Shocking news: democracy not a universal remedy

Maybe it’s a seasonal thing, but not a day seems to pass in mid-2013 without at least one newspaper column declaring – as if the idea were original or insightful – that democracy is not the solution to all problems. The sentiment doesn’t even qualify as banal. Nothing is the solution to all problems: money isn’t; happy, loving families aren’t; excellent schools aren’t; perfect weather isn’t; even peace, love and understanding probably wouldn’t be; abundant and great food isn’t.

Exhibit 1 in support of this is shown here at the right. The North Indian thali at Woodlands restaurant in Tsimshatsui is a treasure. The culinary genius lies in enhancing the range of dazzling flavours and sensations by rejecting an entire class of ingredients (meat, as it happens). Does it follow that the culture behind this follows through with, say, decent graphic design? Still on a South Asian food kick, I recently grabbed a pack of popodoms. The product is fine. The packaging comprises a grotesquely horrible portrayal of a boy, a rabbit and a scary-looking meal. India: great food, and a democracy – more or less – but lousy commercial artwork.

The Global Times today assures us that democracy is not a panacea for Egypt’s woes. The Arab world seems to surpass even Africa (with which it shares the curse of artificial colonial boundaries) when it comes to being impervious to good governance. Tribalism, misogyny, authoritarianism, cronyism, an infantile inability among public figures to lose an argument, every bad economic policy you can think of, and then – as if you needed to add outright poison to the stew – Salafism, anti-Shiism and the other nihilist outputs of Islam. Egypt is better than many.

Closer to home we have South China Morning Post columnist Alex Lo, who does a sort of Beijing-sympathetic-but-not-pro-Communist, pluralistic-but-not-pro-dem act (there must be a Bronze Bauhinia Star in it somewhere). Today, he gravely informs us that in neither practice nor theory does democracy guarantee calm.

Whoever said it did? If anything, democracy is designed to bring disagreement into the open and give a government with a legitimate mandate the ability to make and implement decisions. Why do the pro-Beijing crowd always blather on about harmony and consensus? Because they have to live in a fantasy land where the Communist Party is infallible, and any so-called problems are figments of malicious opponents’ imaginations, or the doings of their evil foreign friends. ‘Democracy doesn’t solve all problems’ is a code for ‘If we all shut up and sweep crap under the carpet, everyone will be happy and smiling’. One of these statements is true, indeed trite; the other false and a pale attempt to excuse bad and/or despotic rule.

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20 Responses to Shocking news: democracy not a universal remedy

  1. Joe Blow says:

    anti-Shiism ?

    No no no, the correct word is ‘anti-Shitism’.

  2. Sid (ex-LTP) says:

    Spot on for the demolition of poor Alex Lo, who doesn’t seem to know which side of the fence to sxit on, nor which side his baguette is buttered.

    But I’m a bit worried when I see another of Dr Bela’s tactics (strategies?) resurfacing on this august page, in the present instance the adoption of apparently oppposing positions. Today you provide a spirited but nuanced defence of the concept of democracy, whereas yesterday….

  3. Bela Lugosi says:

    Hong Kong people are permanently frustrated. “Wenn man das Wesentliche verloren hat, hat man alles verloren.” If you have lost the essential, you have lost everything. Part of the essential is of course freedom. They all own each other.

    Woodlands once played an Indian version of Hokey Cokey when I was there. With shrill girl chorus. Imagine that. They ought to have the Ring Cycle on of course. The Immolation Scene.

    All SCMP columnists are whores. No need to go into it.

  4. Sojourner says:

    Alex Lo was harmonised a while back.

    Alcohol is the solution to all problems.

  5. Nury O'Vines says:

    I once visited Woodlands circa 1988 (“Let vegetation feed the nation !”). Then it turned out they didn’t serve beer either. That was my last flirtation with vegetarianism.

  6. maugrim says:

    Ssshhh, Woodlands is great, now everyone will know. There are some strange ironies in life. We have a protest, ostensibly demanding democracy, passing by hordes of domestic helpers, who are often unfairly looked down upon, yet even their home countries have democratic elections of sorts, yet HK’ers ‘can’t be trusted’. Its also good to hear the black hair brigade frothing about ‘imported ideologies from the West that are incompatible with Asian values etc’ forgetting that Communism was initially a wholly European ideology.

  7. Sojourner says:

    @ maugrim

    Free market capitalism is also a western invention, but that hasn’t stopped Mainland China from adopting a bastardised form of it with naked abandon.

  8. Singapore Sling says:

    Bring back the lash and beat the hell out of the next pro-dem who breaks ranks.
    (Well – it works pretty well in Singapore … that’s why there’s no democratic party there)

  9. Oneleggoalie says:

    People should not insult whores…the pretty ones are very decent…can’t think of anything racist to say today sorry…

  10. Oneleggoalie says:

    …good article tho…sorry…

  11. Old Timer says:

    If you just added “We’re off to Woodlands!” to the bottom of that Propaganda poster, they could open branches all over China.

  12. The Regulator says:

    Steroids may well build muscle such as in your picture of joyful workers; but that sort of steroid-induced muscle leads to heart attacks.

  13. Thus spoke Cerebos says:

    Ah. Woodlands. South Indian thali so much better. Has anyone else noticed they recently switched the menus to all Chinese?

  14. Chopped Onions says:

    “The most honest relationship you’ll ever have with a woman, is with a whore!” said a very wise old china hand to me many years ago. The years have proven him correct.

  15. AHW says:

    I’ve been buying that brand of popadums for years… I always thought it was a woman, but now I look properly at it, I realise you’re right and it’s a boy. And the rabbit completely passed me by!

    Just goes to show that great design can often be wasted.

  16. Sid (ex-LTP) says:

    AHW, I still think it might be a girl!

  17. PCC says:

    Girl, I think.

  18. P.A. Crush (Sha Tin) says:

    @ “If anything, democracy is designed to bring disagreement into the open and give a government with a legitimate mandate the ability to make and implement decisions.”

    Oh you mean like Tony Blair’s decision to invade Iraq after a million people had taken to Britain’s streets telling him not to do it?

    Sorry I am not convinced!

  19. Jason90 says:

    The British people voted Tony’s party out of office….

  20. P.A. Crush (Sha Tin) says:

    @Jason90 ” The British people voted Tony’s party out of office”.

    No they didn’t! They voted Gordon Brown’s party out of office. All too late!

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