18 August, 2022

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Livelihood Vs Democracy: A False Dichotomy

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

During the half century or more after the Second World War a refrain one heard from enthusiasts of Soviet style states was that the poor can’t eat democracy and freedom of this or that wouldn’t put cloth on their children. Hang these liberal deceptions it was said, poor countries need regimes which will improve the material lives of their people. Interestingly, aficionados of unblushing capitalism when addressing cases like Singapore said the same thing. Those who objected and declared that both were possible simultaneously were European social-democrats – British Labour Party, the Scandinavians – and small Trotskyite sects. I won’t pursue the question of who was right at the time, but one thing is sure in today’s, post about 1990 or at least 21st Century world, the this dichotomy is bereft of all weight today. Is democracy fake liberalism foisted on the hungry poor and do authoritarian (left or right) regimes offer the downtrodden food, shelter, education, health care and better material lives? If ever this was true then, now this dichotomy is bollocks.

The opposite is true now. The best way to illustrate this is to see what happens when democracy is snuffed out and consider democracy’s greatest enemies in modern times. “They” snuff it out to silence the people, to eliminate “their” most vocal critics and to rob. This is the method “they” employ to enable rampant corruption, rob the nation’s wealth and to enrich “themselves”. Democracy is not crushed to feed and succour the people but to rob them and depress their miserable material conditions and to facilitate this robbery. Livelihood needs and democracy in modern times are not dichotomous, not at all, they are twins conjoined at the hip in Twenty-first Century polity. The relationship is symbiotic.

Who are the “they”? Every modern dictatorship from Belarus to Burma, Columba to Cambodia, Ethiopia to Egypt and Somalia to Syria, fits the bill. Democracy is snuffed out not to make way for a regime that improves ordinary people’s lives, but to remove impediments to robbing the public, corrupting the state and to amass wealth in off-shore accounts. Therefore, democracy is no longer a sham slogan of the liberals; it is a tool for activists to use here and now to explain to the masses why it is a weapon of mass mobilisation against the perils of authoritarianism, militarisation, uninhibited corruption and crass robbery.

Sri Lanka, is not yet a worst-case example. Economic conditions are nose diving and the regime is making a cock-up of everything it touches. At rock bottom yes the regime may be compelled to impose autocratic rule not to serve the people but for its own survival though that space is slipping away. But large scale unrestrained robbery can start if and when the autocratic option succeeds – if one assumes that the now going robbery is constrained by contradictions. Everyone who desires to forestall Robbery must therefore join in a Save Democracy minimum agenda and all who desire Democracy have to mobilise under a Stop Robbery slogan. Chicken or the egg no matter, they hatch together. Only if the two actions are coordinated will either be successful.

It is public pressure that is emboldening senior public servants to defy the government and speak their minds (covid, fertiliser ban and LNG deal) and has brought Cabinet unity to shambles. The SLFP seems to be gearing to split and three dead-left Cabinet ministers have spurned the AG and hired their own counsel for today’s Supreme Court hearing against the LNG conspiracy. Democracy in the sense of space for dissent and defiance of the powers-that-be has made these deviations possible. The reason these usually supine actors are speaking up is because anger in the public domain is boiling and is freely expressed. This is the democracy that we must preserve, protect and enlarge.

Within the scope of this column the term democracy is used for the setting where public opinion can express itself openly and if need be in defiance of the state. Its more common use for when people can elect their government at regular intervals is broader and not identical with my usage here. I need to state this distinction because the latter includes instances like Donald Trump’s loony right-wing populism, Erdogan’s tantrums, Gotabaya’s thumping 6.9 million votes and communalist Modi’s 60% (I think) of seats in the Lok Sabha. That side of democratic polity deserves a separate essay in its own right.

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Latest comments

  • 9
    3

    Prof. David.
    Thank you. You have reft out one point of the growing signs of defiance against the regime.
    The Chief Justice called all judges recently for a conference. Some just did not go. Judges present say they understood clearly the message: When the police ask for denial of permission for protest marches, grant that police request.
    Although some judges have refused permission for the SJB march, a senior District Judge says the most important Colombo judges refused to stop the march. He says it is a sign the walls around the regime are crumbling.

    • 8
      0

      Thank you. Dr KD, all these were not overlooked prior to Nov 2019. Not just politicians as the representatives of the people, but people themselves are highly corrupted in our hell. This is thanks to media mafia next works. Media is the biggest cancer in our country. Last night I happened to watch SALAKUNA s program being telecasted by that drug -TV HIRU channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTBTpatQZ5gHe made every effort to spread it in favour of COVID hit current govt. But the truth is known to everyone… that not COVID but lack of capabilities of GOTAs rule thrown us from frying pan to fire.
      :
      People are thrown in a self-created mess not being able to choose the right person as their leader. Our late Rev Sobitha thero was wise as no others to predict what we experience today.
      :
      I think if Rajapkshes were honest to the nation, they could introduce a better constitution in the immediate aftermath of POST WAR.

