Democracy As A COVID-19 Patient

When a society has a population of unenlightened citizens large enough to be in a slight majority, the entire nation is endangered and open to enslavement by macho leaders, the likes of Trump, Putin, Bolsonaro and Johnson.

Tunde Odediran: It is a contradiction that the danger with modern democracy lies within its strength / Photo credit: Worldatlas.com
Tunde Odediran: It is a contradiction that the danger with modern democracy lies within its strength / Photo credit: Worldatlas.com

Across the globe, democracy was very sick before now.

But COVID-19 has thrown the dominant type of modern government into trauma in certain parts of the world.

Most people are dying of Coronavirus in prosperous nations managed by leaders with suspect persona, right-wing macho men with incoherent ideology, who are products of popular elections.

Democracy may still be more acceptable than monarchy, aristocracy and theocracy, but its ugly side has never been on display more vividly than now.

We are witnessing the emergence of democratically-elected morons, the buckling of power to stupidity and a massive endangerment of human lives.

In the USA, Brazil, Russia and, to some extent, the UK, the collapse of leadership is so striking that the it is pertinent to ask if universal adult suffrage is not a possible road to mass suicide. These nations have the most Coronavirus infections and fatalities, as well as an infected political ecosystem.

At the time of writing, the United States has had 1.8 million infections and 105,000 deaths; Brazil followed with 468,338 infections with 28,000 deaths; with Russian coming in third with 400,000 infections and 4,555 fatalities.

The UK is only a little behind Spain at fifth, with 273,000 infections and more than 38,000 deaths.

Put together, these four nations account for above 49 per cent, or roughly half, of the total global infections!

And they are all run by democratically-elected governments.

A common trait in these four great nations is a bombastic political leadership, or what some will call a lack of leadership where it matters.

The four leaders have at one time or the other underplayed COVID-19 and shown disregard for public health.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Trump has said and done incredible things, including refusing to wear a face mask in public, failing to follow official guidelines, advocating an unproven drug and providing dangerous and idiotic medical advice

The nations are revealing a decay and an imperfectness that questions whether the government elected by the people naturally produces that which is truly devoted to service to the people.

The United States is led by Donald Trump, elected when all the flaws were there for all to see – ignorant, egocentric, chauvinistic, neo-fascist, dishonest, belligerent, bigoted, bombastic, bully, demagogue, narcissist, unhinged and demonstrably racist.

Yet, he was elected when all the variables that should disqualify a political candidate were present and active.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Trump has said and done incredible things, including refusing to wear a face mask in public, failing to follow official guidelines, advocating an unproven drug and providing dangerous and idiotic medical advice.

America is also reeling under an uprising stemming from successive killings of black minorities by policemen or racists, who have taken a lead from the “law and order” president.

While the state governors are looking for a way to calm the nation, Trump called them fools and continued to stoke the flames that burns his country.

Every word from him leads to more violence.

America, once a beacon of democracy and freedom across the globe, has found itself an antonym of democratic values, incidentally through a process resulting from popular suffrage.

In Brazil, the story is similar with Trump Lite, Jair Bolsonaro, who was popularly elected in 2018.

Just as Trump won on the slogan “America First,” Bolsonaro was elected on the fulcrum of “Brazil above everything.”

Not much separates the two in terms of style.

America, once a beacon of democracy and freedom across the globe, has found itself an antonym of democratic values, incidentally through a process resulting from popular suffrage

As Coronavirus cases climbed in Brazil, Bolsonaro has seen three ministers off their posts.

With catastrophe real and apparent, the flamboyant Brazilian President urged people to go out, and boasted: “Brazilians should be studied, we don’t catch anything. You see people jumping in sewage, diving in it and nothing happens to them.”

The virus has now spiraled out of control and images of mass graves in Brazil clearly demonstrate self-inflicted murder by Brazilian voters when they elected Bolsonaro.

Russia presents a different scenario.

Though a democracy by mechanics, it is pretty much a one-man show.

Regardless, it has elected representatives, who continue to back the influential, simply because they are products of corruption.

As most nations prepared, Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, told his people the situation was “under control.”

So, Russians packed the streets, spreading the virus that is now infecting many more than Putin would admit.

