The Resurrection of the Demons of Democracy and Angels of Autocracy as Peace Disruptors (Part 1)


Prof Hoosen Vawda – TRANSCEND Media Service

The Cancerous Pathogens of the Decline of Democracy and the Growth of Autocracy in Liberated Countries. [1]

The Highly Advanced Ancient Greek Democracy in Pollis: The Present Athens

This paper unpacks the intricate tapestry of human history, in which the pursuit of governance has often been a delicate dance between contrasting ideologies. On one side, the banner of democracy, with its promise of freedom, equality, and representation, beckons towards a utopian society. On the other, the allure of autocracy, with its promises of stability, authority, and order, casts a seductive shadow over the collective conscience. Both paths have left indelible imprints on the course of civilisation, triggering profound transformations, and at times, leading to unexpected confrontations, causing tremendous peace disruptions in any country.

In this, Part 1, of the series of publications on progressive erosion of democracy and emergence of autocracy, the author embarks on an exploration of the delicate equilibrium between the “demons of democracy” and the “angels of autocracy.” Each ideology presents its champions, its advocates extolling the virtues they embody, while critics emphasise their inherent flaws. Yet, in the labyrinthine landscape of governance, the resurrection of these ideological forces, in various forms and guises, has emerged as potent disruptors of global peace.  The resolute beating heart of democracy lies in the belief that power is derived from the people, as they wield the sacred right to elect their leaders and partake in shaping their destinies. The dream of a government “of the people, by the people, for the people” resonates as an aspiration of the highest order. However, the tale of democracy’s demons, which lurk in the corridors of democratic governance, either local, national or global, have not escaped notice.

The word “democracy” comes from two ancient Greek words: “demos” (δῆμος) and “kratos” (κράτος) “Demos” (δῆμος) means “people” or “citizens” in Greek[2]. It refers to the collective body of citizens in a city-state (polis) who have the right to participate in the decision-making process of the government. “Kratos” (κράτος) means “power” or “rule.” It denotes the authority or governance exercised by a particular group or individual.  When combined, “democracy” literally means “rule by the people” or “power of the people.” It refers to a system of government in which the citizens have the ultimate authority to make decisions and participate in the governance of the state.

At this juncture, it is necessary to define Democracy in the 21st century[3]. Democracy refers to a system of governance where power and authority are vested in the hands of the people. It is a form of government that emphasises the participation of citizens in decision-making processes, either directly or through elected representatives. While the core principles of democracy remain consistent throughout history, the concept has evolved and adapted to the changing dynamics of the modern world.  Key characteristics of democracy in the 21st century include:

  1. Representation: Citizens elect representatives through free and fair elections to govern on their behalf. These representatives are accountable to the people and are expected to act in the best interests of their constituents.
  2. Individual Rights and Liberties: Democracies uphold the protection of individual rights and liberties, such as freedom of speech, assembly, religion, and the right to privacy. The rule of law ensures that all citizens are equal under the law and have access to justice.
  3. Civil Society and Freedom of Press: A vibrant civil society, including independent media, plays a crucial role in holding the government accountable and providing a diversity of perspectives and information to the public.
  4. Checks and Balances: Democratic systems typically have a separation of powers among different branches of government (executive, legislative, and judiciary), which acts as a system of checks and balances to prevent the concentration of power.
  5. Inclusivity and Diversity: Democracies value inclusivity and diversity, respecting the rights and opinions of all citizens, regardless of their background, ethnicity, religion, gender, or other characteristics.
  6. Responsive and Adaptive: In the 21st century, the digital age has influenced democracy significantly. Governments and institutions are expected to be more responsive to the needs and aspirations of their citizens, leveraging technology to facilitate communication and engagement.
  7. Global Democracy: The 21st century has seen increased interconnectedness and globalization. International organizations and treaties play a role in promoting democratic principles at the global level.
  8. Challenges and Advancements: The 21st century has also brought challenges to democratic systems, including concerns about the influence of money in politics, the spread of disinformation, cybersecurity threats, and rising populism. Democracies must continuously adapt to address these challenges and protect the integrity of their institutions.

Democracy takes different forms and may vary across different countries and cultures. As societies and technologies continue to evolve, the concept of democracy will likely continue to adapt to meet the needs of the times.  Democracy is a dynamic entity, the concept of which has regularly transformed itself, over the eons, from the writings of the Greek philosophers in antiquity, to the current brand of democracy, in contemporary times.

The origins of democracy can be traced back to ancient times, with its roots found in several different civilisations. The key milestones in the development of democratic principles are:

  1. Athenian Democracy[4]: The city-state of Athens in ancient Greece is often credited with pioneering the earliest known form of direct democracy. In the 5th century BCE, Athens established a system where male citizens had the right to participate in decision-making through an assembly called the “Ekklesia[5].” They could debate and vote on laws and important matters of state.

The Kleroterion: An Ancient Athenian Random Jury Selector
Particularly characteristic of ancient Athenian democracy were its courts, composed of at least 201 male jurors selected from the citizenry of Athens. To form juries fairly and reduce the chance of corruption, a device called a kleroterion was used to select jurors randomly from the ten Attic tribes, immediately prior to a trial. Bronze tickets bearing prospective jurors’ names, the first letters of their fathers’ names and their demes, were chosen randomly from baskets and placed in the device’s slots, then selected (or not) using a system of white (Yes) and black (No) balls that dropped arbitrarily through a tube.
[3rd c. BC kleroterion, Museum of the Ancient Agora, Athens]

  1. Roman Republic[6]: While not a direct democracy like Athens, the Roman Republic (509-27 BCE) allowed citizens to elect representatives to the Senate and other offices. The Senate, in particular, played a significant role in shaping the Roman government and passing laws. This system was influential in later conceptions of representative democracy.
  2. Iroquois Confederacy[7]: Although not often mentioned in traditional Western historical accounts, the Iroquois Confederacy (Haudenosaunee) was a Native, First Nation, American confederation formed around the 12th century. It consisted of several tribes, and their governance structure was characterised by democratic principles, including representation by clan mothers and leaders elected by male members of the tribes.
  3. Medieval European Assemblies[8]: In medieval Europe, some regions had assemblies or councils where nobles and representatives from towns would convene to advise monarchs or discuss local matters. While these assemblies were far from modern democracy, they contributed to the evolution of democratic concepts over time.
  4. Enlightenment Philosophers: During the Enlightenment period in the 17th and 18th centuries, thinkers like John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Montesquieu developed theories that emphasized the natural rights of individuals and the idea of government by consent. Their ideas laid the groundwork for the principles of democracy that emerged later.
  5. American Revolution[9]: The United States’ founding in the late 18th century marked a significant milestone in the history of democracy. The Declaration of Independence (1776) and the U.S. Constitution (1787) were ground-breaking documents that established a republic with democratic elements, such as elections, separation of powers, and a Bill of Rights to protect individual liberties.
  6. French Revolution[10]: The French Revolution (1789-1799) brought about profound political changes in France, with the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789) asserting the equality and rights of citizens. While the revolution faced challenges and shifts in its form of governance, it contributed to the spread of democratic ideals.

Throughout history, the concept of democracy has continued to evolve and adapt to various social, cultural, and technological changes. Different societies have interpreted and implemented democratic principles in their unique ways, shaping the diverse forms of democracy seen around the world today.  Some examples of the origins of democracy are:

  1. Antiquity[11]: In antiquity, democracy emerged in ancient Athens as a direct form of governance where eligible male citizens had the right to participate in decision-making through the Ekklesia.[12] The Athenian democracy was characterized by citizen assemblies, open debates, and direct voting on laws and policies.
  2. Medieval Era[13]: During the medieval era, democracy was limited, and feudal systems were prevalent in many regions of Europe. While some places had assemblies or councils where nobles and representatives met, the political power was mostly concentrated in the hands of monarchs and feudal lords, limiting the scope for democratic principles.
  3. Ottoman Era[14]: The Ottoman Empire, which lasted from the 14th to the early 20th century, was an absolute monarchy with limited democratic practices. While certain institutions like the Imperial Council and local councils allowed for some level of consultation and representation, ultimate authority resided in the Ottoman Sultan and his appointed officials.
  4. India – Sultanates, Mughals, and Post-Independence[15]:
  • Sultanates: During the Delhi Sultanate (13th -16th centuries), governance in India was mostly autocratic. The sultans held significant power, and decisions were primarily made by the ruling elite, leaving little room for democratic participation.
  • Mughals: The Mughal Empire (16th -19th centuries) centralised power under the emperor, who wielded considerable authority. While some local governance structures allowed for limited input from nobles and administrators, true democratic principles were absent.
  • Post-Independence: After gaining independence from British rule in 1947, India adopted a democratic system of governance. The Indian Constitution, enacted in 1950, established a federal parliamentary democratic republic. India’s democracy is characterized by free and fair elections, separation of powers, and protection of fundamental rights. The President is the head of state, and the Prime Minister is the head of government. India’s democracy has witnessed significant political participation and periodic changes in government through elections.

