What Sort Of Democracy Is This (1)?

Fri, 19 Sep 2014 Source: Kwarteng, Francis

George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” sums it up best like no other.

It is common knowledge democracy is not a perfect praxis of electoral politics anywhere, not in the West, Asia, Africa, or heaven, for, if it actually were, particularly in heaven, the Devil would at least have been given a fair chance at due process and probably would not have been banished to earth, the natural abode of human mortals, where he allegedly wrecks untold spiritual havoc and unilaterally imposes a dilemma of moral choices upon man through the osteoporotic edifice of human infallibility. We have been told this since the beginning of Biblical time. Perhaps due process has no equivalent in matters of spirituality. Of course these are emotional statements from a carnal mind, borrowed observations that do not want to see themselves construed as bereaved icons of rhetoric homily. Liberal democracy is not made for the heavens where God exercises his rulership with absolute authority. Ask the Devil and his likeminded retinue of fallen angels! This is just by the way.

What is the point? The point has to do with the political exigencies of democratic literalism in the Ghanaian context!

What are the intentions behind democratization? First, this question is not unrelated to the multiplicity of conditions under which the technical expectations of democracy thrive. Second, it is not beyond the bounds of reason to read the latter query as an academic question. Indeed the dancing silhouette of democracy looks so philosophically beautiful, so aesthetically charming, at least against the white paper of theoretic elucidation. It may even look theoretically romantic with expressive possibilities within utopian worlds buried beyond the restrictive boundaries of human consciousness. Yet answers to our questions may vary according to a wide sweep of indices including, but not limited to, geography; history; industrial or technological advancement; a country’s citizens’ educational level or a country’s educational spread; degree of religious, racial, and ethnic tolerance; moral strength and relative independence of institutional operationalization; how well-informed a country’s citizens generally are; equitable distribution of national wealth; freedom of speech and of press against a backcloth of moral responsibility; respect for human rights; and the like.

Verily, those are the indispensable political variables, not democracy of kleptomania, kleptocracy, which Ghanaian leaders should assiduously be working on. But no, short-term investment in political kleptomania to the average Ghanaian politician seems more attractively lucrative than long-term moral investiture in the national enterprise of development economics. It must, however, be pointed out that this suite of indices is not always acquirable in a democracy, not even in the much-vaunted democracies in the West. This is not to say societies or well-meaning individuals should not vigorously pursue them in the cause of national growth and development. It is the contrary that should not be settled for or entertained. After all, human beings are by nature imbued with the essential ontology of mediating moral choices, call it “freewill” if you like, and no amount of autocratic delimitation can stifle that innate tendency toward free expression against the dilemmatic arbitration of moral choices.

On the other hand, the elastic potentiality of man’s innate infallibility does mean that certain oversight structures must be put in place to chaperone his behavioral excesses. The structural idiomatic language may assume the form of religion or secularity. Arguably not everything about religion is sensitively egregious. On the contrary, religion is necessarily bad, even egregious, only insofar as it imprisons human intellect in the four walls of ignorance, preventing it from active fruition in the progressive development of individual characters, of communities. Religion made Mother Teresa and Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Adolf Hitler was a Catholic, Idi Amin a Moslem, Richard Nixon a Quaker. Religion, especially Islam and Judeo-Christianity, made Apartheid and slavery possible. That is a piece of moral irony of the highest order! In the main, religion becomes a dangerous enemy of human intellect or progress when it uncompromisingly opposes man’s innate tendencies toward community, tolerance, critical thinking, moderation, and philanthropy.

There is more to the divisive particularities of religious expressiveness than meets the eye. Generally, the excesses of personal convictions tend to lack a legitimacy of moral compass in the autocratic direction of communal prerogatives. The sum total of communal prerogatives, it seems, tends to skew more toward a corrective inherence of moral objectivity when the miasma of individual excesses threatens the edifice of social morality than toward the moral individuation of human uniqueness. Yet a community cannot always be morally right. An obvious implication is that, the autocratic proclivities of secular theology are where to look for etiological answers in respect of communal dereliction, when the example of moral individuation fails public morality.

