reasonable and moral.
So, instead of teaching people to be reasonable in the voting arena or anywhere else, if you helped them become economically self determining and independent, then reason and moral consciousness would be created as a natural response to the economic development. Therefore, you don’t have to teach people critical thinking and morality, it grows by itself with economic self realization.
At least, that was the theory.
However, many radical Islamists who push for Jihad are educated and wealthy. Education and wealth does not often stop those inclined to support gangsters from supporting gangsters. It just makes them support the gangsters with wealth and more power.
For corruption and tyranny to be eradicated, people’s hearts need to be changed, and, only a combination of suffering and compassion, can teach people compassion, reason and a sense of true humanitarian moral justice.
I am advocating old fashioned ideological determinism, but something more, that nothing can change, unless the heart is changed, and the heart can be only changed through self sacrificial love.
Perhaps the first change that needs to take place is that the hegemonic super-structural cultural capital of a Maldivian society (I am using the word hegemony in Gramsci ‘s sense rather than the conventional sense meaning ‘power’) needs to promote compassion and tolerance rather than prejudice. That’s right; I am talking about your Islam.
As Islam is the heart centre of Maldives’ cultural capital, it is imperative that a tolerant, compassionate form of Islam is promoted.
Religious identity is at the centre of a person’s subconscious being. What one believes about the ultimate nature of the universe will determine their attitudes in all other areas. If ones ontological foundation is an intolerant, unreasonable deity, such will not be able to be politically open minded enough to be able to have and sustain a democracy.
Other factors are also involved. One needs to be disciplined enough to overcome personal hatreds. One issue which makes politics difficult in Maldives is that things so very easily become personal seems Maldives is such a smal society. This needs to be overcome.
If Maldivians are serious about democracy, and in fact in harmonious existence altogether, respect for diversity and tolerance has to be promoted vigorously before it is too late!
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