WHY DEMOCRACY DOES NOT WORK
Democracy will fail in countries where it does not coincide with preexisting cultural dispositions and economic circumstances. Democracy cannot function in a country where most of the population is in a daily struggle for survival. The votes of the poor and unemployed just become another commodity for sale. Democracy also cannot work if voters think of themselves as Ilocanos, Pampanguenos, Batanguenos, Cavitenos, Bicolanos, Cebuanos, etc. instead of Filipinos and vote for their "kababayan" accordingly. Democracy works in the United States because they have the material resources to break apart domestic and immigrant "tribes" using an accreted system of rewards. Democracy is a luxury whose maintenance requires the ready availability to the general population of surplus, or enhancement, resources: otherwise, the electorate votes not wisely, but hungrily. The less developed the economy, the greater the tendency to block vote along clan, tribal, ethnic, or religious lines. After the election, the majority group uses democratic legitimization to oppress the minority group or groups who lost, depriving them of the state's services and resources. Once in power, majority-backed or power-base leaders will declare that their democratic mandate means that the people have spoken—once and for all; alternatively, the victorious candidate adjusts state structures and allocates state funds to insure his continued success at the polls.
Electorates lose interest in elections very quickly when the results fail to bring swift, positive change, and economic crises can polarize the population until democracy becomes dysfunctional. Democracy has been oversold as a wonder drug for ailing societies and cultures. Present day Russia is exemplary. Voter participation diminishes, and those who do vote use democracy to emplace nondemocratic figures. In the end, democracy is not a utopian state of being, but simply a tool that can be terribly misused. Given the proper conditions, democracy remains by far the most attractive form of government. Under the wrong circumstances, democracy can be the wrong system at the wrong place at the wrong time—and with utterly wrong results. In the right cultural and economic environment, democracy is an inexhaustible treasure; in an unprepared environment, it is Pandora's box.
Democracy, partial democracy, and aspirant democracy each exist with numerous variations and, where they are viable and beneficial to the population as a whole, deserve support. However, when Westerners insist that democracy is always the only answer, they risk harming those whom they seek to help. Democracy along ethnic lines brings you civil war-torn Yugoslavia. Democracy amid religious confrontations brings you Nigeria. Democracy in a collapsing economy brings you Algeria. Democracy under all three conditions brings you the clot of states that spilled from the former Soviet Union.
We expect impoverished Filipinos to perform and behave at the same level of political maturity as the British or United States systems, and when the poor, the uneducated and the hungry vote for the likes of Joseph Ejercito Estrada we are shocked and dismayed.
THE INCOMPETENCE OF THE STATE
The state's civility as well as its authority rely on its ability to expand wealth, on a perceived community of interests that allows public compromise or acquiescence, and on individual and collective senses of responsibility. In many of the "states" that presently hold seats in the United Nations, per capita wealth is declining, there is no community of interests, nor is there an individual sense of responsibility for the common good. Even in Western states, the vital sense of generalized responsibility is deteriorating as interest groups promote factionalization and citizen expectations grow excessive and wantonly selfish. Today, thanks largely to the Media, worldwide citizen expectations of government have surpassed the abilities of government to deliver (the gray area between possibilities and needs/wants is the age-old breeding ground of organized crime and political radicalism).
Our lawmakers and politicians increasingly believe they know what is best for the people even though most of them have never worked on a farm or worked for wages nor have they served their country in uniform.
Virtually every government agency is a profit center, with the boss and nearly every employee obsessed with how to use his or her position and area of responsibility for personal profit or gain. Rare is the government employee who has not slipped on the slime trail of corruption at one time or another. Most of our families, schools and universities no longer inculcate the young with moral and financial integrity nor do we have modern day heroes who can set the standard for others to study and emulate. Do we still have men and women in government who know when to make a stand, and who would rather resign from their positions of power and privilege before they acquiesce to corruption and looting of the public coffers? Something must be done. Our government bureaucracy is full of corrupt, greedy and mediocre employees who are responsible for spending 800 billion pesos a year. If no one rises to lead by example, our country's next significant expenditure may be in lives.
The rise of the anti-state in various forms has been and will be the result of the failure of governments to cater to basic needs and to satisfy expanding desires. The anti-state can take many forms, from media conglomerates that determine what the world should know, through much-maligned, peace-preferring multinational corporations, to webs of criminality expanding across oceans, enterprise disciplines, and cultures. In the world of the anti-state, international criminals often cooperate more effectively and creatively than do states. Criminal enterprise mirrors legitimate enterprise in its focus on secure profits, but its "integrity" exceeds that of the greatest multinationals because the criminal anti-state has a galvanizing enemy: the state fighting for its life. It is in the adaptive nature of the post-modern anti-state that it can even develop a symbiotic relationship with a formal government it strategically penetrates, as criminal anti-state webs have done in Russia, Nigeria, Mexico, and numerous less-spectacular examples. Anti-states also take the forms of pre-modern structures, such as tribal or religious identifications. The rise of non-state threats is a tremendous problem for governments because governments are legally and behaviorally prepared to fight only other legal-basis states—mirror images of themselves.