      Now 12 years passed since the war is over, but nothing seems to have achieved in that regard.

    • 2
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      One more thing about judges growing backbone.
      In today’s news the High Court freed Azath Salley declaring him not guilty. He had been falsely imprisoned by the stooge AG and police for several months
      As more and more judges defy the government, we will have a deluge of rebellions against injustice.

    • 0
      0

      Judges are growing backbone.
      In today’s news the High Court freed Azath Salley declaring him not guilty. He had been falsely imprisoned by the stooge AG and police for several months
      As more and more judges defy the government, we will have a deluge of rebellions against injustice.

  • 4
    1

    Prof. KD, you say democracy is crushed to rob people. How ridiculous are these gas fires, cylinders or tubes. Why cannot the pre July mixture be put back to save lives by govt. authority. Wholesale robbery comes under karmic justice when they breathe their last and end up in a hell hole and unable to get out. Devil hates men.

  • 5
    2

    In Sri Lanka as far back as I can remember people always had the space to express their opinion, elections have been free and fair (some confuse the election process to fooling the voter at the preelection campaign) but this had never been an impediment for embezzlement, favoritism, cronyism and nepotism.
    .
    One positive aspect of corruption across the full political spectrum is the absence of physical violence between the parties.
    .
    Sri Lankans should never worry about a dictatorship as India won’t stomach it.

    Slavish sycophancy ensures an autocratic system through ‘democracy’.

    Soma

    • 3
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      Soma,
      “Sri Lankans should never worry about a dictatorship as India won’t stomach it.”
      Yes, totally correct. We are only 30 miles away from Big Brother.
      Unless of course it’s a Hindu dictatorship.

      • 1
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        OC
        A SB dictatorship is a pretty good approximate to a Hindu dictatorship.
        As long as it is not pro-China or soft on Muslims, it will pass.

        • 0
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          SB, o c
          You guys are discussing a hypothetical Hindu dictatorship.
          Only a lunantic non Buddhist will dream of becoming an unconstitutional ruler for a day. India is not necessary in that scenario.
          By the way even Thalaivar which came close to a Hindu dictatorship for a part of Sri Lanka was quashed by India.

          Soma

    • 1
      0

      soman

      “Sri Lankans should never worry about a dictatorship as India won’t stomach it.

      You are learning learning very fast.
      Good
      What is the point of the Sinhala/Buddhist behaving like kids?

      “Slavish sycophancy ensures an autocratic system through ‘democracy’.”

      I believe you have included in the above category.
      However, I hope you are not justifying sycophancy.

      Whats wrong with island?

      • 0
        1

        NV
        “”What is the point of the Sinhala/Buddhist behaving like kids?”
        How do you describe the Tamil behaviour for 30 years lining up behind Thalaivar? Or hallucinating an Ealam for 70 years?

        Soma

        • 1
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          soman

          By now you would have learned you have found out it is much much difficult to see your own dirt on your own back.

          You are structurally lazy even to think leave alone doing it.

  • 6
    1

    If people are alert and rational in thinking and use their education as meaningful no one can play with democracy. When people are divided, then opportunistic politicians will cheat you using this division and rob this nation. If people ask questions from their MPs, MPs will never come back again with excuses.

    • 8
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      Ájith,
      If srilankebn people are alert and rational ? Pigs might fly. What are you talking about ? Srilankens at large would never see it right. That is something beyond ” south asian thinking patterns”. They just enjoy licking bo trees and wearing pirith nooles pleasing their tatooed priests today. No matter what the outcome would be.
      :
      Just imagine that PINGUTTHHARAYA- by name Muruthettuwa Male nurse has not he least qualification claims to be VC but he became with the blessings of those folks that ate kiriabath publicly on the return of ballige puthas.
      Today so called wonder maker to the WIYATH MAGA has fallen that deep not even being able to settle ” Gas-cylinder-blasting-simple issue”, leaving the masses in a lurch. So called deliverer according to the Mercy COW like voters, though did some work in colombo beautification project, but totally failed with simple isuses. In the same time, his brother MAFIA boss makes every hope to bring his bastard sons as the next leaders. Dont you guys think that these men should be hung by their balls in order to comfort the people today ?

  • 7
    0

    The Rajapakses made shamelessness a virtue in Lankan politics.

