“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: democracy simply doesn’t work.” – Kent Brockman, The Simpsons
Tunisia was the biggest promise, a small chance to provide an example of smooth transition into legitimate democracy across the Arab world. No dice. Opposition politicians being assassinated. Egypt isn’t quite ready to accept the result of an election and the military is still allowed to act when the people call for change. (I’m very reluctant to say “on behalf of the people” because who knows just how widely the military’s actions are reflective of Egyptian citizens.)
I wrote a series of tweets this morning on the obsolesence of “treason” as a crime in countries (like the United States) that so proudly and loudly declare they’re based on defending freedoms, and that as a democracy the people rule the government that rules them. Accountability and transparency remain noble concepts but have become empty words. The United States has said that if they get their hands on Edward Snowden they will not seek the death penalty when he’s tried. I’m against the death penalty, bottom line, but even if I weren’t I would wonder why something that cost no one their life should be turned, by the state, into something that does. Treason doesn’t work with democracy and freedoms because everyone is allowed to say that they don’t like their country. The intent to aid and abet those who commit actual crimes against people or the state is separate from simply criticizing the nation. Exposing confidential information is a crime in itself, but nobody is holding anyone in the government body deciding to gather this information or keep it secret from the public accountable for their side of this crime. Exposing confidential information isn’t treason. It’s not a violent crime unless it’s done with the intention of driving the population towards violence, much like how war criminals are mass murderers who probably never killed a person directly but ordered it en masse. This too is not treason. Treason shouldn’t exist when there’s no absolute ruler and the freedom to speak against the state that is constitutionally bound to respect those freedoms.
This is just the first issue that shows how democracy has evolved into, or rather returned to, not-democracy with a good costume designer – or, if this is still considered democracy, that it’s not as perfect of a political system as we may think. I don’t mean that it was ever guaranteed to work perfectly, because that would require perfection of the citizens, but that it’s held in moral absolutism as the best political system needs to be seriously questioned. A democracy over 200 years going shouldn’t still charge people with treason.
Tomorrow (or later today; I’m in a writing mood): WTF Democracy Part 2