Massive criminal insurgencies are a new method of challenging the state through violence. In Southeast Asia's Golden Triangle and in the Andean Ridge, druglord insurgencies have moved from defying laws to denying great tracts of territory to the state. In Russia, a confluence between organized crime and government in lucrative spheres constitutes a quiet criminal coup. In the past, insurgencies were easy to recognize--the rebels marching on the presidential palace. Today, some of the most threatening criminal insurgencies in the non-West are being conducted by officials who are already inside the presidential palace.
RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
We are constrained by a past century's model of what armies, police and governments can legally do. Our opponents have none of this baggage, whether they are kidnappers, gambling lords, druglords or warlords. They operate in environments of absolute moral freedom, unconstrained by laws and "civilized" customs. The worldwide trend is that criminal syndicates, rebel, separatist and terrorist organizations can increasingly out-spend, out-maneuver, out-shoot, out-negotiate, and out-think third world states and their law enforcement agencies. Criminals could not care less about the way we divide responsibilities among cops, soldiers, lawyers, prosecutors and judges--except when they can exploit those divisions and use the law to their advantage. They defeat us everyday. What we lack are innovative methodologies and adequately contemporary laws. To address the broad range of criminal threats, we don't need new weapons, just new rules of engagement. Inevitably, we will realize that criminals and terrorists in "peacetime" must be regarded in the same way we regard enemies during wartime: the goal is not to arrest and try them in a court of law, but to kill them until the survivors quit. Such a legal change would be a far more potent weapon than any other law we can legislate—and it is a more urgent requirement than we are collectively willing to acknowledge. You cannot, cannot play by textbook rules when your opponent either hasn't read the book or has thrown it away. Until we realize this and change the rules of engagement, we will continue to lose. It is time for society to stop worrying about the criminals and for the criminals to start worrying about society.
MAN IS THE CONSTANT
We must ask the basic question, "Who are our enemies?" on a deeper level. We must study the minds and souls of violent men, seeking to understand them on a level our civilization has avoided for 2,000 years. We can no longer blame atrocities and the will to violence on the devil, or on mistaken ideologies, or even on childhood deprivations. None of the cherished explanations suffice. In this age of technological miracles, our lawmakers, police and military need to study mankind.
Morally, many among us will argue for disarmament. But they are mistaken. The heart of the problem is not the weapon, but the man who builds and wields it. Even if it were possible to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction, as well as every last handgun and pocketknife, the killers among us would take up wooden clubs or rocks. The will to violence is within us--it is not merely a function of the availability of tools.
Man, not space, is the last frontier. We must explore him.
Every major religion has a prohibition against killing. There would be no need for such rules were man not a killer by nature. In the Judeo-Christian heritage, there is a commandment believers credit directly to the writing finger of God: "Thou shalt not kill." Think about that. Overall, the Ten Commandments did a remarkable job of cataloging human frailty. As behavioral rules they are as valid for today's techno-civilization as they were for the dreary Orient of 3,000 years ago. Those prohibitions acknowledged the most destructive things that we humans are apt to do, and they warned us not to do them. The warning not to kill was the bluntest commandment.
For the moment, lay aside the concept of the Old Testament as a sacred book and consider it as a documentary of human behavior: It is drenched in violence, and its moral tenets arose in response to a violent world. It begins with the plight of two refugees--Adam and Eve--and moves swiftly to the fratricide of their children. In book after book, we encounter massacre, genocide, ethnic cleansing, rape, plunder, kidnapping, assassination, ineradicable hatreds, and endless warfare. The fall of civilizations is reported with a merciless eye, and cities vanish with a terse comment. It sounds like the 20th century: Humanity is consistent.
Historians, however, are inconsistent. Today, we are moving away from our earlier view of civilization as a process of constant improvement, with Western civilization as man's crowning achievement. Yet, the most vociferous multiculturalists and anti-modernists, still insist that humankind is perfectible. Has Man actually improved? There is no evidence for it. Are we better than Christ, the Buddha, or Mohammed, better than Socrates, Ulug Begh, Maimonides, or Saint Francis? Fashions, conveyances, medicines, communications, and the sophistication of governmental structures have all evolved. Man has not. Man is the constant. Saddam is Pharaoh, and Cain will always be with us.
Religious texts and figures are powerful examples because we know them and they resonate. Is there a more relevant lesson for any man than that of Cain and Abel? Throughout both Testaments, we encounter violent actors and soldiers. They face timeless moral dilemmas. The Bible does not sugarcoat man's nature. Faith is not required--read it as a secular history and you will get a better picture of the enemies we will face in this new century than any work of contemporary scholarship or speculation provides. From child warriors to fanatics who revel in slaughter, man's future is written in man's past.