An important question to ask ourselves is therefore this: Why does man behave like lower animals, his closest siblings, on the phylogenetic tree of political actuation? Answer! Answer! Answer! Where is that answer? Hiding! Where exactly? Nonetheless, before answering this question, let us bear in mind that, like ants, bees, and primates, human beings are primarily social, not solitary, animals, creatures endowed with seemingly limitless quanta of innate intelligence. More significantly, this innate intelligence harbors hints of generational renewal, of transformational creativity. We are implying that human beings have what it takes to fashion progressive social conditions that could measure up to the moral standards of human dignity. Granted, why are Ghanaian politicians in particular and politicians in general habituated to the dogmatic theology of political eusociality, more often than not putting on the behavioral airs of wasps, bees, and ants in a world supposed to be one of humanized sociality? Man has not sufficiently answered this question!

A caveat is in order: We are not giving moral credence to a blasphemous connotation, that the Ghanaian political animal is a different breed from the Nigerian or Kenyan, say. Neither is he different from his Asian or Western counterpart. The point is that politics fundamentally behaves the same way no matter what or where given the philosophical thrust of its human origination. This claim can be likened to the physical behavior of gravity on planet earth with its nuanced or subtle expressiveness of numerical variegation. Thus, we do not wish to see politics interpretively rendered as inimitable exemplar of nominalism. All barking dogs bark regardless of geography, patronizing ownership, or breed pedigree. Of course, as already noted, the existential praxis of politics has a “universal” touch to it, but this is not notwithstanding the fact that the interpretive vista of “politics” runs the entire gamut of characterological particularities according to the philosophical dilemma of situational polysemy.

Again, that is not to say progressive minds should not vigorously seek after the receding shadows of political refinement in the cause of humanism. That immanent combat is a sacrosanct preserve of human innate intelligence, of which pessimism, greed, laziness, and jealousy are its limitations. The human mind is so big as to contain the transcendental enormity of God and the Devil, so small as to contain the physical dot of nanotechnology. Challenges are a normal part of the human condition, so are their concomitant solutions. Let us therefore advance the following argument: A chronic problem or wound that is not given proper care of treatment is surely likely to bounce back with relentless recrudescence. “Rise up fallen fighters!” admonishes Bob Marley, “Rise and take your stance again. Thus he who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.” Consequently, any chronic problem or wound that refuses to go away must be considered a dangerous “enemy” to a people’s collective interest, their corporate self-actualization. The “enemy,” alas, may as well serve as ironic inducement to the intellectual machinery of human progress.

We are still on the question of democracy and the moral actualities of human imperfections to its experimentation. Hostile contradictions are not necessarily anathema to the social dynamics of human civilization per se. It probably explains why creationism or evolutionary Darwinism did not fashion human diversity in the biologic warp or moral rigidity of robotic likeness. What do we mean? Healthy competitive stiffness, sharp internal bickering across political aisles, and strategic disagreements, perhaps, constitute the primary innovative drivers of the intellectual vehicle of human ingenuity. There is always the masked face of “truth” lodged somewhere in the permissible cleavage of multiple views, however contrarian or divergent. “Rivalries often prove productive,” maintains Wole Soyinka. Soyinka’s rhetorical audacity knocks at the fragile door of Ghana’s political complacency, reminding the laid-back human spirit of its innate possibilities for creative expressiveness via either external or internal prodding, or both. Competitiveness brought out the best in Bill Gates and Steve Jobs; Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. Du Bois; Pele and Diego Maradona; Kwame Nkrumah and Nelson Mandela; Azumah Nelson and Muhammad Ali. It surely will reflect well on a young nation as Ghana if her citizens learn to celebrate diversity and internal ideological divergences as hallmarks of spiritual maturity and national progression.

The alternative may constitute a roadmap or a blueprint for genocide, as we should do well to recall of the former Yugoslavia, of Rwanda, of Northern Ireland. As a matter of principle, constructive opposition is healthy and even highly recommended for the national enterprise insofar as curtailing incumbent excesses, but Ghana’s “winner-takes-all” syndrome seriously undercuts functional association between opposition and incumbency in the allied interests of national unity and national development. One wonders why Kwame Nkrumah’s so-called one-party democracy achieved so much for Ghana, Africa, and the world as opposed to the aggregate democratic dispensations that succeeded his overthrow. The comparative weight of the latter assertion directly impacts our understanding of and absolute faith in the saving grace of democratic capitalism as a sufficiently reliable moral response to the human condition. Thus, we may have to re-evaluate this question in the general context of the balance sheet of Ghana’s stalled development in the wake of Nkrumah’s overthrow.

