Pandemic unravels the invention called democracy

ONLY if you can’t even discuss its possibility that you will refuse to see the implications of the data that stares you in the face.

It has been the exemplars of a democratic system — the US, India and European countries — that have terribly failed their citizens in containing the Covid-19 pandemic.

The US, the richest country in the world and the self-appointed enforcer of democracy all over the world, is down on its knees with an unbelievable 62 million of its people having contracted Covid-19 and 861,003 killed — so far. India, the world’s biggest democracy, is competing for the No. 2 spot with the US as the worst hit country with the most deaths.

On the other side of the world and the political spectrum, the People’s Republic of China, with its single-party system and the first to be hit by the pandemic, has only 104,000 cases, less than 0.2 percent that of the US, and 4,600 deaths or 0.5 percent of the US’. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is doing better than the Republic of the Philippines.

Such stark contrasts cannot simply be explained by pointing to various reasons. At the end of the day, it is the system of government that explains it, as no other institution in the modern era has so much impact on the lives of its citizens.

America’s democratic system led to a president with zero experience in government, a megalomania unfortunately at the time that the pandemic was breaking out: Donald Trump. Because it disturbed his Make-America-Great-Again playbook, he dismissed Covid-19 during the pandemic’s crucial early stage as “just like the flu.” That was disastrous as it gave the coronavirus the momentum to spread. Even his Operation Warp Speed that advanced billions of dollars to Big Pharma, produced the vaccines too late, when the pandemic had surged. Since Americans are the most traveled people on earth, I am convinced it was Americans who spread the virus, starting in Europe then to Asia. Even recently, the new variant Omicron seems to have been brought here by a Filipino woman from America.

Two-party system

With the US two-party system, the Democrats could produce in a closely called election only a Joe Biden, a 79-year-old who certainly talks and acts like his age. And at a crucial time, when the US requires the most charismatic, unifying president ever, it gets what history would probably judge as its weakest. With the Omicron virus on the rampage, the US is mostly embroiled in the dog-eat-dog politics of a democratic system.

Lockdowns? Inconceivable during the first year, as the Americans can’t be told what to do. Their country originated, they say, from the concept of freedom as the supreme virtue. Check out the placards by rallyists in the US and Europe: “I’d rather die than vaxed!”, “Don’t mess with my body!”

Democracy’s flaws in the US are even worsened in the lower levels, as the US president can’t even get governors to enforce a uniform system of lockdowns and vaccinations. Courts declare unconstitutional governors’ orders while even school boards defy their local government.

Contrast these to China, with President Xi Jinping at the helm of China, 11 years younger than Biden but having far broader powers than him. Even as he was a “Red princeling” as those coming for elite families are dubbed, Xi got a degree in chemical engineering and held several posts that involved running governments and as staff of ranking Communist Party officials, in which he would have learned the art of governance.

Brainwashed

US-brainwashed writers and academics portray China as a dictatorship, with its connotations of the top dog getting there by hacking away at his rivals. That was decades before, in the era of Stalin.

The reality is the Communist Party (with a membership of 250 million) would be the secular equivalent of religious orders, or even, I dare say, the Knights Templar. You get to be a member if you dedicate your life — or at least declare so — to the “order’s” principles. In the local Communist Party in which I was a member of in my youth, I guess it is to “Serve the People.” While of course there are rotten apples in any basket, most communists are imbued with the sense of having a mission in life to serve the people.

In the US, and other democratic set-ups like ours, parties are associations for the political benefit of its members, or to further particular sets of political dogmas.

Communist Party leaders become leaders after years of proving their dedication and capability, and are judged so by their peers, thus its system of collective leadership from the lowest party branch to the highest organ, the Central Political Bureau.

Think tanks

I am not sure how widespread the practice is, but one procedure the Chinese Communist Party and its governance unit has been using is to assign an independent think-tank to study a problem and then propose the solutions to the entity in charge of that particular problem. In this way, the solution is objective, free of both biases and political interest. The implementing body then undertakes a pilot study to determine if it works and to correct glitches. If the proposal works, it goes full-blast in implementation, no Senate blue ribbon committee to open an investigation on it.

In the democratic system, political parties and private interests all try to pursue what would be to their interest, claiming theirs are the most rational.

Major catastrophes through the centuries have led to humanity changing, even if only gradually, their systems of government are not immutable but inventions.

After all, a state’s primordial duty, at least in this era of humanity, is to deliver the best life for the majority of its citizens, not to ensure that each has all the freedom he or she desires. But what use is a government if it cannot prevent the deaths of hundreds of thousands of its citizens, or tens of millions getting sick? The Black Death of the 14th century weakened feudalism that led to democratic orders. World War 2 ended the era of monarchies, leading to constitutional republics. Maybe this global pandemic will prod us to think of the best kinds of governance we must aspire to.

The ancient Greek philosopher, Plato, was contemptible of democracy as this would lead to rule by demagogues (as it has indeed in many cases) following citizens’ impulses for self-interest. The best form of government, he said, was that by a wise philosopher-king. In this day and age, I think it is the Chinese Communist Party that fits that description, in the form of a collective philosopher king.

Email: tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Jonathan B. Bangui

    Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. No amount of political system such as Communism will be enough to battle this pandemic. Each of us must be responsible for the sake of others. Otherwise, we are no better than the other habitues of the jungle. Free only in the physical sense without concomitant responsibility.

  2. Dorina Rojas

    Even our concept and practice of self-discipline and respect for elders are highly westernized. It’s just as sad as imitating the so-called democracy allegedly taught us and the independence given to us.

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