‘Unruly Politics is in itself a political intervention into development studies in the sense that it seeks to explore questions and modalities /spaces of action, which mainstream development studies has for the large part failed to consider’ (Khanna 2013)
When I was growing up my grandmother once told me ‘charity begins at home’. As I went on into mainstream education I was met with this same phrase, now from my teachers. I ignored it, seeing it as just elderly talk seeking to channel us in an orderly, old-fashioned manner.
As I grew to be a young man it became apparent what exactly was meant by the phrase ‘Charity begins at home’. I began to realise that if I am to tell any other person to be good to the other, I must carry or understand some principles of what being good to others is. These principles should have come from home from my parents, grandmother/father or my guardian and to a greater extent they should be practising to those principles themselves.
What am I saying to you anyway?
As a prospective development practitioner I understand the urgent need for democracy. In our different disciplines I am sure we have all once spoken and discussed about democracy and we have even gone further in asking or seeking the ways of how democratic spaces can be created, how those in developing world under autocratic regimes can be assisted towards such reforms. We speak of accountability, responsibility, transparency and other principles to be adhered to. INTERESTING STUFF INDEED! But before we go out there, have we really looked close to home? Have we checked whether we do not keep skeletons in our closets! Are we preaching what we practices? Are we walking the talk, in the context of Institutions we derive from and that are committed to make a difference and lasting change is it really happening?
There was a REVOLUTION a month or so ago and contentious issues were discussed. A referendum was held. One of the matters that proved to be of concern among the parties involved was the issue of DEMOCRACY. What type of democracy though? Maybe one of the referendum questions that came out with a resounding 71% of a yes vote could shade a light:
Do you think that IDS should be run as a horizontal, direct democracy where values of equality, diversity, and healthy debate are strived for?
Not necessarily finger pointing at IDS. I will use that question and the results as a base-line study in the matters of democracy across board. This issue of direct democracy relates to all Institutions that have a mandate to produce practitioners like (me) us who would then go out there “preaching” democracy! “So it should be a norm adopted from home”. So far I have learnt that democracy is at the core of development. I have heard “The talk of politics and Institutional Reforms in the Developing world”.
In order for some reform to happen we need to understand the philosophy of government, societies, institutions and organisations that have the power to make decisions or policies on behalf of the people. By understanding the attitude, only then can we hold the key to unlock the mystery that would help in the process of alleviating poverty? In my view Representative Democracy or hierarchical can not achieve this for at least we have witnessed that it has been an uphill battle in trying to achieve in societies or countries where powere is centralised and people have no power to say how the services are provided.
Why I Resent Representative Democracy
Reading, Robert Michels book written in 1911,’Political Parties’ where he argues that most representative systems deteriorate towards an oligarchy or particracy. This is technically known as the “Iron Law of Oligarchy”. However, (Adolf Gasser 1943 ed 1947)compared Representative democracies which are stable as to the unstable Representative democracies in his book “Gemeindefreiheit als Rettung Europas”. Adolf Gasser came to the conclusion that for a representative democracy in order to remain stable, unaffected by the “Iron Law of Oligarchy” certain requirements has to be followed. He said that
· Society has to be built up from bottom to top. As a consequence, society is built up by people, which are free and have the power to defend themselves with weapons.
· These free people join or form local communities. These local communities are independent, which includes financial independence, and they are free to determine their own rules.
· Local communities join together into a higher unit e.g. a canton.
There is no hierarchical bureaucracy.
· There is competition between these local communities e.g. on services delivered or on taxes.
Adolf’s propositions are more or less echoing the principles of Direct democracy that which i think we need for us to be progressive.
Direct Democracy the way forward
I understand that direct democracy is a solution to bridging gaps across institutions and create a dialogue for all stakeholders and the masses to participate in decision making.
Direct/Horizontal Democracy! Why does it matter? And to whom it matters? Direct democracy is mainly build with three main components and these are Participation – widespread participation in the decision making process by the people affected;
Deliberation– a rational discussion where all major points of view are weighted according to evidence;
Equality – all members of the population on whose behalf decisions are taken have an equal chance of having their views taken into account.
Why I think direct democracy matters “empirical evidence from dozens of studies suggests deliberation leads to better decision making” thanks to Cornelius Castoriadis, the fore thinker of direct democracy. If government, institutions and organisations provide open, democratic spaces where ideas can be discussed challenged, debated, deliberated and policies co-created, where transparency, responsibility and accountability are observed. Then development has a potential of reaching climax phase. I dream of a society that is free from acute poverty and where individuals have a say on how their problems can be solved, without a representative having to speak for them. Participation of citizens matters.
Democracy matters to you and me and it matters to us. It matters to the guy/lady who is struggling to get out of poverty, because someone out there made a policy that does not address his or her problems. Only when we can be given a chance to say! or if we can be asked! ‘Our opinion’.
There is a phrase that keeps haunting me, ever since I attended one of the participatory sessions delivered by one of the participatory Guru, Robert Chambers, where he asked a question. “How does it feel not to be consulted?” Before anyway could come up with an answer, Robert exclaimed,
“ASK, THEM”!! “ASK, THEM”!!
You might wonder who them refers to. It’s the PEOPLE, it’s you and I. Direct democracy involves talking to people, listening to their opinions and having to deliberate to make decisions that are inclusive.
If you don’t and people feel that they are oppressed, a moment of TRUTH will be created, an EVENT will be awaiting and eventually a REVOLUTION will erupt.
Institutions that we tape knowledge from should help us understand democracy much better, perhaps by practising it, as I have said earlier “charity begins at home and politics happens out there”
Politics and Development are embedded concepts and hardly separate.
By Pros (MA Poverty and Development)