In essence, democracy has evolved, as a dynamic force, over the centuries, with its practice varying significantly depending on the era and region. From the direct democracy of ancient Athens, to the modern democratic republics, the principles of democracy have continued to shape and influence governance across different historical periods.

there were many countries around the world that identified as democratic or had democratic elements in their governance. Please note that the political landscape can change over time, and some countries may experience shifts in their democratic status. A list of countries that were recognised as democracies in 2021:[16]

  1. United States of America
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Canada
  4. Australia
  5. Germany
  6. France
  7. Japan
  8. India
  9. Italy
  10. Sweden
  11. Norway
  12. Denmark
  13. Switzerland
  14. Finland
  15. Netherlands
  16. New Zealand
  17. South Korea
  18. Spain
  19. Ireland
  20. Belgium

This list is by no means exhaustive, noting that certain countries may be classified as as “pseudo-democratic” and there are many other countries with varying degrees of democratic practices. It is important to keep in mind that the definition and measurement of democracy can vary among different organisations and researchers. Some countries might be classified differently by various indices that assess democratic governance.  Comprehensive details, as well as, the current information on the democratic status of countries, reputable sources such as the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index[17], Freedom House’s Freedom in the World, report[18], or the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) [19]project, which regularly assess and monitor the state of democracy around the world, can be consulted, by the reader.

A democratic governmental body [20]typically consists of several essential components that work together to ensure representation, accountability, and the protection of individual rights and liberties.  The key, foundational components of a democratic, governmental body are:

  1. Elected Representatives: In a democracy, citizens have the right to elect their representatives through free and fair elections. These representatives may serve in various legislative bodies, such as a parliament, congress, or local councils, depending on the structure of the government.
  2. Constitution or Rule of Law[21]: A democratic government operates under a constitution or a set of laws that outline the framework for governance, the division of powers, and the protection of individual rights. The constitution serves as a fundamental document that all branches of government must adhere to.
  3. Separation of Powers: Democratic systems often employ the principle of separation of powers, which distributes governmental authority among different branches. These branches typically include the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each having specific roles and responsibilities to prevent the concentration of power.
  4. Executive Branch: The executive branch is responsible for enforcing laws and managing the day-to-day affairs of the government. It is usually headed by a president, prime minister, or monarch (in a constitutional monarchy). The executive branch is accountable to the legislature and the people.
  5. Legislative Branch: The legislative branch is responsible for making laws and representing the interests of the citizens. It consists of elected representatives who debate and vote on proposed legislation. The legislative branch is critical for democratic decision-making.
  6. Judicial Branch: The judicial branch interprets laws and ensures their constitutionality. It includes courts and judges who settle disputes, protect individual rights, and act as a check on the other branches to ensure they operate within the bounds of the law.
  7. Free and Fair Elections: Elections are a cornerstone of democracy. They must be conducted regularly, and citizens should have the freedom to vote without coercion or intimidation. Elections provide the means for citizens to hold their representatives accountable and express their preferences.
  8. Political Parties: Political parties are essential components of democratic systems. They represent different ideologies and compete in elections to form the government or serve as opposition, offering diverse choices to voters.
  9. Civil Liberties and Human Rights: Democracies uphold civil liberties and human rights, protecting the freedom of speech, press, assembly, religion, and ensuring equal treatment under the law for all citizens.
  10. Civil Society: A vibrant civil society consisting of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), advocacy groups, and the media plays a crucial role in a democracy. They provide channels for public participation, offer checks on government power, and help ensure transparency and accountability.
  11. Free Media: An independent and free media is vital for disseminating information, fostering public debate, and holding the government accountable. In democracies, media outlets should operate without government censorship or control.
  12. Rule of Majority with Minority Rights: Democracies often operate on the principle of the rule of the majority. However, it is equally important to protect the rights of minority groups and ensure that their voices are heard and their interests are considered.

These components collectively contribute to the functioning and legitimacy of a democratic governmental body, providing a system of governance that represents the will of the people and protects their rights and freedoms.

Several factors can promote the establishment and consolidation of democracy in a society. While each country’s path to democracy is unique, some common factors that contribute to the promotion of democracy include:

  1. Political Will: The commitment of political leaders to democratic principles and the peaceful transfer of power is crucial for the promotion of democracy. Leaders who respect democratic norms and institutions help foster a culture of democratic governance.
  2. Active Civil Society: A vibrant civil society with independent organizations, NGOs, and advocacy groups can advocate for democratic values, monitor government actions, and promote public participation in decision-making processes.
  3. Free and Fair Elections: Regular, transparent, and competitive elections are essential for democratic governance. Fair electoral processes allow citizens to choose their representatives freely, fostering accountability and legitimacy.
  4. Rule of Law: A strong legal framework and independent judiciary ensure that laws are applied impartially, protecting citizens’ rights and preventing the abuse of power by government officials.
  5. Protection of Civil Liberties: A democratic society respects and protects civil liberties, including freedom of speech, assembly, press, and religion. These freedoms allow citizens to express their opinions, participate in public discourse, and hold the government accountable.
  6. Education and Media Freedom: An educated populace and a free media are critical for informed decision-making and public engagement. Education helps citizens understand their rights and responsibilities, while a free media promotes transparency and accountability.
  7. Economic Development: While not a guarantee, a certain level of economic development can create conditions that favor democracy. A strong economy can lead to a more educated and politically engaged population, making democratic governance more sustainable.
  8. Decentralization of Power: Distributing power across different levels of government (local, regional, national) can enhance citizen participation and representation, fostering accountability and responsiveness.
  9. Protection of Minority Rights: Ensuring the rights and inclusion of minority groups is vital for a functioning democracy. Protecting minority rights promotes social cohesion and prevents discrimination.
  10. International Support: International organizations and democratic nations can support and encourage democratic transitions through diplomatic and financial assistance, monitoring elections, and promoting good governance practices.
  11. Cultural and Historical Factors: Cultural norms that value tolerance, compromise, and democratic ideals can positively influence the adoption and maintenance of democratic principles in a society.
  12. Conflict Resolution Mechanisms: Effective mechanisms for resolving conflicts peacefully are essential to prevent violence and support democratic stability.

Each country’s unique political, historical, and social context shapes the path to democracy. Promoting democracy is an ongoing process, and different factors may have varying degrees of influence depending on the specific circumstances of each nation.

The author has taken the liberty to coin the term “Pseudo-Democracy” for this publication. Pseudo-democracy, also known as illiberal democracy or hybrid regime, refers to a political system that displays some characteristics of a democratic form of governance, such as holding elections, but lacks certain essential components of a fully functioning and genuine democracy. In a pseudo-democracy, the appearance of democratic practices may exist, but in reality, the government’s actions and policies undermine democratic principles and institutions.

Key features of a pseudo-democracy may include:

  1. Elections without Genuine Competition: Pseudo-democratic regimes often hold elections, but the electoral process is flawed. There may be limited opposition, restrictions on opposition parties or candidates, and instances of voter intimidation or fraud that undermine the integrity of the electoral process.
  2. Limited Political Rights and Freedoms: Pseudo-democracies may restrict political rights and civil liberties, including freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to assemble. These restrictions inhibit the ability of citizens to express dissenting opinions and participate in the political process freely.
  3. Manipulation of Institutions: Pseudo-democratic governments may manipulate or co-opt independent institutions, such as the judiciary, media, and electoral commissions, to consolidate their power and suppress dissent.
  4. Concentration of Power: Pseudo-democracies often see a concentration of power in the hands of a dominant ruling party or leader. This concentration of power weakens checks and balances and undermines the principle of separation of powers.
  5. Lack of Accountability: Pseudo-democratic governments may lack meaningful accountability mechanisms, making it challenging to hold leaders and officials responsible for abuses of power or corruption.
  6. Inadequate Protection of Minority Rights: Pseudo-democratic regimes may fail to adequately protect the rights of minority groups, leading to discrimination and marginalization.
  7. State-Controlled Media: In pseudo-democracies, the media may be heavily influenced or controlled by the government, limiting the dissemination of unbiased information and independent journalism.
  8. Limited Freedom of Association: Restrictions on the formation of civil society organizations and independent NGOs can hinder the development of a vibrant civil society that acts as a check on government power.