If we want to understand the warriors of the world and the fury that drives them, we had better open our minds to the power of belief. In Western cultural history, the fiercest military brutalities and the most savage wars were fought over faith, whether the Crusades or defensive wars against Muslims, campaigns of suppression against dissenting Christians, the great religious wars of the 16th and, especially, 17th centuries, or the 20th century's world wars between secular religions.
Now past history is being repeated in other flesh. When Indonesian rioters murder Chinese merchants, or when the Sudanese Muslims who hold power butcher and enslave the Christians in their country's south, their behavior is not inhuman. On the contrary, it is timelessly human.
Of all the notions I have advanced over the years, the only one that has met with consistent rejection is my statement that some men like to kill. I do not believe that all men like to kill. At the extreme, there are those saintly beings who would sacrifice their own lives before taking the life of another. The average man will kill if compelled to, in uniform in a war, or in self-defense, but has no evident taste for it. Men react differently to the experience of killing. Some are traumatized. Others simply move on with their lives. But there is at least a minority of human beings--mostly male--who enjoy killing. That minority may be small, but it does not take many enthusiastic killers to trigger the destruction of a fragile society. Revolutions, pogroms, genocide, and civil wars are not made by majorities, but by minorities with the acquiescence of the majority. The majority may gloat and loot, but it is the killing minority that drives history.
Violence is addictive. Police know this. That's where the phrase "the usual suspects" comes from. In society, the overwhelming majority of violent acts are committed by repeat offenders. Statistics would make us a violent nation; in fact, we are a peaceful people. The numbers are skewed because we have failed to deter recidivists. Spouse- and child-abusers do not do it once, they repeat. Sex offenders are notorious repeat offenders. Most barroom brawls are begun by the same old troublemakers.
We reject the evidence of the human enthusiasm for violence because it troubles us and undercuts the image we have created of perfectible Man. But violence has an undeniable appeal. For the poor and disenfranchised, it is the only response they have left. Perhaps the psychologists are right when they say that much violence is a cry for help. But what both of those arguments really say is that violence, however motivated, is gratifying and empowering.
Religions and civilizations may be seen as attempts to discipline mankind, to trim our worst excesses. Traditionally, religions and civilizations acknowledged mankind's propensity for violence and imposed appropriate strictures. Certainly no religion or civilization has believed it could ignore violent behavior as peripheral. Yet our contemporary approach is to treat violence as an aberration, the product of a terrible misunderstanding. This is the mentality of the born victim, of the wife who believes every weeping apology by her abuser husband, of the social worker who believes in the mass murderer's rehabilitation.
Look at the wreckage of the recent past. Can we pretend that the massacre of half a million Rwandan Tutsis by their neighbors was carried out as a laborious chore? On the contrary, reports from the scene describe murderers intoxicated by their deeds. When we consider the recent bombings perpetrated in Bali, Indonesia, can we believe that the killers committed those atrocities against their inclinations? Will we pretend that the hostages that were killed and beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf were the victims of reluctant hands?
We must ask hard questions about the nature of man. Is all human life sacred, no matter what crimes the individual or his collective has committed? Our government's effectiveness in the coming decades will depend on the answers. It will be terribly difficult for every citizen, and more so for our soldiers, policemen, prosecutors and judges if we continue to deny the full spectrum of man's nature.
We live in an age of multiple truths. He who warns of the "clash of civilizations" is incontestably right; simultaneously, we shall see higher levels of constructive trafficking between civilizations than ever before. The future is bright--and it is also very dark. More men and women will enjoy health and prosperity than ever before, yet more will live in poverty or tumult, if only because of the ferocity of demographics. There will be more democracy--that deft liberal form of imperialism--and greater popular refusal of democracy. One of the defining bifurcations of the future will be the conflict between information masters and information victims.
There will be no peace. At any given moment for the rest of our lifetimes, there will be multiple conflicts in mutating forms around the globe. Violent conflict will dominate the headlines, but cultural and economic struggles will be steadier and ultimately more decisive.
Governments are obsessed with the inviolability of borders and the legitimacy of other governments—while the world has entered a period in which borders have already changed dramatically and will continue to change for decades. Many governments that are now members of the United Nations often have little or no control over the behavior of those they pretend to represent.
If there is one certainty about the geopolitical situation it is that international borders are dramatically in flux. We react as if this is an abomination and a historical anomaly. But borders have always changed. The notion that they can now be fixed forever by virtue of our modern wisdom is folly. Even the collapse of the Soviet Union was institutionally unwelcome in some Western bureaucracies where it disrupted the order of business. Yet, consider the border changes the last century has seen: the collapse of empire during and following the Great War; endless mucking about in Asia Minor by the Great Powers and their clients; the creation of dozens of new states in the wake of the Second World War; and then the decades of local damage-control which saw the birth of additional states, such as Bangladesh and the unification of others, such as Germany, Vietnam and now, possibly Korea.
The coming decades will see massive realignments of borders and the emergence of an extra-Western redefinition of the shape, means, and limits of government—including the reemergence of the old and the evolution of new forms of population organization that will not resemble current governments at all.
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