Democracy under Acceleration

Is there a speed limit to democracy? The acceleration of politics, economics and technology is thought to be a threat to democracy and as a result, there is an acceptance of greater powers to the executive. So-called strong leaders have gained greater legitimacy and currency in the political landscape. The spectre of a ticking bomb, thus, may be seen as haunting democracies across the globe. Is free-wheeling democracy already a luxury of the past? Has democracy come into crisis in our fast-paced unpredictable world? Democracies do need slow-going deliberate and may find it difficult to cope with fast-going agere. But at the same time, slowness in delivering any response is also viewed as inefficiency. This is why some think that accelerated technologies are to be used to accelerate our democracies. Does this mean representative democracy is on the ebb? The new communication technologies provide new modes of deliberations and, therefore, participatory democracy for everyone is thought to be fast knocking at our doors.

The changing temporalities of our society seem to open everyone with a smartphone to enter the portals of instant democratic deliberation. Will that mean that the demos have finally arrived in politics? Are we, therefore, now posed to truly have the rule of the people, for the people and by the people? To answer these questions, we have to understand the ontology of speed. There is never speed in itself. We have this speed and that speed. Things acquire speed. There are different speeds or accelerations. Therefore, when we use the word speed we are using it in the sense of family resemblance as taught by Ludwig Wittgenstein. Another important consideration we may have to undertake is a distinction made by Felix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze between speed and movement. We all have movement, we may not have speed. They teach us that all movement is not speed. To them, speed is a subset of movement. It is a quality that movement acquires when it becomes fast. Thus, the runner’s movement is displaced by the speed of the horse whose speed in turn is displaced by a running train. This means we attribute the speed to something. Something has speed when it feels fast. Speed is not, therefore, a Chronos but felt as a Kairos. Hence, an element of surprise, and unpredictability is attached to speed. Therefore, we may say that speed is a transition that introduces the unforeseen.

The other future comes on the back of speed. To come to terms with this we have to come to the notion of duration by Henri Bergson. Duration of time is marked by a creative movement becoming an unforeseeable novelty. Our intellect tends to impose its order on this unruly creativity of unfolding time. This is why Bergson turns to intuition to stay open to the bursting forth of novelty through a duration. Taken in this sense, speed, therefore, breaks the barriers that are given to it by opening up new flows. Maybe this is why we may have to ask: has our society acquired speed on the wings of new communicative technologies? We have also left walking and climbed horseback and those experience speed. What is this accelerated experience doing to our democracy? is it eroding its deliberative power? is it because of our being accelerated that we are mindlessly putting up with an all-powerful leader and a silent parliament in our country? Does that also mean that we are putting up a sham of representative democracy? Is our representative democracy already dead? Have we entered a new duration that is taking us to a novel participatory democracy? or are we pushed into an open state that awaits a new mode of democracy to come? These questions are complex and cannot be simply brushed aside. The present assemblage of our democracy is trying to cope with the speeding machine of our society. Maybe it has to be reassembled. Perhaps, we have to understand the break in movement, a censure introduced into the body of our democracy. It has deterritorialized our democracy. We have the challenge to reterritorialize it at a new level.

When democracy acquires speed, it opens up several trajectories. Each of these trajectories has different temporalities and speeds. Indian democracy is definitely accelerated. It has opened several trajectories. One trajectory is the one of the Hindu Rashtra. Several Indians and the ruling BJP and RSS are cosily riding this trajectory. This teleology is not the only one. Although the majority of the Indians appear to be riding this arrow of time, for now, it is not the only one. It of course seemed to have heightened the tempo of everyday life. It is pushing several among us to become achievement subjects. This temporalty is pushing us towards becoming an idealized Hindu national and thus, becoming an achievement subject. We have become an achievement society. Unfortunately, we have stepped into our self-destruction mode. In our haste to become ‘someone’ Hindu nation, we began to consume our own selves. To feel more nationalist Hindu one is moved by the speed of hate. One has to hate the other, the minority, the Muslim to become a Sanskari Hindu. This kind of self-consumption or self-enjoyment is the best road towards a burnout society. But there are other trajectories that are open to us. We can ride another arrow of time, the arrow of love and embrace of otherness. This arrow of time promises peace, happiness and prosperity. When we choose to ride this arrow, we change the assemblage of our democracy that is now serving hate and violence and reassemble it to bring peace and prosperity to all. The choice is ours. We, therefore, have the challenge to abandon one linear temporality and embrace rhizomatic plural temporalities and save India and enrich our democracy.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao