Just crossed my mind that democracy and liberalism are actually strange to what I will call, for want of a better description “naked human nature” typically exhibited mostly by men. Democracy essentially requires sharing power, liberalism entails renouncing absolutism, and to some extent, fatalism and dogmatism. Liberalism also promotes individualism and individualism abhors both control of the mind and body.
It is not unusual to see a sizeable number of those in power in democratic countries seeking to enlarge their powers to whittle down the powers of institutions that are meant to act as checks and balances on their exercise of power. Some of them, if given the chance, would gladly transmogrify into dictators, arbitrarily wielding the power of life and death, and becoming the sole institution of state.
It is worse in Africa, most of the democracies existing there are pseudo democracies where the president or whoever is at the apogee of power is bigger than existing institutions of state. He is a smorgasbord of dictatorial tendencies. In no time, any term limit in the law is removed. He becomes a life president who’s reign is periodically validated by sham elections. He holds sway until he is violently removed by another usurper.
Many people, if given the chance, want to dominate and suppress the will of others. They want to control the mind and life of others. In doing this, they are aided by culture, religion, beliefs, capitalism, communism etc. Take communism for instance, people’s minds are straight-jacketed. The supreme leader thinks for everybody and decides what’s good or bad for the people. Indirectly, the supreme leader is actually the people’s god – they worship him and he has the power of life and death – he is the state personified. Does this remind you of anyone, yes – Kim Jong-un of North Korea.
Capitalism on the other hand gives a false sense of hope to people. It normalises and validates a few people cornering humongous resources at the expense of others by allowing those few to continue exploiting and controlling the others and the others too tagging along in the belief that they too would one day have the opportunity to exploit others and accumulate resources they cannot exhaust in an infinite lifetime.
Culture, religion and beliefs are also essentially used to control and dominate people. Patriarchy for instance is to essentially and perpetually dominate women by men. Devoid of cultural and religious beliefs and physicality, what is the difference between the mental abilities of men and women? Probably none, yet men get more rewarded for performing the same task as women, even in situations where the women are doing better.
The Taliban in Afghanistan are only using religion to cloak their enforcement of patriarchy. Islam only prescribed a virtuous life for both men and women. It allows women to seek knowledge and to trade. Khadijah, Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) wife, was a very successful merchant who was richer than the Prophet. She was in fact his employer and was about fifteen years older than him. That was a woman who lived and practiced Islam over a thousand years ago. Where did the Taliban get their belief that women must be suppressed? Definitely not from the Quran.
The same thing with the religious right in America – I call them the American Talibans. Left to them, the only noble offices a woman could attain would be those of a “wife and a mother” and may be the chief executive of the kitchen. From these backgrounds, it is not difficult to understand why to them a woman should have no control over her body. Since she ‘belongs’ to one man or the other, everything about her should be decided by men. No matter the circumstances of an unwanted pregnancy, she should keep it. Ironically, they are only concerned about the pregnancy, they do not care about whatever happened to the resultant baby.
Religion is also used to perpetuate leaders in office and control followers. To some religions, political and religious leaders should never be questioned by citizens or followers or be made accountable because they were made leaders by God, that they should be left to God for God to deal with them. The problem here is that God doesn’t respond on time to mundane earthly things and if leaders are not held accountable, things may deteriorate beyond redemption.
People would also use any means to perpetuate any advantages unjustly gained over others. This brings to my mind institutional racism, common in most places and particularly glaring in America. With the abolition of slavery, other means (legislative and policy) were devised by Whites to perpetually keep Black people in check. At a time, through Jim crow laws, Black people could not vote or attend the same schools as their White counterparts. The biggest source of generational wealth in America is property. The government and the system made it very difficult through a policy called redlining for Black people to participate. They were equally targeted with loans with very high rates. All done, just to subjugate them and render them second class citizens.
What I mentioned in the last paragraph is similar to what the Fulani tribe is doing in Nigeria, especially in the middle belt. They successfully used the military to turn Nigeria from a federal state to a unitary one. During military rule which was dominated by the Hausa Fulani, most powers belonging to regions and state were taken to the centre and that state of affairs was codified into the 1979 and the 1999 constitutions, thus legally codifying what the military took by force, making it legal for the resources of one region to be given to another that did not contribute anything to it.
Thus, as Thomas Jefferson said, it is true that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
(C) Ola Animashaun, 2021
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