It is imperative to distinguish pseudo-democracies from full-fledged authoritarian regimes. Pseudo-democracies[22] retain certain democratic façades, while authoritarian governments openly suppress democratic institutions and practices.  Pseudo-democracies can be a source of concern as they provide a semblance of democratic legitimacy while eroding democratic norms and principles over time. They often face criticism for their lack of genuine political pluralism, human rights abuses, and limited political freedoms.

The factors which are conducive to a progressive erosion of democracy, in any country,

can be analysed as follows:  The erosion of democracy in a country can occur gradually and may be influenced by various factors. While the specific circumstances may vary, several common factors can contribute to a progressive erosion of democracy:

  1. Erosion of Rule of Law: When the rule of law is undermined, it weakens the checks on government power. Politicians or leaders may disregard legal norms, manipulate the legal system, or engage in corrupt practices, eroding public trust in the judiciary and the fairness of the legal process.
  2. Political Polarization[23]: Increasing polarization and deep divisions within society can hinder constructive dialogue and compromise. Extreme partisanship can lead to gridlock, undermining democratic institutions’ ability to address the country’s challenges effectively.
  3. Election Manipulation: Manipulating elections, such as gerrymandering, voter suppression, or electoral fraud, undermines the legitimacy of the electoral process and weakens citizens’ faith in the democratic system.
  4. Media Manipulation and Disinformation[24]: Control or manipulation of the media can shape public opinion and limit access to unbiased information. Disinformation and propaganda can spread confusion, leading to a less informed and more polarized electorate.
  5. Attacks on Civil Liberties: Restricting freedom of speech, assembly, and association can stifle dissent and limit the ability of citizens to voice their opinions and hold the government accountable.
  6. Weakening of Civil Society: Intimidation, legal restrictions, or funding cuts to civil society organizations and NGOs can weaken their role in holding the government accountable and advocating for citizens’ rights.
  7. Centralisation of Power: Concentration of power in the hands of a few individuals or a dominant ruling party reduces checks and balances, leading to potential abuses of power and erosion of democratic principles.
  8. Weakening of Independent Institutions: Politicizing and undermining independent institutions, such as the judiciary, electoral commissions, or anti-corruption agencies, can erode their credibility and effectiveness in upholding democratic norms.
  9. Corruption: Rampant corruption undermines public trust in the government and can lead to a perception that the political system serves the interests of a few rather than the common good.
  10. Economic Inequality: Persistent economic inequality can lead to social unrest and a perception that the democratic system benefits only the wealthy and powerful, fueling dissatisfaction with democratic institutions.
  11. National Security Concerns: Governments may use national security concerns to justify curbing civil liberties and expanding executive powers, potentially leading to a decline in democratic practices.
  12. Populism[25] and Authoritarianism: The rise of populist leaders who reject democratic norms or advocate for strongman governance can undermine democratic institutions and principles.

The above listed factors are often interconnected and can reinforce one another. The erosion of democracy is a complex and multifaceted process, and addressing these issues requires a comprehensive approach that upholds democratic values and promotes transparency, accountability, and the protection of civil liberties.

Democracy can be considered an essential component of peace propagation. Democracies, by their nature, tend to contribute to more peaceful societies and international relations through several mechanisms:

  1. Conflict Resolution through Peaceful Means: Democracies are generally more inclined to resolve conflicts through peaceful negotiations and diplomatic channels. The presence of accountable and transparent institutions allows for open dialogue and the peaceful resolution of disputes, reducing the likelihood of resorting to violence.
  2. Stable Governance and Social Cohesion: Democratic governance often provides a stable and predictable environment for citizens. Regular elections and mechanisms for political change allow for the peaceful transfer of power, reducing the likelihood of internal unrest or violence associated with power transitions.
  3. Protection of Minority Rights: Democracies tend to respect minority rights, promoting social inclusion and reducing inter-group tensions. Minority groups are more likely to have their voices heard and their interests protected in a democratic system, fostering social cohesion.
  4. Independent Judiciary: Democracies often have an independent judiciary that upholds the rule of law. This ensures that disputes are settled fairly and impartially, preventing the escalation of conflicts driven by perceptions of unfairness.
  5. Media Freedom and Transparency: Free and independent media play a vital role in promoting peace by providing unbiased information, exposing wrongdoing, and encouraging public debate. Transparency in governance and access to information are essential for holding governments accountable and preventing the abuse of power.
  6. Human Rights Protection: Democratic societies are more likely to respect human rights and international law, reducing the risk of state-sponsored violence or aggression against other countries or their own citizens.
  7. International Cooperation: Democracies often engage in cooperative and peaceful relations with other democracies. The “democratic peace theory” suggests that democracies are less likely to engage in armed conflicts with one another, making the world safer overall.
  8. Development and Economic Stability: While not exclusive to democracies, a stable and inclusive political system can contribute to economic development and prosperity, which in turn can reduce the likelihood of internal conflicts driven by economic grievances.
  9. Prevention of Authoritarian Escalation: Democracies can act as a check against the rise of authoritarian regimes that may engage in aggressive or expansionist policies, thus promoting stability in international relations.

It is important to note that while democracies have inherent qualities that promote peace, not all democracies are immune to conflicts, and not all peaceful countries are democracies. Factors such as historical legacies, economic conditions, cultural norms, and international dynamics also play significant roles in shaping a country’s peace prospects.  Therefore, in summary, democracy’s emphasis on inclusivity, accountability, and peaceful dispute resolution fosters an environment conducive to peace propagation, both domestically and internationally. However, peace is a complex and poly-faceted goal, which requires continuous effort, cooperation, and understanding among nations and societies.  Democracy can be considered an essential component of peace propagation. Democracies, by their nature, tend to contribute to more peaceful societies and international relations through several mechanisms:

  1. Conflict Resolution through Peaceful Means: Democracies are generally more inclined to resolve conflicts through peaceful negotiations and diplomatic channels. The presence of accountable and transparent institutions allows for open dialogue and the peaceful resolution of disputes, reducing the likelihood of resorting to violence.
  2. Stable Governance and Social Cohesion: Democratic governance often provides a stable and predictable environment for citizens. Regular elections and mechanisms for political change allow for the peaceful transfer of power, reducing the likelihood of internal unrest or violence associated with power transitions.
  3. Protection of Minority Rights: Democracies tend to respect minority rights, promoting social inclusion and reducing inter-group tensions. Minority groups are more likely to have their voices heard and their interests protected in a democratic system, fostering social cohesion.
  4. Independent Judiciary: Democracies often have an independent judiciary that upholds the rule of law. This ensures that disputes are settled fairly and impartially, preventing the escalation of conflicts driven by perceptions of unfairness.
  5. Media Freedom and Transparency: Free and independent media play a vital role in promoting peace by providing unbiased information, exposing wrongdoing, and encouraging public debate. Transparency in governance and access to information are essential for holding governments accountable and preventing the abuse of power.
  6. Human Rights Protection: Democratic societies are more likely to respect human rights and international law, reducing the risk of state-sponsored violence or aggression against other countries or their own citizens.
  7. International Cooperation: Democracies often engage in cooperative and peaceful relations with other democracies. The “democratic peace theory” suggests that democracies are less likely to engage in armed conflicts with one another, making the world safer overall.
  8. Development and Economic Stability: While not exclusive to democracies, a stable and inclusive political system can contribute to economic development and prosperity, which in turn can reduce the likelihood of internal conflicts driven by economic grievances.
  9. Prevention of Authoritarian Escalation: Democracies can act as a check against the rise of authoritarian regimes that may engage in aggressive or expansionist policies, thus promoting stability in international relations.

While democracies have inherent qualities that promote peace, not all democracies are immune to conflicts, and not all peaceful countries are democracies. Factors such as historical legacies, economic conditions, cultural norms, and international dynamics also play significant roles in shaping a country’s peace prospects.  In summary, democracy’s emphasis on inclusivity, accountability, and peaceful dispute resolution fosters an environment conducive to peace propagation, both domestically and internationally. However, peace, itself,  is a complex and poly-faceted goal which requires continuous effort, cooperation, prayers and dedication to particular  of a religion.

Critics often raise a question: “Do Democracies give the citizenry power to transgress in various spheres of life, without respect for fellow citizens, example “Hate Speech”, disrespect of scriptural texts, incursions into holy indigenous sites and lands and destruction as well as vandalization of places of worship?  The answer is While democracies prioritize individual freedoms and rights, they also recognize the need to balance these freedoms with the well-being and rights of others and the broader society. The principle of “freedom of speech” in democracies does protect citizens’ right to express their opinions, even if they are controversial or unpopular. However, there are limitations to free speech when it infringes upon the rights and safety of others or incites violence. The author addresses some specific examples, globally.:

  1. Hate Speech: In democracies, hate speech that incites violence, discrimination, or hatred against individuals or groups based on their race, religion, ethnicity, or other protected characteristics is generally not protected under freedom of speech. There are legal provisions in many democratic countries to address hate speech and provide remedies for those affected by it.
  2. Disrespect of Scriptural Texts: Freedom of speech in democracies allows individuals to criticize or question religious texts and beliefs, as long as it does not lead to incitement or hate speech against religious communities. However, it is essential to respect the rights of others to practice their religion without fear of harm.
  3. Incursions into Holy Indigenous Sites and Lands: In democracies, there are laws and regulations to protect indigenous communities’ rights and sacred sites. Any incursions or actions that threaten indigenous lands or cultural heritage are subject to legal and societal scrutiny.
  4. Destruction of Places of Worship: In democratic societies, destruction of places of worship is illegal and considered a criminal act. Freedom of religion is a fundamental right, and places of worship are protected spaces for communities to practice their faith.

While democracies uphold individual freedoms, they also recognise that certain actions can have harmful consequences on others and the broader community. Therefore, democracies have legal and social mechanisms to address actions that infringe upon the rights and well-being of fellow citizens or specific groups. The precise laws and legal interpretations related to these issues may vary among different democracies, as they are influenced by cultural, historical, and legal traditions. The balance between freedom of speech and protection from harm is an ongoing and complex discussion in democratic societies, aiming to foster an inclusive and respectful environment for all citizens.

Politicians and governments can use various mechanisms to control media and manipulate narratives to influence public opinion and consolidate their power. These tactics can undermine press freedom, stifle dissent, and spread propaganda. Some common mechanisms used include:

  1. Media Ownership and Control: Governments may exert influence over media outlets through direct ownership or control by state-run media organizations. They can also indirectly control media by influencing media owners through financial incentives, regulatory favours, or other means.
  2. Censorship and Content Regulations: Governments may impose censorship laws or content regulations that limit the topics journalists can cover or control the dissemination of information deemed critical or unfavourable to the government.
  3. Legal Harassment and Threats: Politicians and governments can use legal harassment, lawsuits, or threats of legal action against media organisations and journalists to discourage critical reporting. Journalists and media organisations in democratic countries can face lawsuits, legal threats, or harassment from powerful individuals or government officials, discouraging critical reporting.
  4. Restrictive Laws and Licensing: Governments may introduce restrictive laws or licensing requirements that make it difficult for independent or opposition media outlets to operate, leading to a concentration of media in the hands of government-friendly entities.
  5. Selective Advertising and Funding: Governments can control advertising budgets and funding opportunities, favouring media outlets that align with their interests while withholding support from critical or independent media.
  6. Surveillance and Intimidation: Governments may engage in surveillance of journalists and media organizations, creating an environment of fear and self-censorship.
  7. Propaganda and Disinformation: Politicians and governments can use state-controlled media to spread propaganda and manipulate narratives to shape public opinion in their favour. Disinformation campaigns can also be conducted through social media and other channels.
  8. Media Blackouts and Shutdowns: During times of crisis or political unrest, governments may resort to media blackouts or shutdowns to control the flow of information and suppress dissent.
  9. Manipulation of Media Coverage: Governments can influence media coverage by providing exclusive access to official events and information, thereby shaping the narrative presented to the public.
  10. Divide and Conquer Strategies: Governments may attempt to create divisions within the media industry or among journalists, weakening their collective power and resistance against government control.
  11. Control of Advertising and Revenue: Governments may control advertising revenues, making media outlets financially dependent on the government’s support, making them susceptible to pressure or self-censorship.
  12. Scapegoating and Vilification: Politicians and governments may use media outlets to scapegoat certain groups or individuals, diverting attention from their own actions and manipulating public sentiment.

These mechanisms can have severe implications for press freedom, democratic accountability, and the right of citizens to access unbiased and reliable information. Media freedom is essential for a well-functioning democracy, as it allows citizens to make informed decisions and hold their governments accountable. Efforts to control media and manipulate narratives represent significant challenges to democratic values and principles.  The strategies mentioned above can occur in democratic countries as well. While democratic countries generally prioritise press freedom and respect for freedom of speech, they are not immune to attempts by politicians or governments to control media and manipulate narratives for various reasons. These attempts can undermine the principles of democracy and restrict citizens’ access to unbiased and reliable information as well as generate Peace Disturbance.  Media freedom and democratic values are not guaranteed solely by a country’s democratic status. Vigilance, public awareness, and an independent and robust media sector are essential in safeguarding press freedom and holding governments accountable. The presence of a free and diverse media is crucial for promoting an informed citizenry and maintaining the health of democratic institutions.

Below are listed some global examples of how the mechanisms of media control and narrative manipulation have been observed in so called democratic countries:

  1. Media Ownership and Control – Hungary[26]: In Hungary, media ownership is concentrated in the hands of pro-government figures, with close ties to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s [27]ruling Fidesz party[28]. Critics argue that this media landscape creates a biased representation of government policies and hinders independent journalism.
  2. Censorship and Content Regulations – Turkey: [29]Turkey has faced criticism for increasing censorship and regulations on media, especially after the failed coup attempt in 2016. Numerous journalists have been arrested, and media outlets critical of the government have been shut down under the pretext of national security.
  3. Legal Harassment and Threats – Philippines[30]: In the Philippines, journalists have faced legal harassment and threats, often from officials linked to President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, in response to critical reporting on issues such as human rights abuses and drug war-related killings.
  4. Restrictive Laws and Licensing – Russia[31]: Russia has introduced restrictive laws that stifle independent media. For instance, laws categorizing some independent media as “foreign agents” have led to funding restrictions and legal pressure on outlets that are critical of the government.
  5. Selective Advertising and Funding – Poland[32]: In Poland, the ruling Law and Justice party has been accused of channelling advertising revenues to friendly media outlets, while cutting funds to media organizations critical of the government.
  6. Surveillance and Intimidation – United States[33]: Concerns have been raised about government surveillance of journalists and whistleblowers in the United States, leading to fears of self-censorship and inhibiting the freedom of the press.
  7. Propaganda and Disinformation – India[34]: India has seen instances of misinformation and propaganda spread through social media and mainstream media, often fueled by political actors and aimed at influencing public opinion.
  8. Media Blackouts and Shutdowns – Sri Lanka[35]: In Sri Lanka, during periods of political crisis or unrest, the government has imposed media blackouts and blocked access to social media platforms as a means of controlling information.
  9. Manipulation of Media Coverage – Israel[36]: In Israel, there have been accusations of manipulation and control of media coverage by political figures to influence public perceptions, particularly during election campaigns.

These examples illustrate that media control and narrative manipulation can be observed in democratic countries across different regions. In Republic of China[37], such practices can have significant implications for press freedom, freedom of speech, and democratic accountability. It underscores the importance of safeguarding media independence, promoting transparency, and upholding the principles of democratic governance to maintain a vibrant and informed public discourse.

India has a diverse and vibrant media landscape with a mix of independent and government-controlled media outlets. While India is considered a democratic country with press freedom enshrined in its Constitution, concerns have been raised about media control and manipulation in recent years. Some key observations include:

  1. Media Ownership and Control: There are instances of media ownership being concentrated in the hands of a few influential individuals or corporate entities with close ties to political parties. Critics argue that this concentration of media ownership can lead to biased reporting and a lack of diversity in media voices.
  2. Government Influence: The government, particularly at the national level, exercises significant influence over state-run media outlets. State-controlled television channels and newspapers can be seen as amplifying government perspectives and policies.
  3. Censorship and Content Regulations: Some critics have accused the Indian government of BJP, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, of using legal means and regulatory bodies to exert control over media content. The Strategic Law Against Public Participation (SLAPP)[38], a legal mechanism, is used often to neutralise journalists who criticise the regime. There have been instances of self-censorship by media outlets to avoid government reprisals.  Most Journalists literally “Toe the Line” to survive, economically as well as physically.
  4. Online Media Regulation: In 2021, the Indian government introduced new rules for digital media and social media platforms. These rules require platforms to comply with government requests for content removal and establish grievance redressal mechanisms. Critics argue that these rules may impact freedom of expression and online media independence.
  5. Journalists’ Safety and Harassment: Journalists in India have faced threats, intimidation, and violence in response to their reporting, especially when covering sensitive political or social issues.
  6. Propaganda and Disinformation: India has seen instances of misinformation and propaganda spread through social media and some mainstream media outlets, often linked to political interests or ideologically driven entities.
  7. Media Blackouts and Shutdowns: During times of unrest or sensitive events, the government has been known to impose restrictions on media coverage and internet access in certain regions.

However, India’s media landscape is diverse, and not all media outlets face the same challenges. Some media organisations remain independent and critical of the government. However, there are ongoing debates and concerns about media control and manipulation, which can impact media freedom and the public’s access to unbiased and reliable information. As the media environment continues to evolve, media freedom and independence remain critical issues in India’s democratic discourse, requiring ongoing attention and advocacy from civil society, journalists, and citizens to safeguard democratic principles and the right to access accurate and diverse information.

In some countries, such as Malta[39], journalists have been murdered. the idea of controlling media through violence, including murdering journalists, This not only unethical and morally reprehensible but also a gross violation of human rights and fundamental democratic principles. The freedom of the press and the protection of journalists are crucial components of a healthy democracy.

The Demons of Democracy in Action, in the 21st century
Main Picture: United States, Washington: The Capitol under Attack during an Insurrection by Demons f Democracy, 06th January 2021, showing total anarchy at the Global Heart of Democracy.
Inset Top Left: Former President of the United States: Donald J. Trump:  War on Media Freedom and repeated scathing attacks on Journalists.
Inset Bottom Left: The Insurrectionist, A large pro-Trump mob attack the Capitol, Washington
Inset Bottom Right: Demon of Democracy; Jacob Anthony Chansley: Leader of the Insurrection Mob, AKA, QAnon Shaman. Subsequently sentenced to a 41 months prison sentence.
 Photo credits: Amanda Voisard for The Washington Post

Media freedom is a cornerstone of a functioning democracy as it allows for the dissemination of information, holding the government accountable, and fostering an informed and engaged citizenry. Intimidation, violence, or any form of harm directed at journalists undermine these democratic values, threaten press freedom, and have a chilling effect on other media professionals, leading to self-censorship and a decline in independent and critical journalism.

The safety and protection of journalists are of paramount importance, and attacks on journalists must be condemned and thoroughly investigated. Democracies should work diligently to ensure that journalists can perform their vital role without fear of violence or persecution. Such efforts include implementing strong legal protections for journalists, addressing impunity for crimes against journalists, and promoting a culture that values press freedom and the safety of media professionals.

Instead of controlling media through violence and intimidation, a democratic society should prioritize fostering an environment that supports media independence, protects freedom of speech and press, and encourages a diverse range of voices and perspectives in the media landscape. This allows for open debate, public discourse, and the free flow of information, all of which are essential for a well-informed and thriving democratic society.

Democracy in Africa has a diverse and complex history that dates back to prehistoric times. It’s important to understand that Africa is a vast and culturally diverse continent with a multitude of societies, each with its unique governance systems and political structures. As a result, there is no one-size-fits-all definition of democracy in Africa throughout history. Some key examples and themes are:

  1. Prehistoric Societies: Before written records, many African societies practiced forms of participatory decision-making and communal governance. Traditional African societies often operated through councils of elders or chiefs who consulted with their communities before making important decisions. While these structures may not have mirrored modern democratic systems, they exhibited elements of inclusivity and collective decision-making.
  2. Ancient Civilisations: Africa was home to several advanced civilizations that had various governance systems. For example, in ancient Egypt, the pharaoh ruled with centralized authority, but there were also advisory councils that influenced decision-making. Similarly, the Kingdom of Kush (in present-day Sudan) had a monarchical system with religious and administrative institutions that allowed for some degree of public participation.
  3. Indigenous Political Systems: Across the continent, indigenous political systems varied greatly, ranging from centralized monarchies to decentralized chiefdoms and tribal councils. These systems often emphasized communal values, consensus-building, and the representation of various social groups.
  4. Colonial Influence: The era of European colonialism significantly impacted Africa’s political landscape. European powers imposed their governance systems, often undermining traditional African political structures. Many colonies adopted authoritarian and centralized rule, which stifled democratic practices.
  5. Independence Movements: In the mid-20th century, Africa witnessed a wave of independence movements, leading to the decolonization of many countries. This period saw the emergence of new nation-states, and many countries adopted democratic principles in their constitutions. However, the reality of democratic governance varied widely across the continent.
  6. Challenges to Democracy: After independence, many African countries faced significant challenges in establishing and maintaining stable democratic systems. Factors such as political instability, economic struggles, external interference, and the legacy of colonialism have influenced the trajectory of democracy in various nations.
  7. Democratic Transitions and Consolidation: Despite challenges, there have been notable democratic transitions and consolidations in some African countries. Countries like Ghana, South Africa, and Botswana are often cited as examples of successful democratic transitions and relatively stable democratic governance.
  8. Contemporary Landscape: Today, Africa’s political landscape is diverse, with a mix of democratic, authoritarian, and hybrid systems. While some countries have made significant progress in promoting democratic principles, others continue to face political challenges and governance issues.

It is necessary to recognise that Africa’s history and political systems are multifaceted and cannot be summarized in a brief overview. The continent’s experience with democracy continues to evolve, shaped by historical legacies, contemporary challenges, and the aspirations of its people for greater political participation and accountable governance.

The prevalence of coups d’état in Africa, historically more than in Latin America, can be attributed to several interconnected factors. It is important to note that each region has its unique historical and geopolitical context, and the reasons for coups can vary significantly. Some key reasons that have contributed to the occurrence of coups in Africa are:

  1. Legacy of Colonialism: Many African countries experienced colonial rule, during which political institutions were often designed to serve the interests of the colonial powers rather than the needs of the local populations. After gaining independence, these countries faced challenges in building stable and inclusive governance systems, which contributed to political instability.
  2. Weak Institutions: Some African countries inherited weak state institutions at independence. Institutions such as the military and civil service were not always well-established or professionalized, leaving room for power struggles and coups.
  3. Ethnic and Tribal Divisions: Ethnic and tribal divisions have played a significant role in African politics. The manipulation of ethnic identities for political gain has fuelled conflicts and power struggles, leading to the destabilization of governments.
  4. Resource Curse: Rich natural resources can be a double-edged sword for some African countries. The competition for control over resource wealth can lead to corruption, inequality, and instability, making coups a means to gain access to resource wealth.
  5. External Interference: Cold War dynamics and competition between global powers often fueled conflicts and coups in Africa. Superpowers and other external actors have sometimes supported or instigated coups to advance their strategic interests.
  6. Economic Challenges: Economic problems, such as poverty, unemployment, and inequality, can create dissatisfaction among the population and pave the way for opportunistic military interventions.
  7. Authoritarian Rule and One-Party States: The prevalence of authoritarian rule and one-party states in some African countries limited political participation, leading to frustrations and the potential for coups as a means to change leadership.
  8. Leadership Crisis: Weak or ineffective leadership, corruption, and lack of accountability have contributed to political instability and coups in some African countries.
  9. External Debt Burden: In the 1980s and 1990s, many African countries faced a debt crisis, which led to economic hardships and social unrest, creating conditions conducive to coups.
  10. Lack of Democratic Culture: The transition to democratic governance is a complex process that requires a strong democratic culture and institutions. In some cases, a lack of democratic norms and practices has contributed to the recurrence of coups.

 The status of democracy can be influenced by a myriad of factors, including political, economic, social, and historical contexts. Some countries within Latin America, South East Asia and Africa regions have experienced significant democratic backsliding or challenges, while others have made progress in strengthening democratic institutions. Additionally, erosion of democracy is not limited to these three regions. Democratic decline and challenges to democratic governance have been observed in other parts of the world as well. For example:

  1. Europe: Some European countries have experienced concerns about the rise of far-right and populist movements, which have posed challenges to democratic norms and institutions.
  2. North America: While the United States and Canada have long-standing democratic traditions, both countries have faced polarization and challenges to democratic norms in recent years.
  3. Central Asia: Several countries in Central Asia have faced issues related to political repression, limited political freedoms, and lack of democratic transitions.
  4. Middle East: The Middle East has witnessed a mix of democratic movements and authoritarian regimes, with some countries experiencing significant political unrest and challenges to democratic governance.
  5. Eastern Europe: Some countries in Eastern Europe have faced democratic backsliding, with concerns about the independence of the judiciary and media freedom.

It is crucial to recognise that democracy is not a binary state but exists on a range of the spectrum, with different countries exhibiting varying degrees of democratic practices and challenges. The global state of democracy is continuously evolving, and it is essential to keep a nuanced perspective while assessing the state of democratic governance in different regions. Challenges to democracy can arise in any country, regardless of its geographic location, and addressing these challenges requires vigilance, civic engagement, and a commitment to democratic values and principles.  By definition a “binary state” refers to a simplified or dichotomous view of a concept, where it is seen as either one thing or the other, without acknowledging the possibility of intermediate or nuanced positions. In the context of democracy, a binary state would suggest that a country is either a democracy or not, with no recognition of the various degrees or levels of democratic practices that may exist in different countries. However, in reality, democracy exists on a spectrum, and countries can have varying degrees of democratic governance, ranging from strong and consolidated democracies to weak or illiberal democracies and even to outright authoritarian regimes. Acknowledging the complexity of democratic governance involves understanding that democratic systems can differ significantly among countries, and the quality of democracy can vary based on factors such as the rule of law, political participation, protection of civil liberties, and the level of checks and balances in the government. By recognizing the spectrum of democratic practices, we can better understand the strengths and weaknesses of different countries’ democratic systems, identify areas for improvement, and appreciate the diversity of experiences in the global pursuit of democratic governance.

Furthermore, governments have been known to use state security issues as a pretext to erode democracy and curtail civil liberties. It’s not uncommon for authorities to exploit security concerns and crises to justify actions that undermine democratic principles and consolidate their power. Some of the ways in which state security issues can be used to erode democracy include:

  1. Restriction of Civil Liberties: In the name of national security, governments may implement emergency measures that restrict civil liberties, such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and privacy rights. These measures can be excessive and prolonged, leading to a suppression of dissent and criticism.
  2. Increased Surveillance: Governments may justify increased surveillance and monitoring of citizens, both online and offline, as necessary to combat security threats. However, such surveillance can infringe on individuals’ privacy rights and be used to target political opponents or activists.
  3. Crackdown on Dissent: Security concerns can be used as a pretext to crack down on opposition groups, journalists, and civil society organizations under the guise of protecting national interests. This can lead to the harassment, imprisonment, or intimidation of those critical of the government.
  4. Weakening of Independent Institutions: Governments may use security issues to undermine the independence of institutions like the judiciary, electoral commissions, and human rights bodies. This weakens checks and balances, eroding democratic accountability.
  5. Increased Military Influence: In times of security crises, governments may rely more heavily on the military to address perceived threats. This can lead to the militarization of governance and a concentration of power in the hands of military authorities.
  6. Control of Information: Governments may use security concerns to control the flow of information and restrict access to independent or critical media outlets. This can limit citizens’ access to unbiased information and create a narrative that supports the government’s agenda.
  7. Expansion of Executive Powers: Security concerns can be used as justification for the expansion of executive powers, allowing the government to bypass legislative oversight and checks on its authority.
  8. Emergency Laws: The declaration of states of emergency or the passage of emergency laws during security crises can provide governments with broad powers to take actions that would not be permissible in normal democratic circumstances.

While governments have a legitimate responsibility to protect their citizens and ensure national security, it is crucial to strike a balance between security measures and the preservation of democratic principles. Safeguarding democracy in times of security challenges requires transparency, accountability, and respect for human rights, even as governments address security threats. Vigilance from civil society, an independent media, and international monitoring can help mitigate the erosion of democracy under the guise of state security issues.

The threats used by governments to erode democracy under the guise of state security can be perceived or genuine, and sometimes they can be a mix of both. The distinction between perceived and genuine threats is essential because it impacts how the government justifies its actions and whether the measures taken are proportionate and necessary.

1. Perceived Threats: Perceived threats refer to situations where the government perceives a threat to national security or stability, but the actual risk may not be as imminent or severe as portrayed. In some cases, governments might exaggerate or manipulate security concerns to consolidate power, suppress dissent, or advance their political agendas.

For example, a government might label peaceful protests or legitimate opposition movements as security threats, presenting them as potential risks to public order to justify heavy-handed crackdowns or restrictions on civil liberties.

2. Genuine Threats: Genuine threats refer to real and substantial risks to national security, public safety, or stability. These can include terrorism, insurgency, organized crime, or external threats to a country’s sovereignty. In such cases, governments have a legitimate responsibility to protect their citizens and address these threats.

However, even when the threats are genuine, the actions taken by governments in response must still respect human rights, adhere to the rule of law, and be proportionate to the actual threat. Overreaching or abusing power in the name of addressing genuine threats can still lead to the erosion of democracy and human rights. In some situations, governments may exploit perceived threats to create a narrative that justifies undemocratic actions, even when the actual threat is not as significant as claimed. It can be challenging for the public and international observers to discern whether a threat is genuine or perceived, as governments often control the flow of information and manipulate the narrative to serve their interests. To safeguard democracy and human rights, it is crucial for citizens, civil society, and the international community to critically assess government actions, demand transparency, and hold governments accountable for their decisions, especially during times of security crises. A robust and independent media, freedom of speech, and a strong rule of law are essential in ensuring a balanced and informed response to security challenges while protecting democratic values and fundamental rights.

Ensuring a sustained state of democracy requires active participation and engagement from the citizenry. Each individual, whether Joe or Jane, can play a crucial role in safeguarding and strengthening democratic principles. The specific measures that citizens can take in their personal capacities to ensure that hard earned democracy from colonial oppression is not eroded are:

  1. Voting and Participating in Elections: Participate in elections at all levels of government, from local to national. Voting is a fundamental democratic right, and it allows citizens to have a say in the governance of their country.  “Voter inertia and apathy is fatal in any country and leads to the premature demise of democracy[40].
  2. Stay Informed: Stay informed about current events, political issues, and government policies. Utilize diverse and reliable sources of information to avoid misinformation and make well-informed decisions.
  3. Engage in Civil Discourse: Engage in civil and respectful discussions with others, even those with differing political views. Encourage open dialogue and be willing to listen to different perspectives.
  4. Support Independent Media: Support and consume media from independent and diverse sources that adhere to journalistic principles of accuracy, fairness, and impartiality.
  5. Hold Elected Officials Accountable: Hold elected officials accountable by actively monitoring their actions, attending public meetings, and communicating with them about issues that matter to you.
  6. Participate in Community Activities: Engage in community activities, join local civic organizations, and volunteer to address local issues and contribute to the well-being of your community.
  7. Advocate for Human Rights: Advocate for human rights and social justice. Stand up against discrimination, injustice, and violations of fundamental rights.
  8. Promote Tolerance and Inclusion: Foster a culture of tolerance, respect, and inclusion in your personal interactions and communities. Embrace diversity and stand against divisive rhetoric.
  9. Support Civil Society Organizations: Support and collaborate with civil society organizations that work to protect democratic values, human rights, and the rule of law.
  10. Peaceful Protests and Petitions: Exercise your right to peaceful assembly and petition your government for redress of grievances. Participate in peaceful protests when necessary to voice your concerns.
  11. Educate Others: Share your knowledge and understanding of democracy with friends, family, and acquaintances. Educate others about the importance of democratic values and citizen participation.
  12. Respect the Rule of Law: Uphold and respect the rule of law. Be law-abiding and encourage others to do the same.

Sustained democracy is a collective effort, and each individual’s actions can contribute to the overall health of democratic institutions. By actively engaging in democratic processes, staying informed, and promoting democratic values, citizens can help ensure that democracy remains strong and resilient in their country.

