Nanci’s Blog

Democracy - Is there an alternative? 

July 25th, 2006

The Middle East has been back in the news (or did it not leave?) for the past week with the bombings in southern Lebanon. As usual the news is filled with analysts’ views as to the cause of the problem and potential solutions. Western world leaders have shared their opinions too about a democratic solution to the Middle East crisis.

What we, in the western world, often tend to forget is that it took literally hundreds of years for the form of democracy we know today to emerge. This was not an overnight process. And yet we expect countries in the Middle East and other parts of the world to become democracies just because we ‘know’ that this is the best solution. I sense a certain arrogance and moral rectitude behind this kind of thinking.

Have we even paused to think that a democratic solution is not something that may work in all parts of the world? While democracy ‘works’ in many countries, is it really the best solution for governing people? Some say that it’s the best we have today. I challenge this view because if we continue thinking along these lines we are never going to discover a better way of governing if we just sit back and accept that this is as good as it gets. Let’s face it; democracy has not prevented war, famine, poverty or disease from pervading this planet.

What is democracy anyway? The right to vote, the right to choose, the right to live freely? When I ask people what it is that they truly want in their lives, I am often met with silence. For those that can articulate something, I ask if they have a clear plan of action, the resources and commitment to make it happen and a timeline for achieving it; and the answer is often ‘no.’ So, if we are unclear as to what it is we want for ourselves, how can a democracy or any other form of government give it to us? Have we absconded part of our responsibility for our lives to our governments by asking them to take care of us and make decisions on our behalf?

Do not misunderstand me–I am not against democracy or a supporter of any oppressive system such as communism or dictatorships. What I am questioning is our passive acceptance that this is the best form of government available today and our self-righteous views and opinions of those who do not adopt this method of governing. Now, I don’t have an alternative solution for governments but what I do have is the way that I choose to govern my life. For me, that’s a more plausible and manageable place to start making a difference. Once I feel truly free (of other’s opinions, expectations, need to prove myself, owning things, fears etc.), then I have no need for a government at all or perhaps this will lead to a new form of governing.

Maybe one day we will become a self-governing planet with no leaders as we all take responsibility for living our lives purposefully and with integrity. Some may shrug this off as being idealistic, but it has been less than a decade since the internet and the mobile phone have become part of our lives. Anything is possible–all we need to do is show a willingness to be open to it.

An article by Thomas Friedman in the International Herald Tribune, 15 July 2006, inspired this writing.

Differences vs Similarities 

July 11th, 2006

For the past six months, Arcelor and Mittal Steel have been in the news. Mittal Steel, an Indian steel company made a hostile bid for Arcelor, a French steel company. During negotiations, things got ugly with Arcelor’s management calling Mittal [an Indian company run by Indian monkeys] and inferred that Mittal Steel made money through unscrupulous means. Arcelor then turned to a Russian steel company and planned to merge with them as they wanted to merge with a ‘truly European’ company.
After the announcement of the merger, Arcelor’s shareholders decided that they were not getting a good return on investment with the Russian deal and voted to go with Mittal instead. At the end of the day, Arcelor got both a lucrative deal and some of the prime management posts (CEO).
Here’s the thing, how would this entire deal and negotiations have been different if Arcelor initially looked for similarities with Mittal? Intrinsically, they are both steel companies which should have given them common ground to work with. But rather than focusing on the business benefits of merging the two companies, Arcelor’s management decided to focus almost entirely on the cultural differences–Indian versus French. The fact that Mittal is London-based, is one of the top five wealthiest people on the planet and is an erudite businessman, did not enter into the discussions.
How often do we behave in this manner? How would our lives and the state of this planet be different if we saw others first as people, with the same needs, desires and fears that we have, before labeling them through gender, nationality, size, height, hair color, eye color, dress etc? There are many books and courses on cultural differences and diversity. I think we should spend more time focusing on similarities. This will enable us to show less judgment and more understanding and compassion to others when we realize that in essence, they are merely extensions of ourselves.
Is there someone at work or a department that you view as different from you or your department? How would your relationship, method of working and results be different if you focused on what you had in common?




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