Democracy: A Foreign Concept
April 12, 2017
Democracy – one of the words most foreigners associate with America, or the ideal of America. The United States had gained much acclaim by proclaiming freedom, not only in the historical sense of declaring independence from the British but also by making free speech, the freedom to protest peacefully, varying religious practices etc. legal. The American way of thinking has been coated with liberal sentiments. However, as one’s opinion is subject to various facets of the media, it can not truly be free of biased influence. The modern world relies heavily on media imaging and the norms and stereotypes created to illustrate certain insisted upon topics. It seems that the duty of most journalists has ceased to revolve around providing the public with accurate information, but instead, to fashion a picture necessary to create a certain opinion. To give an example, we might look at the controversial matter of the election of Donald Trump. There was a general consensus that it was extremely unlikely that he would be appointed as the 45th President of the United States. It appears as though the whole country was ill-informed.
You see, in America, you do not get an annual report of the birthday of the Queen of England, nor coverage of the wedding of Sri Lanka’s royal highness, nor even a report of whether or not any country in the world has suffered a natural catastrophe in the past week. You do not even have more than two minutes detailing a terrorist attack in France or other EU countries. Often, when I watch the news I am amazed by the lack of information on global affairs. The “freedom of speech” utilized by the media seems to contradict the “freedom to unbiased information”.
This suffocates free thought and the ability to have and defend a concrete opinion in a free forum and/or debate. Moreover, this type of profiling of one country and its areas of influence somewhat resembles the type of propaganda utilized by the former Eastern Bloc, both towards the leaders of popular parties and states not within their area of influence.
Thus, perhaps the typical American leans towards ignorance – not by choice, but by lack of available alternatives. After all, news coverage, which focuses mainly on U.S. affairs and political expectations, creates certain stereotypes that most average Americans are “ignorant” of what goes on in the world. This sentiment, of course, is rendered null when you look at all the conflicts the U.S. is trying to resolve – from war in Syria to hunger in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, even these good-intentioned actions seem ill-informed at times. On one hand, some of these efforts are accomplished through various US-based NGOs (Non Government Organizations). These organizations provide superficial solutions to issues like the shortage of teachers and educators in a given country or the lack of drinkable water in another, yet more permanent solutions imposed by the U.S. might disrupt the balance between the fight for basic human rights and outright intrusion into another country’s inner policy. In recent years, the U.S. has come to teeter on the thin border between what it means to be the defender of basic human rights and freedoms, and subverting those freedoms and rights in the effort to uphold both principles in areas outside of the formal governance of the United States.
Now, by this point, you are more than likely asking yourself why do I care or why should this concern me?
To answer, I will provide a quote by Thomas Jefferson: “I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”
In other words, an ill-informed man is a helpless man – and when more than half of the modern world idealises the country that nurtured the ill-informed, regards it as a pillar of modern democracy, one begins to wonder whether the American ideal has become limited not because of lack of freedom or choice but because of the inability to use those freedoms to their fullest.