As usual, he lied to Russians and to the world.

But the problem was big enough to suspend a referendum that prepared Putin to remain in power until 2036.

To some degree, British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, shares some DNA with the other three populists, though restrained by a strong tradition and a watchful electorate.

It took a personal encounter with COVID-19 for the Prime Minister to take it seriously.

In early March, a flippant Johnson stated: “I’m shaking hands continuously. I was at a hospital the other night where I think there were actually a few Coronavirus patients and I shook hands with everybody, you’ll be pleased to know. I continue to shake hands.”

The populist strongmen have become proponents of fear, artists of intimidation and generators of propaganda.

It does not matter to them the cost in human lives – as long as the playbook and path to remaining in power is safe, it is alright.

The evil that government can represent sometimes emerge when people fail to guard their own freedom and allow personal desires to override the common good

They are destroying their nations through power willfully given, demonstrating the cost of democracy when it deforms.
How did such evil men, murderers of their own people, get to power?

What kind of electorate voted them in?

How did a march for freedom lead to the slaughterhouse?

Of course, it is normal people, like you and I, who got these monsters into power.

And there are many of such bad leaders around the world.

Many countries have lesser shades of evil, but are burdened by bad leaders all the same.

Sometimes, their actions lead to instant death, other times they kill people softly.

Nigeria has its own dose.

We have had elected leaders who steal public funds, live in stolen affluence, deny people justice, corrupt the system and corner the benefits of government for their families and tribesmen. Even during the pandemic, they have continued to steal.

We elect bad leaders because the society has deep problems with no easy solutions.

So, we listen to any good story that we later regret.

In America, Trump and his cohorts feasted upon an uneducated mass of the white majority, who are hanging on by the strings to ensure that an impending demographic change is aborted.

He got wind in his sails through an archaic electoral college system that is well intended but no longer relevant.

The progress that was made under Boris Yeltsin in Russia quickly evaporated when Putin and the oligarch found a way to hijack the economy.

Brazil also fell for the sweet tongue of a former military general who appeared to be the real deal against corruption.

It is the same kind of unsuspecting population that caused Brexit.

Those who could not match the talent that was pouring in at the borders and needed some form of protection put flawed politicians like Boris Johnson firmly in power.

Such leaders promise everything but deliver little. And they know fully well that the population that elects them is not discerning enough to see through their lies.

When a society has a population of unenlightened citizens large enough to be in a slight majority, the entire nation is endangered and open to enslavement by macho leaders, the likes of Trump, Putin, Bolsonaro and Johnson.

It is a contradiction that the danger with modern democracy lies within its strength.

The power of the majority means that the quality of that majority can be an asset or a liability.

Ask any educated Nigerian about bad leadership and they will be quick to blame it on uneducated voters.

In spite its weaknesses, people all over the world guard their forms of democracy, and many lay down their lives to protect it.

The power of the majority means that the quality of that majority can be an asset or a liability

In 1993, after the regime of General Ibrahim Babangida aborted a democratic process, he was visited with trouble, which did not subside until 1999, when an elected administration pushed the military off the stage permanently.

There is a reason why we can’t do without democracy in spite of bad examples.

The world has not yet figured out a way for every citizen in the country to go to the National Assembly to vote.

Thomas Paine, an influential voice during the American struggle for independence, in his 1776 pamphlet, Common Sense, reasoned that democracy should produce an outcome where a select number from the whole body should produce “the same concerns at stake which those who have appointed them, and who will act in the same manner as the whole body would were they present.”

Democracy allows some to represent all, but it does not force some to represent all in truth.

Good as democracy is, politics, its main ingredient, is just commerce.

Some people figured out how to profit from it.

They put together structures that deceive and overwhelm the system.

Thomas Paine was not naïve about this.

He added, “Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.”

The evil that government can represent sometimes emerge when people fail to guard their own freedom and allow personal desires to override the common good.

The solution to this problem is not just an educated population but also an enlightened society, where citizens act as a check to ensure that charlatans do not end up in power in the first place.

Written by Tunde Chris Odediran

Tunde Chris Odediran studied and practiced journalism in Nigeria. He is now a Technical Communications and Information Technology professional in the United States.

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