Instant Democracy

Image Source: National Herald

Derrida once said, ‘the world is going badly, the picture is bleak, one could say almost black […] A black picture on a blackboard.’ Although he said these words to contest the triumphalism of West that was best articulated by Francis Fukuyama, in his book, the End of History, his words seem to be even more relevant in our days as we can see that our world is being plagued by global pandemic and the rise of populisms that have dismantled democracies. The rise of liberal democracy that was celebrated as the end of history by Fukuyama as a matter of fact is facing threats more than ever before. The dwindling of liberal space has brought about anxiety, unrest and a sense of emergency. This loss haunts us from the future as we feel that the lost present will lead to a lost future.

Liberal triumphalists like Fukuyama thought that the ideal of democracy had become actual and we have thus reached the irreversible end of history. As a matter of fact, the gap between the ideal and the actual has widened because electorates around the globe are setting up various stripes of nationalism that have shades of outright fascisms. Time is indeed out of joint. We are living in disjointed, disadjusted, disharmonic, discorded, anachronic times. Does this means that hope itself has become an anachronism? Are we living in post-horizontal times? Our bleak condition seems to lead us to think that the structure and possibility of hope are broken. Humanity seems to be not knowing where it is heading. We have lost our horizon. The self-calculating and self-interested individual is displaced and is drifting and has become horizonless. The gap between the actual and the ideal has become so large that we seem to have lost the ideal from our horizon.

This means we have become unable to imagine an other future as we are lost and immersed in what we can call now time. Each of us is deeply involved in the now time that we can split and stretch in several directions and multitask. The present to us has become intense and concentrated and we are lost in our today thinking very little about tomorrow. We are living in anachronic times. The digitized time and space have displaced us from the horizon that opens us to the coming of the other in the future to come. We wish to live with the same with little hope for an other tomorrow. We are struck into the immanent flow of the present and live with a cancelled future. This immersion into the present may have led to the diminishing of the democracy that always seems to live in the coming future. We have lost all patience and cannot wait for any more. We have no time to wait for democracy to come. We want an instant democracy and hence populisms that promise instant democracy are rising on the backs of corrosive nationalisms that are nothing more than tyrannies of the majorities.

Unfortunately, instant democracy is no democracy. Democracy always stays alive in its promise. It is hope in the democracy to come that leads us to believe in democracy. We require the distance between the real and ideal democracy. We need hope that ignites our waiting for more democracy to come. Democracy does need the time to be out of joint so that it can promise and set itself on the fulfilment trail to put things right. Democracy in the present is always haunted by its promised future. This promised future is other and not the continuation of the sameness of the present. Hence, although we live in dark times, we can still open ourselves to the horizon that promises us the coming of the light of democracy. The instant undemocracy does carry the seeds of hope for its coming. Democracy to come does offer us a horizon and enkindle hope for the coming of a more wholesome future. It leads us to enter ‘the already not yet’ dimension of play of democracy. The instant democracy closes and annuls the ‘not yet’ dimension of democracy. It follows the liberal triumphalists like Fukuyama and thinks that we have already climbed the peak of democracy. It is convinced that there is no democracy to come. Democracy has already arrived with all its promises. This is why the present then becomes a time of its total fulfilment. It becomes a time for setting up the nation and its citizens in its place. We then get lost in the debate between loyalty and betrayal. All issues are then seen from the prism of loyalty and betrayal to the nation. This means we do not have any time in the future to build the nation. We cannot wait for anyone to mature into citizenship. We have to separate the sheep from the wolves in the living present. Hence, we become intolerant of otherness. We value the illusion of the sameness that we think we have arrived with our instant democracy.

The populism of all shades and colours promise us instant democracy and we have quickly fallen to its bait. No dissent and alternate vision are thought to be needed as all that we need is thought to be already seeded into our instant democracy that is already come. What we all need to do is to jump on its ship and it will enable us to milk all the promises of democracy. Hence, it is time that we understand our folly and open the closed horizons so that we can learn to hope in the coming of democracy. Democracy to come will make us open to the other and alternate futures which in their turn will make us embrace the other and heterogeneous present. Instant democracy leads to the death of real democracy. Therefore it is for us to revive our dying democracy by opening a horizon that enables us to hope for the democracy to come. The democracy to come can emancipate us from several of the ills that plague our life. Let us open ourselves to the democracy to come.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao