March for Democracy

It always concerns me when people use the word democracy. These days it tends to be bandied about a little bit, often under the guise of democracy. Let me explain…

The Democratic Republic of Congo.

Need I say more?

OK… the United States of America.

Before I get the usual Bush-lovers bleating on about how good it was before Obama, I wish to explain further.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Let’s start at the most obvious place: the Democratic Republic of Congo. Situated in between Angola, Sudan and the actual republic of Congo, this country dubbed itself the Democratic Republic of Congo after, would you believe, a kind of coup/rebel takeover of the capital Kinshasa in 1997. In fact, since independence in 1960 there haven’t been too many elections there. You might remember President Mobutu from the film When We Were Kings (he starred alongside Muhammad Ali, George Forman and the USA’s own Mobutu – Don King). He was used to be an army dude, but got into power in 1965 by your standard ‘overthrow’ tactic, then he went on to invade and fight with neighbouring Angola. Since they were backed by the Soviets, Mobutu raked in the ideological cash from the US who thought that funding the likes of him and Saddam Hussein would somehow bring down the USSR (???). As we all know, that job went to David Hasselhoff. (As a PS to this paragraph, I like how the country has now dubbed itself on various world maps as Dr. Congo – sounds like a fix-it-up consultant that flies in to restore credibility to Dancing with the Hasbeens).

The second most obvious place is, arguably, the United States of America. I say arguably because I’m arguing my point of view. You may not agree with it, but the rest of the world does. Anyway… the US has spent the best part of the last 50 years telling the rest of the world democracy is the answer. Funnily enough, the rest of the world didn’t really ask a question. The US like to place sanctions against the might of communist Cuba, or invading world terrorising countries such as Afghanistan – Operation Enduring Freedom (just cut out the word freedom and that’ll sum it up), Iraq – Operation Iraqi Liberation, and Panama – Operation Just Cause.

They, and when I say ‘they’, I mean the US government / State Department, not the many wonderful people who make up the rich tapestry of the country, tell us they’re invading/liberating to bring ‘democracy’ to the affected area. I can tell you now that countries or regions of the world aren’t sores that can have the elixir of free and fair elections applied to them and be cured. People in those countries have to want to change and I suspect many inhabitants of the aforementioned countries were none to happy with the US-led forces trotting over their borders waving the flag of extreme shock and death awe freedom.

Democracy is something that can’t be imposed – it has to come from a groundswell of the people. Hang on… isn’t that how the United States was formed in the first place…

So we know that the US aren’t really leading these charges against undemocratic nations in an altruistic way. Nope. It’s got more to do with what type of petroleum-based goo lies under these, or nearby nations, or, in the case of Panama, how they can secure a shortcut for the ships taking that goo to the Californian refineries.

While I’m spouting on and on, as is my want from time to time, why don’t we briefly talk about the example of democracy that the US is setting for the rest of the world. The choice between two parties, one who thinks they’re Jesus and the other who tries not to be but if someone says what they’re doing is wrong then… Democrats too scared to be leaders, Republicans too scary to be leaders.

And so we move on to my actual point of this session – the March for Democracy held in Auckland, New Zealand yesterday. If you want to find out more click here. In short, 4000 people marched up the main street of the biggest city in New Zealand calling on the government to make referenda binding.

Failing to see the point yet? Well, as an aside, earlier on this year the government held a referendum that asked people to vote on the question, “should a smack, as part of good parental correction, be a criminal offence in New Zealand?” Overwhelmingly, and much to my disgust, New Zealanders voted 89% in favour of being allowed to use the defence of reasonable force if they were ever brought up in court on charges of assaulting their children. The new National government had promised the referendum before winning the election last year, and to their credit, delivered on the promise. Of course, New Zealand has this wonderful system of citizen initiated referenda whereby anybody with enough signatures can force (yes, that’s right, force) the government to hold a referendum on their issue of choice. This time, it was the right to hit children with impunity.

As a further aside, the legislation dubbed the ‘anti-smacking law’ does not ban smacking, instead, as mentioned above, it removes the defence of reasonable force from the statutes. Anybody who is in favour of this remaining as a defence for disciplining children needs to think… isn’t reasonable force is something the police think about when apprehending criminals.

And, finally, to my point. Yet again the word DEMOCRACY has been hijacked. 4000 people is by no means a majority. It is, in fact, just 0.0001% of the population. admittedly they looked pretty good having been at the cardboard with black paint, tomato stakes and glue, but it was only 4000 at this “family(!!!)” event.

Now I might disagree with the 89% of New Zealanders who want to use reasonable force on their children, but I don’t care. If you want to use the word democracy, be very, very careful. It is, after all, a government of the people. If you invade, does that mean democracy? If I disagree with your march, does that mean democracy? If you coup me out of office, does that create a democratic republic?

You might just say this argument is all just semantics. I say your anti-semantic.

Until next time, all the best.

Boon x

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