The chief folly of the western mind lies in its its stubborn predisposition to the foolhardy belief that non whites think and act like westerners; or at least would attempt to do so under the right conditions. It is in this context that I believe that exporting democracy to the third world is as foolish as it is futile. The various cultures of the global south should be free to practice their own cultures without the immoral interference of the global north. The construct that we call democracy has certain western values embedded within its ideological framework that are incompatible with the values of the diverse third world.
For obvious reasons, I’m going to illustrate this point using South Asia as a case study. What are some of the western values embedded within democracy? Broadly speaking, they are equality, universalism, and Individualism. As Kevin MacDonald once pointed out, Western culture’s de-emphasis of extended kinship is the underlying link between individualism and moral universalism; as the individual needn’t concern himself with tribal interests and is hence free to pursue the most moral alternative (Is it good for my tribe versus is it good for mankind).
When individualism gains ground over tribalism, ideological interpretations of reality (as opposed to narrow tribal interests) are necessary in determining the direction and focus of society. It is during such a climate that the Greeks birthed democracy, the most unique social experiment of the ancient world.
Is India an effective democracy? Western democracies are governed by ideology precisely due to the individualist and morally universal cultures they represent. How does Indian democracy work? Indians do not vote for ideology, they vote for the candidate that belongs to their community/caste. Aakar Patel observes this to be the reason why there is no debate in Indian politics. South Asian culture is authoritarian and hierarchical; and this explains the popularity of leaders like General Zia (Pakistan) and Narendra Modi (BJP Party, India).
Patel has already spilled much ink on Modi’s authoritarian style of leadership which would be considered reckless in the west but is considered effective in India. Critics of democracy like Lord Macaulay believed that democracy would always entail mob rule but I think this notion is false; democracy brings out the best in Western societies but brings out the worst in collectivist authoritarian cultures. This is why Pakistan can’t tackle its backward and unjust blasphemy laws while the Indian state is slow to deliver justice to victims of religious mob violence. Society’s intolerance is reflected in the so called “lack of political will” that the western media decries. Democracies fail miserably in societies dominated by tribal identities, hierarchy, segregation, and generally lacking any notion of a common good. In such societies democracy merely legalizes oppressive majoritarianism.
Equality is the principal value that furnishes democracy with its egalitarian character. It is hard to envision the equality between an Indian servant and his/her employer. Servants do not sit on the same furniture as the masters do and neither are they allowed to eat from the same utensils. Their position is that of a slave. This is primarily why the Indian state has failed miserably in elevating its disenfranchised citizenry. Equality implies flatness whereas hierarchy is entrenched into the Indian’s very language (honourifics). Most Indians can’t fathom the power of the vote and social change is slow given how internalized oppression is within the Indian psyche. Again, democracy does more harm than good as people who do not understand the value of freedom should not be given freedom; for their own good.
Pakistan has made the right decision in doing away with democracy and ushering in totalitarian military rule. Unlike their cousins across the border who suffer from cognitive dissonance, the Pakistanis know who and what they are; and they are not a freedom loving democratic people. Singapore and South Korea both assumed an authoritarian governing style in the 60s predicated on the rationale that authoritarianism fosters economic prosperity. East Asians cling to this belief even today and nobody can deny the success of East Asian countries. The purpose of this article isn’t to dissuade Indians from democracy but to warn Western powers against prescribing a medicine that might kill the patient. Western nations must export goods and services to the rest of the world and not values.