Education on democracy is of paramount importance for children in schools. It plays a crucial role in shaping informed and responsible citizens who actively participate in democratic processes and contribute to the well-being of society. Here are some key reasons why education on democracy is essential:

  1. Understanding Democratic Principles: Education on democracy helps children understand the fundamental principles of democratic governance, such as rule of law, separation of powers, freedom of speech, and the importance of individual rights and freedoms.
  2. Civic Engagement: By learning about the democratic process, children become aware of their role as active citizens and understand the significance of voting, participating in elections, and engaging in community and public affairs.
  3. Respect for Diversity: Democracy promotes tolerance and respect for diversity. Education on democracy helps children appreciate different perspectives, cultures, and identities, fostering an inclusive and cohesive society.
  4. Critical Thinking: Democracy encourages critical thinking and the ability to question authority. Through education on democracy, children learn to evaluate information critically, make informed decisions, and discern between fact and opinion.
  5. Conflict Resolution: Democracy promotes peaceful conflict resolution and encourages dialogue to address differences. Education on democracy equips children with skills to resolve disputes respectfully and through democratic means.
  6. Building Democratic Institutions: A strong democracy relies on robust institutions. Education on democracy helps children understand the importance of independent judiciary, free media, and other democratic institutions that uphold the rule of law and accountability.
  7. Preventing Authoritarianism: Education on democracy can instill in children an awareness of the dangers of authoritarianism and the importance of protecting democratic values.
  8. Cultivating Active Citizens: By educating children on democracy, schools nurture active and engaged citizens who are willing to participate in civic activities, advocate for causes they believe in, and work towards positive change.
  9. Promoting Democratic Values at Home: Children often share what they learn in school with their families. Education on democracy can thus promote democratic values not only within schools but also in households and communities.
  10. Protecting Against Misinformation: Education on democracy helps children develop media literacy skills, enabling them to critically assess information and resist the influence of disinformation and propaganda.

A concerted effort and strategy on proper education on democracy lays the foundation for a thriving democratic society by empowering children with the knowledge, values, and skills necessary to participate responsibly, respect the rights of others, and uphold democratic principles throughout their lives.

The Athenian Bouleuterion:  Among the key civic buildings that lined the west side of the Athenian Agora, the Bouleuterion was the most important, representing the beating heart of Athenian democracy. Here, the Council of 500, with 50 members from each of the ten Attic tribes, met to vet and prepare state business before presenting it to the popular assembly (Ekklesia), which convened every ten days. The Council was established in 507 BC by the democratic reformer Cleisthenes. The Old Bouleuterion (now beneath the Metroon) was built c. 500 BC, while the adjacent New Bouleuterion dates to the late 5th c. BC. The Demons of Democracy and the Angels of Autocracy have literally destroyed Democracy over eons.  An analogous situation is operative in the 21st century, as well.

The erosion of democracy can lead to peace disruption in previously harmonious societies through various mechanisms. When democratic principles are undermined, it can result in the concentration of power, erosion of checks and balances, suppression of dissent, and a disregard for the rule of law. These factors can contribute to political instability, social tensions, and an increased likelihood of conflicts. Here are some ways in which erosion of democracy can disrupt peace in a society, illustrated with global examples:

  1. Polarisation and Social Divisions: Erosion of democracy can lead to political polarization, where societies become deeply divided along ideological, ethnic, or religious lines. This polarization can escalate tensions and increase the risk of violence. Example: The political polarization in the United States has led to increasing divisions and clashes between opposing factions.
  2. Ethnic and Identity-Based Conflicts: In societies where democracy erodes, politicians may exploit ethnic or identity-based differences to advance their agendas. This can fuel ethnic tensions and lead to conflicts based on identity. Example: The ethnic conflicts in the Balkans during the 1990s, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina, were exacerbated by the erosion of democracy and the rise of nationalist rhetoric.
  3. Repression of Dissent: Eroding democracy often involves the suppression of dissent and political opposition. Peaceful protests may be met with violence, and the lack of avenues for peaceful expression can lead to social unrest. Example: In Venezuela, the erosion of democracy has led to the suppression of opposition voices and peaceful protests.
  4. State Capture and Corruption: Erosion of democracy can lead to state capture, where powerful individuals or groups manipulate the state for their interests, often involving corruption. This can undermine public trust in institutions and lead to protests or civil unrest. Example: In South Africa, allegations of state capture and corruption under former President Jacob Zuma’s leadership triggered widespread public protests.
  5. Rise of Extremism: The erosion of democracy can create a vacuum of power and governance, leading to the rise of extremist groups that challenge the state’s authority. Example: The rise of extremist groups in the Middle East, such as ISIS, was partly fueled by political instability and erosion of democratic governance.
  6. Authoritarian Rule and Human Rights Violations: When democracy erodes, authoritarian leaders may suppress human rights, leading to abuses and unrest. Example: The erosion of democracy in Myanmar led to human rights violations against the Rohingya minority, triggering mass displacements and regional instability.
  7. Electoral Violence and Fraud: In eroding democracies, electoral processes may become marred by violence and electoral fraud, undermining the legitimacy of governments and increasing the risk of conflicts. Example: Electoral violence in Kenya after the 2007 elections led to widespread unrest and loss of lives.
  8. Weakening of Democratic Institutions: The erosion of democratic values can weaken institutions responsible for conflict prevention and resolution, leaving societies vulnerable to internal conflicts. Example: The weakening of democratic institutions in Sri Lanka contributed to prolonged internal conflicts.

In all these examples, the erosion of democracy has contributed to peace disruptions, ranging from social unrest to violent conflicts. Maintaining strong democratic institutions, upholding the rule of law, and fostering inclusive and accountable governance are essential for promoting peace and stability in societies.

The economy plays a significant role in sustaining democracy in any country. A stable and thriving economy can contribute to the overall health and longevity of democratic governance. Key roles that the economy plays in supporting sustainable democracy are:

  1. Economic Growth and Stability: A strong and stable economy fosters confidence among citizens, and foreign investors alike, reduces economic anxieties, and promotes trust in democratic institutions. Economic growth generates opportunities for individuals, reduces poverty, and enhances overall well-being, making people more invested in the democratic system.
  2. Reducing Inequality: A well-functioning economy that addresses income inequality and promotes social mobility can create a sense of fairness and inclusivity, which are essential for maintaining public support for democratic governance.
  3. Funding Public Services: A healthy economy generates tax revenue that funds essential public services, including education, healthcare, infrastructure, and social welfare programs. Access to these services contributes to social cohesion and citizen satisfaction with the democratic system.
  4. Job Creation and Employment: A robust economy provides employment opportunities, reducing unemployment and social tensions. Low levels of unemployment can lead to a more stable society and contribute to citizens’ trust in the democratic process.
  5. Private Sector Development: A thriving private sector creates opportunities for entrepreneurship and innovation, driving economic growth and diversification. A dynamic private sector can enhance civic engagement and empower citizens through economic participation.
  6. Fiscal Responsibility: Sound economic management and fiscal responsibility by the government are crucial for maintaining public trust. Transparent and accountable fiscal policies ensure that public resources are used wisely and efficiently, enhancing democratic legitimacy.
  7. Investment in Education: A strong economy can afford investments in education, which fosters an informed and engaged citizenry. Education equips citizens with critical thinking skills and enhances their ability to participate actively in democratic processes.
  8. Freedom from Economic Coercion: A diverse and resilient economy reduces the risk of economic coercion by powerful entities. Citizens are less likely to be manipulated or influenced by economic interests that undermine democratic decision-making.
  9. Economic Security: Economic security, including access to basic needs and social safety nets, contributes to political stability and reduces the potential for social unrest or political extremism.
  10. Responsive Economic Policies: Economic policies that respond to citizens’ needs and promote inclusive growth are more likely to receive public support and strengthen democratic governance.

The relationship between the economy and sustainable democracy is dynamic and multifaceted. While a strong economy can enhance democratic stability, a democratic system that promotes transparency, accountability, and good governance also contributes to a conducive environment for economic growth. The interplay between the economy and democracy underscores the significance of balanced policies that address both economic and political considerations for the overall well-being of a nation.

Critics of democracy often state that autocratic states experience more enduring peace than democratic nation. We do not hear of protests and civil disobedience in Saudi Arabia, UAE and China. There appears to be a state of pervasive peace evident in the aforementioned countries.  However, it is essential to approach this question with nuance and recognize that the relationship between governance systems, peace, and stability is complex and multifaceted. While some autocratic states may appear to experience a state of relative peace and stability, it is essential to consider the broader context and factors contributing to this perception.

