Is Western Democracy at Its Tether?

politicaljokes

Years ago, in my first year of university, I encountered the question: “Social sciences, primarily that of politics, is a science. Agree or disagree?) In light of recent events in the international arena of politics, I began reflecting back on that question. Before you read on, what would your response be, and why?

As a citizen of a democratic nation, it is your duty to keep the place in-check. It is not the government’s responsibility, it is not the government’s shortfalls, and it is not the government’s incompetence, because democracies are ruled by the People.

For a democracy to sustain itself, it needs nation-wide standardised government education to teach following generations to make calculated votes based on conjecture over emotion. Dahl, in his book “Democracy and Its Critics”, writes about how polyarchic democracies can only be sustained “if it possesses a political culture and beliefs, particularly among activists, that support the institutions of polyarchy.

Democracy in itself is traditionally known as “for the people and by the people”. If the People are to rule each other, the does it not stand to reason that the People ought to know what is best for themselves? Yes and no.

People may know what is best for themselves, but not always what is best for the nation. The emotional appeal to people is often the detriment to democracy, because it allows people to vote for who they trust, who they like, who “seems” like a good candidate. It allows voters to become subjective rather than objective, but also takes away their accountability as a democrat. Dahl, however, states that sustaining a polyarchic democracy is possible if – and only if- those who advocate for politics share a united belief. Therefore, once the masses are swayed, it is hard to override the wants of the People in a short period of time. It is through educating the younger generations of voters to keep informed that an educated democratic vote can be made.

Politics once had a dichotomous front – that was to say, East vs. West, North vs. South – but today, with globalisation at its expansion, politics has become a multi-polar game where the aspects traditionally defined as “grey aras” are now the new norm.

With Western liberalism on the rise and the push for humanitarianism toughens, democratic OECD nations have shifted focus from national economy to social justice; however, for Third World Countries or other OECD non-democratic nations, liberalism has been a gradual push through media, education, and travel. Technological advancements have brought the international arena out of the shadows, and it is partially for these reasons that democracies are reaching their limitations.

The gap, which democracies have been yet to fill, is that of cultural flexibility within education: as it stands in today’s era, many institutions structure social sciences as Bachelor of Arts or Master of Arts. Politics itself may have been an art, traditionally, if analogised by chess played with words: it was an art, a virtue, a reflection of character and integrity. Nowadays, however, politics has become so systemic that democratic education platforms should consider restructuring political science into a scientific method of studying rather than an artistic one.

Though it has been argued that the volatility of politics makes it hard to be defined as a science, those who have studied the scientific route of politics are well-versed in their ability to see conjecture and formula over emotion and reflection. Information has reached the stage where it is not facts and opinions that are in flux as much as interpretation. Politics has facts, it has opinions, but what it lacks when applied is interpretation.

Critics argue that “interpretation” is subjective; but science is clear in that when a hypothesis is formulated, the variables make up the solution. Conjecture can be formed based on pattern learning, and interpretation is a collection and process of data. (see Qualitative vs. Quantitative Data)  Having studied political science for years, and watched how it plays out in the world, I have come to realise that a gap political scientists need to emphasise more is that of culture. In a globalised world, “culture” is the determinant of how votes take place. Rogoff, in his analysis “Britain’s Democratic Failure” in regards to Brexit, stated that “a country should not be making fundamental, irreversible changes based on a razor-thin minority that might prevail only during a brief window of emotion”.

It is in this regard that nationalism is key to a successful vote, and arguably, nationalism is the antithesis of globalisation. With the information era pushing globalisation at a rate no renowned political scientist could ever predict (due to technological setbacks in the past), it is evident that democratic votes hold higher regard to emotion than cognition. Many democratic votes in this century have been swayed by creating a breeding ground of emotional frenzy whereby the arguments are one sided on both sides.

History shows us examples of where emotive language has succeeded because it catered to those who were not in positions to receive the education required to understand political language. Machiavelli instilled fear in his attitude that “it is better to be feared than loved,” (Cahn, 2005). Napolean Bonaparte moved the revolutionist in the French; Hitler manipulated the minds of the Nazi’s; Churchill, amidst the panic of ideological change during the Cold War. There are also recent examples such as how “Brexit has thrown the U.K’s two major parties into civil war”.[1]  It is evidenced by America with Trump’s appeal to the radical, barbaric, and competitive side of human nature (as philosophised by Hobbes, Rousseau, and Machiavelli), Clinton’s dual-sided arguments appealing to the freedom-hungry, autonomous, as well as self-interested side of human nature (as speculated by Locke, Mill, and Smith).

Yes, politics has become more systemic in the information era, and it is for these reasons that institutions (especially democratic ones) ought to reconsider how the social science courses are implemented, for the art of politics was the “old man’s game”; but today’s forward thinking generation of tomorrow’s world needs balance – the science of politics.

As a citizen of a democratic nation, it is your duty to keep the place in-check. It is not the government’s responsibility, it is not the government’s shortfalls, and it is not the government’s incompetence, because democracies are ruled by the People.

[1] Politics in the last two decades has become so systemic through the information era that it’s inevitable to be “surprised but not surprised” by the Brexit vote. As seen by the results, Brexit has, in itself, created a breeding ground of emotional frenzy whereby the arguments are one sided on both sides.

~Gordan

Colonialism in The Mask of Globalisation

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In this era, colonialism is understood as a historical paradigm, almost non-existent today. Or is it?

By definition, colonialism is the the increase, imposition and support of one country (predominantly Western – in history) that influences culture and language. Globalisation, however, is defined as having the spread and assimilation of combined cultures and languages. By these definitions, colonialism may not be seen in principle, but if one culture has leverage and advantage over another – measured by scales which are understood by the modern world, such as economic power, military strength and academic advancement – does this entail an underlying essence of colonialism?

One example would be that of Hong Kong, a former British colony, handed over to China in 1997. Near the end of the twentieth century, many foreigners still remained in Hong Kong, which evidentially influenced the city’s international relations as well as English (language) education. In this globalised era and society, English is undoubtedly a vital language to learn, but the method of enforcing its education in Hong Kong can – and in many ways, has – lead to the following social and psychological dilemma.

The method of teaching often requires students to use only English during NET (Native English Teacher) lessons, and students (or even teachers) are penalized for speaking Chinese during these classes. Though immersion is necessary when learning a second language, this is only effective if the student is immersed for at least a few hours a day, every day of the week. However, granted that in local Chinese schools NETs are floaters with no fixed class, students don’t experience the immersion necessary to bring their English to a standard demanded by parents and required by companies.

The mentality and methodology provokes the following predicament: having no Chinese (or their mother tongue) in the classroom psychologically eradicates students’ sense of identity as their feel that during those lessons, their own native language is inferior.

This underlying psychological embellishment results in the following:

  1. Kids, especially young learners, form the impression that NETs feel their own language – English – is more important than the students’
  2.  This ideology is supported by the majority of Hong Kong parents  who push and drill their kids to learn English fluently, which gives children the impression that everyone believes the English language is more important
  3. This impression then carries into adulthood: the formation of society and continuation of “traditional values”
  4. As follows, parents of forthcoming generations will perpetuate this mentality
  5. The example is evidenced by learning centres and educational companies in Hong Kong that refuse to include or use Chinese in their notes as parents believe it looks “cheap” and “tarnishes the companies’ reputation.” Bilingual textbooks – which is more productive for young learners and those with a weaker English background – are sold at a much lower cost, sometimes up to ten times less than English-only textbooks

Thus, is it necessary for students under the age of ten – without immersion- to use ONLY English during lessons?

By definition and historical examples, this form of Western domination is still controlling former colonies, both First World and Third World. Though the sociological argument can be made that the spread of the English language is a stepping stone towards globalisation, the psychological impact slowly abolishing students’ perception of the West is essentially a form of cultural suppression through linguistics: is this not cultural colonialism wearing the mask of globalisation?

