Of Kings and Ignorant Masses

A few might think it funny to hail a king in a land that is a supposed democracy, but I am not one of those few. On the way to Galle last Friday, as I cycled with Jerry, we passed a victory rally of sorts somewhere along the stretch of road between Balapitiya and Ambalangoda. There was loud classic Sri Lankan violin and tabla esque music; a woman was singing, hailing a great king.

Who this great king is, is anyone’s guess. But given the circumstances of Mahinda’s recent victory i’m guessing a lot of guesses would get it right.

Meg is of the opinion that a country like Sri Lanka would be better under autocratic rule, so long as the ruler is fair and just. I am inclined to agree, but good autocratic rulers these days are rarer than square wheels. Sri Lanka in essence is often accused to be a banana republic these days.

I am reading The Hamilton Case by Michelle De Krester and found this interesting passage of a Kalusudda lamenting the implementation of universal suffrage.

The British made a fatal error when they brought in Universal Suffrage. It might be plausible in Europe, but here, with our ignorant masses, what can it lead to but the disasters we’ve seen since the beginning of independence? Would you ask a child to operate on your appendix or a lunatic to advise you on your investments? Yet we entrust our choice of government to villagers with no discernment or finesse, no training in sustained analytical thought. Inevitably, their crude emotions carry the day. We all suffer the consequences.

But the premise of ignorant masses ruining a country is undemocratic amiright? If democracy is the rule of the majority then you can’t let a priviledged minority decide what is good for the whole country.  But when democracy gets messed up, you get something all too familiar; the election of a small number of people into power by the majority, who promptly proceed to abuse their station. So we anyway end up getting a privileged minority deciding what is good for the rest of us, through a process of majoritarian democracy. Catch 22.

Maybe this can be avoided with strong institutions staffed by incorruptible officials, but I’m wondering if we are too far down the road of immoral governance to be able  to switch back and start over now. The months ahead will reveal the character of our new king. Let us hope he is benevolent and kind to all. Otherwise its either put up or shut up, and get out only.

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9 comments
  1. N said:

    “no discernment or finesse, no training in sustained analytical thought” – I don’t think that’s entirely accurate. I’ve met and interacted wtih plenty of villagers who have those attributs and then some. What they lack is information, unbiased information or at the worst (what we urban elite have) biased information from a number of sources.

  2. Yep this is what I was saying a while back. You need educated and informed voters to have a proper democracy. Wut to Do Now? Improve education and remove general ignorance I say.

    • Anon said:

      So everyone that does not agree with you is, what was it, ‘uninformed’ and ‘uneducated’?

      Yet you want democracy.
      Pity…

  3. Whacko said:

    The bottom line i guess is that if democracy is your ethos then the majority, intelligent or no, have to have the biggest say, noh? That said, i agree that maybe with better education and a more robust and independent media, things may improve.

  4. TU said:

    Oh come on SF supporter.
    58% are ignornat you mean? How? Why? Is it because they don’t speak english and blog like you do? Is it because they eat Paan and not Mac burghers?

    Masses matter, minions like you don’t. Care to comment you ignorant little head?

    TU
    (www.taprobaneuncut.blogspot.com )

    • Whacko said:

      Masses matter, sure. That is a democracy. But eduction and strng institutions matter too.

  5. ‘ignorant masses’ knew who could/would defeat terrorists. pseudo elite in colombo did not.
    who is ignorant again?

  6. Nick said:

    Look dude, Fonseka lost. It’s time to get over that fact. What’s sad is folks like you supporting a military dictator like Fonny and yet cribbing about democracy.

    • Whacko said:

      come now, you can hardly say i base this post on SF. did you read it through? what does any support for SF have anything to do with this?

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