Certainly, democracy suffers a terrible blow dealt it by the technicality of democratic imperialism or constitutional dictatorship in the Ghanaian context. The point is, however, that the “winner-takes-all” syndrome concentrates too much power in incumbent hand, thus investing the latter with the constitutional go-ahead to whip opposition into submission as it sees fit and in line with incumbent expectations, when this stands contrary to national aspirations for unity, growth, and development. The syndrome also breeds political conceit, moral complacency, and a semblance of forced autocracy. Accordingly, de-centralization and federalism are worth looking into as a constitutional measure of the progression of the national enterprise. Perhaps, for comparative evaluation purposes, we may have to make a beeline for the drawing table for a close study of the eusocial networks of ants where division of labor operates at its optimal wavelength. Wasps, ants, and bees have demonstrated enviable examples of sophistication in their social interactions where human beings have abjectly failed, although we are quick to place ourselves topmost on the hierarchy of evolutionary relations, the phylogenetic tree.

Similarly, in the depths of the oceans the Dolphin sleeps with one eye open, the other closed in anticipation of predators, yet Ghanaian politicians sleep with both eyes closed while everything goes wrong and haywire. Still, with their eyes closed while sleeping Ghanaian politicians have somehow managed to convince the masses of their unbridled capacity to see through the dense darkness of concrete eyelids to the heart of national problems, with an eye to turning things around, much as the Catholic Church’s mystical theology converts unleavened bread to Christ’s body, Eucharist, allegedly, with that easily transformable body, of three parts, symbolizing the political personality of Ghana. But these three interlocking details of the body politic, the judiciary, the executive, and the legislature, are morally cancerous, spiritually malignant. Benefits inhering in the theory of checks and balances and, supposedly, to be accrued from mutual disconnect among the different branches of government are in short supply.

What is the political diagnosis? Undue partisan political interferences, gross incompetence, nepotism, lack of popular oversight over institutional processes, cronyism, and pervading instances of bribery threaten their otherwise reputable constitutional insularities. In a sense, therefore, the three branches of government do not appear to enjoy a unity of purpose in holding the national center together as the Holy Trinity is doctrinally said to do. Ghana’s democracy is indeed far removed from the conceptual center of “unity of purpose.” Rather it is attuned to “diversity of purpose,” Ghana’s democratic imperialism or constitutional dictatorship.

Needless to say, contradictions are not always dissimilar to the phenomenon of sameness in many a creative situation. Many useful examples from the natural world abound. Predation is not necessarily bad in the jungle politics of biologic survivability as it collaterally sharpens the instinctual competency of preys, ultimately enhancing their environmental awareness. Also, mastication involves grinding hostilities among animal or human dentition on the mechanical axis of digestion. The digestion process may entail grinding conflicts between two molars or incisors placed in positions of antipodal compatibility. These examples demonstrate how nature employs contradictions to underwrite internal equilibrium or homeostasis in human anatomy. Let us switch gears and look at another dimension of the complexity of human existence. It does may happen that human nature is not only shrouded in the mystery of flesh and blood but also in the spiritual instrumentality of corporeal morality. There is no hard scientific confirmation for this, however.

Of course, science like religion does not have all the answers to the mystery of human existence. Sometimes religion takes over where science leaves off, that being a reflection of the allied mysteries of human weakness and intellectual finiteness. Besides, the ontological unlikeness of spirituality to corporeality is bound up in the uniqueness of individual developmental psychology. However, it may as well be that the creative possibilities of individual uniqueness are an outcome of internecine spiritual and corporeal conflict subject to the physical demands of environmental oversight. The proper thing for human beings to do for themselves is fashioning enabling conditions to see the actualities of those creative possibilities through. That is not without saying the yields of human intellection are possible in social-political atmospheres charged with aerosolized poisons of intolerance, grudging hostilities, political ethnocentrism, self-righteous elitism, social injustice, personal identification with omniscience, institutional inequity, and narcissistic vanity.