    Much later, Trump did it as well ……… but Mahinda was the pioneer.

    The Rajapakses are masters at propaganda; especially Mahinda – all this, ……. Gota, Basil, Rajapakse inc ……. is due to nothing but Mahinda’s mystique/popularity. …….. No Mahinda: no Rajapakse inc.

    The Rajapakse name and anything or anyone associated with it/them has to be shamed and totally destroyed first ……. for SL to progress.

    The opposition cannot take a defensive posture/stance …….. have to take the offensive and be proactive …….. fight fire with greater fire.

    In the US, ….. the Republicans have made “Democrat” a dirty word (if you listen to their speeches, even the utterly corrupt Trump children take a “higher moral” posture to shame the Democrats) …… and the “old” Democratic-party-establishment has turned defensive. That’s why the greater popularity of Bernie Sanders, OAC, …… and the “progressive wing” among the young. Their mode of attack/defence is different to that of the old guard.

    • 5
      0

      continued

      James Carville (former campaign manager, now commentator) understands this well and is telling the old Democratic party-establishment till him mouth run dry …….. to no avail.

      Study early propaganda pioneers like George Creel and devise effective propaganda. …….. In effective propaganda, now the Rajapakse Biyyas are head and shoulders above the opposition “sophisticates.”

      For a pleb like me, it’s not my place to tell a Marxist intellectual sophisticate old-hand like prof Kumar the value of propaganda: mostly false-propaganda :)) ……. Marxists are/were the best at it!

      But ……. just a few observations …….

      • 4
        0

        Nimal,
        “the value of propaganda: mostly false-propaganda :)) ……. Marxists are/were the best at it!”
        Not really. The “free world” was much better at covering up what they were really up to. And Radio Moscow was pretty boring compared to BBC and VOA. Let’s not talk about Radio Peking.

        • 2
          2

          OC
          The Russians have caught-up with using popular appeal for news stories.
          Russia Today (RT) is quite popular in Europe.
          It has not got caught lying like even the BBC at times.

          • 1
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            What a joke?

        • 2
          0

          “Not really. The “free world” was much better at covering up what they were really up to.”

          OC,

          That’s an argument that’ll never stop! ……. The honesty of intentions of humans …….. what and what crap we tell gals to woo them :)) …… and the crap they tell us ………


          ” Radio Peking”

          It’s time a non-White race took over the leadership of the world …….. they can’t do any worse!

          • 1
            0

            Nimal,
            I was talking about Cold War times. Listening to Radio Moscow/ Peking vs. VOA/BBC was like a choice between God TV and the Playboy Channel nowadays.
            Even propaganda has to be interesting.

        • 4
          0

          OC,
          .
          If a cancer occurs, gentics can find its etiology easily.
          Likewise, the society analysts in SRILANKA should come forward and do their job. I am not talking about our so called self proclaimed political analyst such as DJ to do do the job. But UNI dons in political science and psychology must come out of their long slumber. They stay like MERCY cows roaming around kelaniya temple…. why ? I think MEDIA does not give them a chance. Not PINGUTHTHARAYAs, but Uni experts should be kept above the law … then only lankens would learn it…..

          Nothing else, but SRILANKEN media mafia network along with MEDAMULANA animals ruined this society. I remember how MEEHARAKA Mahinda the manner, prevaricated the question ” how you would manage to revitalize the economy” – …. back scratching BP had the audacity to say ” we are brothers , give us and see it further ” deela balannako”….. today, when he is questioned on this, ballige putha does not even take it serious…… this alone is good enough to stone him to death and take away from our sight right ? Mahinda the most criminal knew that OVER 70% of this nation are ultra fools. That was the reason he closed to FAN bases and their gurus… Most artists have their own fan bases….

    • 1
      7

      nimal f.
      “fight fire with greater fire.”
      You mean lies with bigger lies?

      Soma

      • 5
        1

        Soma,

        The two greatest propagandists in human history was Buddha and Christ.

        Did they lie? ………. No, they sold their message to a higher intellectual “clientele.”

        The Rajapakses sell their message to a lower intellectual “clientele.”

        Hope you are not one of them! :))

        • 1
          0

          Do they come before the people today? Mahinda was good old thakkadiya as history makes it clear. No, they knew whole lot of people are fools and can be abused for building a human shield. The very same was the case until Gadafi died in that country or Mugabe s human shield a until the bugger died with overwhelm curse of the very same people. This ll be the reality or BP, for sure. 🐕🙂🐕🙂🐕🙂🐕🙂🐕🙂🐕🙂

      • 2
        0

        soman

        “You mean lies with bigger lies?”

        Isn’t it what you have been doing for the past 100 years?

        Tell as to why Gota appointed Basil to the job that he is holding?
        Poor chap, he has to beg for favour from Hindian Tamil Finance Minister.
        What a shame.
        Of course one would send a shameless person to beg for the family.

        • 1
          0

          “Tell as to why Gota appointed Basil to the job that he is holding?
          Poor chap, he has to beg for favour from Hindian Tamil Finance Minister.”.
          .
          They stupid siblings have no brains to trust experienced candidates.
          .
          Their power grrediness is above the nation.
          .
          sirisena though hurt by many for his politics, he did some good things though their Good governance was defeated,. Being
          caught debt trap, they never let people down with daily essentials. Today they put the blame on Covid, but in capability is becoming clear by hour. One behind the other Gota becomes the joker. 🐕🙂🐕🐕🙂🐕🙂🐕🙂
          . Al’s due his closeness to Mahinda pariah.

    • 0
      2

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      • 1
        0

        Thanks for making it short. Urs is even more pathological than that Mahinda. The u guys fall to the manner domino effect works is not far. 😉🐕😉🐕😉🐕

    • 1
      0

      Bro, .
      .
      Heartless buggerrs are thick skinned going by their uncultured backgrounds they come from. Floor kissing drama at BIA made him ultra patriotic, for a nation whose majority would nt deny asuchi in form blatant lies. Media is well tackled for their lies. This was the case under other like minded states ruined by pariahs. .

      If CBK or RW were the leaders western world would let the nation be fallen this deep but current ballige puthas, have no brains to allow sound external politics. AT Tsunami disaster these bugger et al were in power, .yet today, the country would have left in wrecks as is the case in Sudan. But thanks to Kadir CBK saved the nation. Medamulana dogs embezzled the huge sums and no legal actions on the allegations yet today ayyyoooooo🐕😉🐕😉🐕😉🐕😉🐕😉🐕

      • 1
        0

        Apologies.
        .
        If CBK or RW were the leaders western world would NOT let the nation be fallen this deep but current ballige puthas, have no brains to allow sound external politics🐕🐕🐕🐕🐕🐕🐕🐕

  • 2
    6

    The problem is not democracy.

    The problem is the structure of the island. Democracy is useless if the island is structured wrong. It must be divided into 3 mono ethnic nations and people must be relocated.

    Only then can people benefit from democracy.

    If the island remains as one nation, Tamils have no choice than to vote for Tamil only parties (contesting alone or within another party). Vote for Sinhala only candidates at a presidential election.

    Same with Muslims with an exception of just 2 MPs.

    Sinhalese are the same. Since Tamils and Muslims vote for their mono ethnic parties, Sinhala voters also prefer to vote for nationalist parties.

    None has choice.

    • 0
      0

      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

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    • 1
      0

      G
      Map please!
      It has not got caught lying like even the BBC at times.G
      Map please.

      • 2
        1

        Sorry about the second line. It was part of a response to OC.
        But where is your map?

  • 5
    1

    In any country democracy to thrive the fundamental requirement is the need to appoint honest, educated, knowledgeable MPs. Unfortunately in Sri Lanka, we have, rapists, criminals, murderers, drug lords, sexists, racists, chain snatchers, and above all paga kings. How can we expect democracy? On top of these unsuitable MPs, we also have the Police force headed by a thug and a racist minister during whose period those accused in police custody are being killed by the police. Also, the armed forces are occupying lands and harressing and hurting people of non-majority communities. Democracy in Sri Lanka is far far away from the reach of the citizens.

    • 1
      0

      “…appoint honest, educated, knowledgeable MPs”
      Appoint MPs? Who will appoint?
      *
      Whoever does, we will have an interesting democracy where all MPs are appointed.

    • 4
      0

      Srilankens can hope a better future if they invested more in rebuilding the society. This should have happened in parallel to their investments in physical developments ( like infrastructure projects). Healthy mib set would be need of the hour. Political game on the costs of people is thieving of time. Even if NPP would become the next alternative but it ll be not easy to make real changes if virulent slave mind set prevails 🐕🐕🐕🐕🐕🐕😉🐕🙂

      • 2
        0

        Healthy mind set can do real wonders. Ghanakka and Gota is a marriage similar to that of Trumps and his soothsayers 🐕🐕🐕🐕🐕🐕🐕🐕🐕🐕🐕🐕

  • 2
    0

    Healthy mind set can do real wonders. Ghanakka and Gota is a marriage similar to that of Trumps and his soothsayers 🐕🐕🐕🐕🐕🐕🐕🐕🐕🐕🐕🐕🙂🙂🙂

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