Democracy, loosely defined as for the people by the people, has long been a fantasy of developed countries for the Middle-East and North Africa. Though it would be heart-warming to think that this goal is purely altruistic, this is not the case. There are economic motives to consider amongst many other variables which contribute to the pressing desire to spread democracy. All the same, it has been something that the United States alone has spent billions on procuring. One question is, how much closer are we than when we started this experiment to ‘liberate’ this region of the world? Another question is, does the United States feel they are getting their money worth? Yet another would be is this form of governance even possible? It is this question that intrigues me most.
It’s reactionary to think this last question was certainly on the minds of our leaders before initiating a war on Iraq or, better yet, before commencing with outsourcing democracy to begin with — especially considering those same leaders were not focused on spreading democracy for the benefit of humanity as a whole. This is highlighted by ignored intelligence reports specifying why democracy would not take root in Middle-Eastern countries. It seems frivolous to even address the facts about U.S. appointment of dictators in these countries for national gain.
The first is the lack of separation between church and state. This has been fueling sectarianism as well as inequality among the sexes and races throughout the Arab world. If the United States adopted a similar attitude towards public and private life, our country would look a lot more like those torn by civil violence. As a country, we are fortunate to have this ingrained in the U.S. Constitution. But never take one’s governance for granted; a look at India in the 1960s compared to today is a stark insight into what happens when power goes unchecked. While most sentiments from this region of the world is a passive one towards the US, the majority of populations there will not adopt American style Democracy. Instead, the focus will be on the European style. All the same, there are two major hindrances within the populace from achieving the goals of democracy, if in fact that is what the majority truly want. We cannot infer that this is their desire for several reasons, but the two hindrances mentioned above are the biggest obstacles to achieving populace-controlled governance, and one feeds into the other.
The second obstacle is equality. If and when the separation of church and state occurs in a Middle-Eastern country, still there will be the need on a personal level, for all to treat women as equal citizens. Legislation must be passed to ensure this. As it stands, in some countries in this part of the world women are not allowed to vote, become educated, or voice equal opinion in mixed company. The garb is just a symbol of oppression so long as it is mandated.The real oppression goes much deeper, all the way to the individual’s psyche and must be reversed for liberty and freedom to thrive.
If the people truly want change there as the revolutions indicate, then steps to reverse the inherent racism and sexism are mandatory. Women should no longer require escorts. Other races or religious affiliations should not be second-class citizens. The police states need a priority shift so as to not enforce old cultural stigmas. Corruption must be fought against in both government as well as in the streets. The region has much work to do in order to shift from violence to cooperation — and while it may appear that the citizens desire this as seen by their actions of the last decade if they achieve ‘democracy’ by voting in representatives, without addressing the above concerns, they will never have true equal participation in a system that celebrates ‘by the people, for the people’.
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