This collection of assorted ideas may characterize the symptomatology of leadership misdirection in Ghana with particular emphasis on secular autocracy as well as on the rising tide of political theocracy in the body politic. However, our rhetorical assertiveness should not convey the wrong impression that circumventing these negative ideas is an effortless enterprise. It is not. Moreover, deeply ingrained prejudices are not easy to exorcise from the firm prehensile clasp of human psychology, which requires profound personal and communal sacrifices and a sense of national oneness. Meritocracy, social equity, mutual respectability, respect for national laws, gender equality, patriotism, and institutional fairness are preconditions to cultural disposition of national consistency. This is a herculean project in dire need of the political exigencies of moral, intellectual, and cultural revolutions for national transformation. As a matter of fact, the crisis is even further worsened by the inclusive factor of the two major political parties’, the NDC’s and the NPP’s, elitist dislike of the masses, merely giving lip service to the project of improving Ghanaians’ lives but stealing from them instead at every available and conceivable opportunity.

Alas, no successful grassroots political party seemed to have risen from the populist embers of national transformation in the aftermath of the CPP’s overthrow. The NDC, a pseudo-Nkrumahist party, came nearly as close, at least from the perspective of the national character of its primordial populist rhetoric, to the CPP’s brand of social democracy, but, regrettably, it has not lived up to the label, with scandalous spate of corruption dogging its conscience. The NPP is not comparatively better. It may even be worse. Further, both are essentially more alike in their infantile addiction to neocolonial manipulation and in their stilted preferences for elitist corruption than they are different in their public rhetoric pretensions about alleviating human suffering. Clearly, we see a structurally well-orchestrated inter-partisan political replay of ideological conflicts clouding the public images of two other irredentist strains, the Republican Party (NPP) and the Democratic Party (NDC).

The internal and open politics of the NPP as it relates to intimidation, scare tactics, violence, and coercion have no place in social democracy, a political philosophy the NPP does not believe in. Rather, it is the political manifesto of a politician’s candidacy based on the parameters of honesty, drive, patriotism, vision, genuine humility, tolerance for opposing views, personal accomplishments, intelligence and wisdom, understanding of statecraft and of development economics, and rapport with the masses that eventually wins over the stubborn hearts of political constituencies. What we cannot yet ignore is covert infiltration of organized crime into Ghanaian politics, a worrying trend and a dangerous precedent for the future stability of Ghana’s budding democracy. No aspect of Ghanaian politics should have to come from Niccolo Machiavelli’s vicious political strategies, processes likely to undermine the creeping normality of democratic grounding in the body politic.

Furthermore, contemporary political prescriptions such as obstructionism, swiftboating, smear campaign, scaremongering, heroism, and buck passing are not the kinds of strategic philosophical categories one expects to advance the noble cause of social democratization, ironically making politics look like a drove of dirty pigs in Giorgio Armani suits. Politics should be about equity, social justice, rule of law, human rights, and solving real-world problems, though, arguably, it is not. Again, there is probably a more well-structured organization in the eusocial communities of bees, wasps, and ants than in the dirty politics communities of human derivation.

That is why Ghanaians must watch the NPP and the NDC more closely than before as both are dangerous to their collective survival. The oxymoronic egalitarian capitalism of the NPP and the schizophrenic social democracy of the NDC are misguided political labels. Both are at home with the political allegory of Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” It is our opinion that the moral high ground is not the place of either the NPP or the NDC. Let Ghanaians try a neutral hand at governance. Let the splintered Nkrumahist parties come together in a spirit of oneness to wrest political power from these two major parties. The monopoly held by the NDC and the NPP over the nation must surely be broken. Or, let the NDC and the NPP re-organize their association with the masses via strategic narrowing of their elitist distance from the masses by guaranteeing equitable re-distribution of national wealth, exclusive of the biases of regionalism, political and religious affiliations, gender, and ethnicity. Jungle politics does not subscribe to this.

In fact, jungle politics is precisely what democratic imperialism or the constitutional democracy of “winner-takes-all” syndrome, the philosophy of political ethnocentrism among others, subscribes to. There should not be room for this dangerous breed of politics in any civilized constituency to blossom. An open irony, however, is that both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are beholden to the hegemony of special interest, particularly corporate America, not forgetting their unholy alliances with the institutional presence of slavocracy. Slavocracy is exactly what both the NDC and the NPP have slowly turned Ghana, a caricature of her former self, into today. In the end the American masses, like their Ghanaian counterparts, are merely a means to an end, in other words, a gathering concentration of political power and controlling influence in the hands of a few through strategically-managed exploitation of public psychology, what many largely consider as “useful idiots.” Capitalism at its best!

We shall return…

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis