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PostThoughts on Democracy; A Visit to the Philippines (Massoud Malek, USA, 10/13/14 4:26 am)
In 2004, I visited a beautiful country with friendly people. For three weeks, I zigzagged around the Philippines, where I saw poverty with happy faces. In most countries, if you travel in a bus between two cities, usually they show you movies, but in the Philippines, they put music, and everyone sings along. Every year, Philippines exports thousands of singers to China, Hong Kong, and other Asian countries.
In his 8 October post, Bienvenido Macario wrote: "The US Senate illegally, irresponsibly and prematurely granted ... the 1946 Treaty of Manila on 22 October 1946."
If you cross the San Juan river in Manila, you may enter a world of abject poverty. Are half a million slum dwellers of San Juan river who are forced by the government to take their poverty somewhere else, better off than the poor residents of San Juan, Puerto Rico? Would self-determination improve the sluggish economy of Puerto Rico? To both questions my answers are no.
Democracy is a concept invented by Ancient Greeks and European bourgeoisie. In reality, to less fortunate members of a democratic society, the concept is just some abstract and fuzzy idea. In a democracy not everyone could enjoy freedom. Even in America, where democracy was planted at the inception of its self-determination, many citizens have little use for their democracy. For example, in a cold winter, homeless residents of New York, Chicago, or Detroit would rather be in jails than wandering freely on streets, or sleeping under the stars, cardboard boxes, or bridges. These free street wanderers do not care at all about the First or Second Amendments.
India with its 1.2 billion citizens is often called the greatest democracy in the world. Ask Indians if they would mind giving up their hard-earned independence by becoming part of the United States of America, and I am convinced that the majority of them who are actually poor would say "no." Now, if you ask Chinese citizens if they would like China to be part of India, a country that unlike China, has citizens who enjoy freedom in their democracy, and as you would suspect, the answer would overwhelmingly be "absolutely no."
In theory, I disagree with Bienvenido's statement that Puerto Ricans under Americans are luckier than independent Filipinos, but since we live in a world of reality, I completely agree with him. In the last nine months about 65,000 Central American children left their homelands to cross the US border in order to become illegal aliens. To them, it is better to live with fear as an undocumented resident in a democracy than starve or die in a lawless land.
Are Palestinians lucky to live under the occupation of the only democracy in the Middle East? Should we feel sorry for Saudis who live in the most undemocratic society in the world? Are Crimeans better off under the Russian flag than when they were Ukrainian citizens? Would Syrian Christians and Alawites be able to retain their heads once the Syrian dictator is toppled by ISIS or the Free Syrian Army? Spain became a Constitutional monarchy after the dictator Generalissimo Francisco Franco left this world to reach the afterlife. Is it too early to expect this newly democratic country to rectify its flawed constitution and let Catalonians decide whether they want to be part of Spain or establish their own democracy?
In Greece, the birthplace of democracy, the policy-making has shifted from the government to a joint council between the Ministry of Finance and a trio of European bureaucrats (Troïka). All meaningful decisions are made by a handful of bureaucrats, half of whom are neither Greek citizens nor elected by the public. Even protestors have realized that protesting can be futile. How do you define Greek democracy?
After asking myself these questions, I am finding out that the concept of democracy appears fuzzier now than when I started this post.
By the way, if you visit Manila, make sure to visit its famous cemetery, where living souls guard departed souls.
JE comments: Which do you choose, rich or free? Most of the world's people would answer "yes." Martin Storey has sent a link to Aesop's fable, The Dog and the Wolf. I'll post it later today to refresh our memories.
I simply must visit the Philippines someday.