Teacher Me

2012 US Elections

It’s gone, gone, gone
It’s time for things to get better
It’s time for things to move on.
~Ou Est Le Swimming Pool~

With the kick-off and onset for the 2012 US elections, one can only help but reminisce on the 2008 elections, where McCain and Obama came head-to-head in a domestic political war: Republicans versus Democrats. Though the last 2 years of term of office, it is evident that he has made an impact on the political field of United States and Globalisation, but how much of a change has he really made?

Considering the aftermath of eight years’ worth of “Bushism,” the pressure for Obama to make immediate change skyrocketed, and expectations were elevated. The Promise for Change which Obama had repetitively emphasized throughout his campaign in 2008 had the country hoping for more – and in offering hope for the nation, people are likely to feel included rather than overlooked.

Part of the reason the Democrats were in the lead two years prior is that Bush’s administration failed to comply to society’s demands for justice and progression. Though Republicanism itself is built on traditional and concrete (unwavering) values, George Bush and his administration turned out to be a disappointing testimony as the face of Republicans. The fact that the stronger players in the game – the main power players – had reached this higher level of success, many of the team felt that the existing system was already the best available option. However, in eight years of Bush’s office, society noticed that little was being done to accommodate their needs: Change was needed.

Obama’s role as a “change maker” appealed to a society desperate for a president who cared, a president who believed in change, a president who himself disputed the existing system. Had Obama stepped up any earlier than he had, society might not have been as anguished and forlorn, but taking into account the failures and disarrays the Bush Administration had left, Obama offered hope to a broken society.

Now that his term is at its mean, enough has materialised for one to speculate. Change, as Obama promised, has most definitely been made, but on what scale? Many would argue that he has not done all he has promised, however, bear in mind that Obama bears a stepping-stone mindset: to change the big, one must first change the small. By this, one might argue that not enough has been done reagarding taxes, the war in the Middle East, foreign policy etc. Though these issues have not been as heavily regarded today as it was with Bush’s Administration, Obama’s focus was on individual care: the Reformed Health Care Plan, refining the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” bill and the religious disputes between Islamics and Islamism.

All things considered, the social demands for Obama to “change the country” are derived from their expectation for him to “clean up Bush’s mess” at the click of a finger. With expectations set absurdly high, it is inevitable for society to be disillusioned and disappointed. And this disappointment comes demand for change, yet again.

Democracy focuses on change based on society’s demands, yet the irony is that society can only handle change when it is convenient – take the best, leave the rest. Republicans, on the other hand, do not account for variable change because (as stated above) pressure for change, in a republican government, come from below or even outside the circle of rule. Republicanism is built on fundamentally traditional values, thus it is pragmatic and realistic, but hypocritical and inconsiderate.

Democracy may appeal to society, because on paper the ideas and incentives revolve around its People. The People make the change, the People determine the system. At the end of the day, it’s an idealistic and utopian system of government, popular by demand and appeal, but impossible to satisfy (especially in highly populated regions like the US). Perhaps democracy isn’t all that it was set out to be, but on a smaller scale (small countries) it might turn out more efficient and effective, simply because fewer people means fewer demands; fewer demands means fewer changes; fewer changes means fewer adjustments; fewer adjustments means fewer complaints.

Thus, the upcoming US elections are likely to be taken over by Republicans, simply because of it’s “unwavering values.” These values are “convenient” and ancient, but have existed long enough for society to incorporate the institutions into everyday life: the institutions of the Republicans are legitimised by social compliance, and though society will realise sooner or later that the amount of control and influence each individual once had is slowly slipping away, stability will improve simply because the foundations are firmer and stronger.

Until then, this hypothesis will remain a conjecture until proven (or disproven) in the next few years.

You want me to come over but I got an excuse
Might be holding your hand but I’m holding it loose
~Example~