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The Death of D. E. M. O’Cracy

By Rajesh C. Oza Email By Rajesh C. Oza
October 2012
The Death of D. E. M. O’Cracy SATYALOGUE
with PostModern Gandhiji (PMG)

An advice column offering the Mahatma’s perspective on modern dilemmas


Dear PMG,

I’m contemplating NOT voting in this year’s presidential election. I don’t find either candidate compelling and believe that not voting is also a democratic expression. Part of the problem for me is that both Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney are quite similar: both are Harvard-educated, both seem to be decent family guys, both are moderate with the former slightly left of center and the latter slightly right of center. And, of course, both have had significant contributions to quite similar health care policies, though it seems that in order to get through the Republican primary Mr. Romney has recanted his accomplishment in Massachusetts.

So my dilemma is why bother to vote when in essence we get the same man.

Dear Friend,

“Under democracy, individual liberty of opinion and action is jealously guarded.” (M. K. Gandhi)

If democracy is to thrive, then, indeed, individual liberty of opinion and action must be jealously guarded. Democracy dies a slow death if individuals choose not to vote. Gradually they disenfranchise themselves and give up their voices. In becoming voiceless, they give far too much power to those in office. And in the blink of an eye, democracy becomes monocracy or dictatorship.

Suddenly the slow death of millions of non-voting citizens becomes the rapid rise of an autocrat. Even those leaders socialized into a democratic ethos can fall prey to this temptation to the iron fist of control. This is not some distant concern about banana republics. War-time America has perilously come close to this form of non-democratic governance (like George W. Bush, who enabled the indefinite detention of September 11 suspects, even that great democrat, Abraham Lincoln, suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War). And in the mid-1970s, India became Indira when Mrs. Gandhi invoked so-called Emergency powers to consolidate her base and silence her opposition.

While symbolic, the following 1975 obituary from The Times of India darkly hints at the cost of inaction and the loss of truth and liberty: “D’Ocracy D.E.M, beloved husband of T. Ruth, loving father of L.I.Bertie, brother of Faith, Hope and Justice, expired on June 26.” Independent India’s darkest hour lasted nearly 21 months between June 26, 1975 and March 21, 1977. But the sly obituary (including the “D’Ocracy” typo – it should have been O’Cracy), attributed to Ashok Mahadevan, has lived long in the annals of protest.

A vote can be a form of alignment or protest. Of course it is relatively easy to vote when you are in strong alignment with a candidate’s politics. But if you feel strongly that the two men at the top of the ballot are unacceptable, it is your duty to protest: vote for a third party; or write-in your favorite candidate. But vote. Be not silent.

[Dr. Rajesh C. Oza serves as a consultant to organizations and individuals requiring change leadership. We invite questions for consideration in the PMG column at raj_oza@hotmail.com.]


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