Friday, May 05, 2006

Learning Democracy!

Many analysts and regional experts continue to assert that democracy in our region can only come in the aftermath of a long and well-planned and managed reform process and that for this reason we should really work to alleviate the various external pressures exerted on the various regimes in the region to give them more time to implement the needed reforms.

If only this were true! If only our battle were once again a battle against foreign aggression and imperialism, our choices would have been so much more simple and clear. But, unfortunately, our reality is much more complex than we would like to admit. And after so many decades of wasted independence, we really have to admit that our main problems seem to lie deep within us, and we should not, therefore, be shocked that the main battlefield is here in our soul, in our land, in our region (with some inevitable spillovers of course, after all the world is growing smaller and interconnected).

No, we are not going to be so lucky as to learn democracy on the basis of well-thought out reform process. But then, no other people on earth have been so lucky. Democracy has always come as a result of haphazard experimentations and a long period of struggle, anguish and turmoil. People have always fought for freedom as a whole package but only managed to appreciate it in bits and pieces. That is, to this very day, even the freest of the free are still learning what freedom really is, and what these values they claim to adore and abide by really mean. Freedom is a learning process, not a package deal. So is democracy. Indeed, and just as freedom became synonymous with independence throughout the preceding century, today, it is synonymous with democracy.

No, democracy is not going to flourish in our region soon, but democratization, that is, the process, the struggle, the fight, the learning experience through which democracy is understood, appreciated and worked out, begin now. Yes, we are going to stumble along on the way to freedom and democracy just like everybody else did before. For, contrary to what we would like to think of ourselves, we are neither smarter nor wiser, nor better-guided than anybody else.

We can plan things of course, we have to plan things, we cannot cede the entire initiative to life’s forces. But, we also have to make contingency plans, and even more contingency plans, because, we really need to understand that things will never turn out as initially planned, and for this, we will always be required to adapt, adjust and come up with new plans, until some haphazard amalgamation produces something that is more likely better than we have ever planned or could have planned - thus giving us simultaneously much to gripe about, and yet much of what we want as well.