  1. Repression and Control: Autocratic states often employ strong measures to suppress dissent and maintain control over their populations. This can lead to a surface-level appearance of peace, as protests and civil disobedience are swiftly quelled and dissenting voices are silenced.
  2. Limited Freedom of Expression: In autocratic states, the freedom of expression and media are heavily restricted or controlled. This limits the visibility of social unrest and political dissent, giving the impression of pervasive peace.
  3. Authoritarian Control: Autocratic leaders wield significant power, and their decisions are not subject to democratic checks and balances. This centralized control can lead to quick decision-making but may not necessarily reflect the will of the people or address underlying societal issues.
  4. Economic Stability and Control: Some autocratic states have been able to achieve economic stability and growth due to centralized control over resources and policies. Economic stability can contribute to a perception of peace, but it may not address issues of social inequality and political representation.
  5. Suppression of Opposition: Opposition parties or political dissenters may face severe repercussions, leading to a lack of political competition and, at times, creating a facade of societal harmony.

However, it is crucial to recognize that the apparent peace in autocratic states may not necessarily translate into genuine stability, social cohesion, or long-term peace. Some potential downsides of autocratic rule include:

  1. Lack of Political Representation: Citizens’ voices and interests may not be adequately represented in autocratic states, leading to social discontent and underlying tensions that could erupt in the future.
  2. Social and Economic Inequalities: Autocratic rule may exacerbate social and economic inequalities, contributing to long-term societal grievances.
  3. Lack of Transparency and Accountability: The lack of transparency and accountability in autocratic governance can lead to corruption and mismanagement of resources, which may destabilize the country over time.
  4. Potential for Unpredictable Leadership Changes: Autocracies often depend heavily on the personal authority of a single leader. Leadership changes, whether due to death or other unforeseen events, can lead to political instability and uncertainty.

In contrast, democracies, while not immune to protests and civil disobedience, offer mechanisms for peaceful and orderly resolution of conflicts through dialogue, the rule of law, and electoral processes. Democratic systems typically allow for more inclusive representation, transparency, and accountability, which can contribute to enduring peace and stability.  It is crucial to remember that peace and stability cannot be solely measured by the absence of protests or civil disobedience. Sustainable peace requires addressing underlying societal issues, promoting inclusivity, ensuring human rights, and fostering meaningful dialogue and participation. Ultimately, the quest for genuine and enduring peace requires a careful consideration of the complexities of governance, social dynamics, and human rights in both autocratic and democratic contexts.

Another question raised is that what needs to happen in previously autocratic countries, for them to become democratic nations? Do we need a violent regime change with revolution, as the former Russian Empire to Soviet Union, in order to transform from an autocratic, Tsarist Regime to Communism under Stalin and Lenin and now to a one party state under Putin.

The transformation of previously autocratic countries into democratic nations can be a complex and multifaceted process that does not necessarily require a violent regime change or revolution. Each country’s path towards democracy is unique, and the specific steps and challenges involved depend on its historical, cultural, and political context. Here are some key factors and steps that can facilitate the transition from autocracy to democracy:

  1. Public Demand for Change: Sustained public demand for democratic reforms is often a catalyst for transformation. This demand can manifest through peaceful protests, civil society activism, and demands for political representation and accountability.
  2. Inclusive Political Dialogue[41]: A willingness by both the ruling authorities and opposition groups to engage in inclusive and constructive political dialogue is crucial. This dialogue should address grievances and seek common ground for democratic reforms.
  3. Political Reforms: Undertaking political reforms that promote democratic principles, such as free and fair elections, separation of powers, independent judiciary, and protection of human rights, is vital for democratization.
  4. Civil Society Empowerment: A vibrant and independent civil society can act as a watchdog, advocating for democratic reforms and holding the government accountable.
  5. Respect for Rule of Law: Establishing the rule of law is essential for ensuring that laws apply equally to all citizens and that government actions are governed by legal principles.
  6. Media Freedom: A free and independent media is crucial for providing accurate and diverse information to citizens, fostering transparency, and holding those in power accountable.
  7. Political Participation and Education: Encouraging political participation and civic education can empower citizens to engage actively in democratic processes and decision-making.
  8. Transitional Justice[42]: In countries with a history of human rights abuses, implementing transitional justice mechanisms can help address past grievances and build trust in the democratization process.
  9. International Support: International actors can play a role in supporting democratization efforts through diplomatic engagement, technical assistance, and aid for democratic institutions.
  10. Leadership Commitment: Political leaders’ commitment to democratic values and willingness to implement reforms is crucial for successful democratization.

Regarding violent regime change, it is not the only path to democratization, and it often comes with significant human and social costs. Violent transitions can lead to instability, and the outcomes may not always result in a sustainable democratic system. Many successful transitions to democracy have occurred through peaceful means, such as negotiated settlements, reforms led by incumbent regimes, or transitions through elections. The transformation from the Russian Empire to the Soviet Union and the subsequent developments under Stalin and Lenin followed a unique historical trajectory and was marked by complex and turbulent events. While revolutions have been a part of some democratic transitions, the context and dynamics of each situation are distinct, and violent revolutions are not the only way to achieve democracy.  In essence, the transition from autocracy to democracy involves a careful balance of political reforms, public engagement, and commitment from various stakeholders. A peaceful and inclusive approach that addresses underlying issues and incorporates democratic principles is often more sustainable and conducive to lasting democratic governance.

The Bottom Line is that in the halls of democratic governance, the very essence of diversity can become a double-edged sword. The proliferation of pluralistic voices can degenerate into echo chambers, where political factions entrench themselves in unyielding ideologies. The resultant polarisation and division sow seeds of discord, challenging the pursuit of collective harmony, causing Gross Peace Disruptions.  As we navigate the contours of governance in the 21st century, the resurrection of the demons of democracy and angels of autocracy as peace disruptors looms ever-present. The interplay between these opposing forces shapes the destiny of nations, forging a path that can lead to prosperity or peril. Understanding their dynamics is a call to action, an invitation to chart a course that celebrates the essence of freedom, embraces the tenets of accountability, and beckons towards the pursuit of a lasting peace that transcends ideological bounds. In this intricate dance, the fate of humanity rests, seeking balance amidst the tumultuous embrace of democracy and autocracy.

As the demons of democracy and angels of autocracy engage in their intricate dance, “The Dance of Disruption” [43]the entity of Peace is in Peril and the delicate fabric of peace becomes entangled in their embrace. The interplay between these opposing ideologies yields a complex landscape of sustained Peace Disruption. The polarisation and division fuelled by democratic demons can engender a toxic atmosphere, wherein the pursuit of power overrides the pursuit of peace. A fragmented society, embroiled in political enmity, to the accompaniment of perils of divisive politics becomes a fertile ground for unrest and social upheaval, eventually resulting in Peace Disruption.  The author expresses caution that while the angels of autocracy may present an image as a delusion of national stability, the foundations upon which such stability rests can be precarious. The suppression of dissent and absence of accountability may mask underlying tensions, ready to erupt, violently as a volcanic inferno of discontent.  However, in such scenarios, the Quest for Balance, is not only prudent, but mandatory, as no autocratic and oppressive regimes last forever.  The end is inevitable, as witnessed repeatedly, within the Egyptian antiquity[44], The Brutally Conquering Roman[45], The Marauding Mongol[46], The Lavish Ottoman[47], The Glorious Mughal[48], The Communist Soviet [49]and The Feudal, Japanese Dynastic empires[50], in the past.

The Solid Pillars of Democracy leads to Sustainable Peace, while the Demons of Democracy and Angels of Autocracy are ceaselessly eroding them.


[1] Personal quote by the author, July 2023







































[40] Personal quote by author July 2023













Professor G. Hoosen M. Vawda (Bsc; MBChB; PhD.Wits) is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment.
Director: Glastonbury Medical Research Centre; Community Health and Indigent Programme Services; Body Donor Foundation SA.

Principal Investigator: Multinational Clinical Trials
Consultant: Medical and General Research Ethics; Internal Medicine and Clinical Psychiatry:UKZN, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine
Executive Member: Inter Religious Council KZN SA
Public Liaison: Medical Misadventures
Activism: Justice for All

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 31 Jul 2023.

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