Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Democracy: It's All Greek

Democracy.

It's a nice word, isn't it? Brings up connotations of freedom, civility, and other utopian concepts. It reflects the ability of ours to choose the right goals, the right paths to those goals and the right people who will take us there.

Not many people know that the word "democracy" comes from two ancient Greek words, but as we all know, the ancient Greeks were also hopelessly romantic and idealistic. Today's flag-bearer for this ideal form of government is, of course, the "United" States of America. Once a democratic government is installed, freedom and humanity will automatically flower and grow. Milk and honey comes forth from the earth and spills over into everybody's homes, bringing joy and peace.

Given the existence of bigotry and xenophobia in the real world, especially when sanctioned by tradition, culture or radical religious figures, true democracy doesn't stand a chance in hell. In what many perceive to be autocratic regimes, leaders use religion and tradition to keep their subjects in comfortable mental bubbles, shielded from harsh reality, the existence of what lies beyond and the consequences of making wrong choices. Breaking through that bubble requires education and enlightenment, which are anathema to these malignant shepherds. To keep themselves relevant and in power, they have little choice but to keep their herds corralled and tightly reined.

This is the problem facing "recently-liberated" nations in hotspots around the world: the mental bubble was pierced too soon. Entire societies that have lived like corralled sheep for so long have been freed without being educated about the weight of their new responsibilities. They were basically told that they could initiate change simply by putting a piece of folded paper into a box.

Of course, things rarely work out that way. Guess what happens when the promised miracles don't happen.

Anarchy.

When order is replaced by chaos, the peddlers of this panacea are now regarded as quacks by unruly mobs. They see only ulterior motives in damage control and enforcement of the rule of law by the local authorities. Self-important, uncrowned and untitled autocrats tap into the newly-opened wellsprings of rage and discontent to further their own agendas.

Resulting in things and people going BOOM around the world.

Damned ancient Greeks and their romantic idealism.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

There Is No Spoon (at Work)

It seems most of my colleagues don't understand English. Warning signs have been dished out after spoons started disappearing from our pantry, and indicated that we would soon be bringing in stuff from home because management isn't going to replace them anymore. Another declared those who do not wash their cups after use were worse than kindergarten graduates.

Yet the trends persist.

The past few days I've had to use a knife to stir my coffee, pouring the ingredients into my mug with the precision of Jamie Oliver or Keith Floyd during one of their cooking skits. A knife. With a six-inch blade. One you could comfortably stab spoon-hoarders to death with. Somewhere in the sprawling office space where I toil, somebody fancies himself as Little Li of the Flying Daggers.

On the bright side, my coffee nowadays tastes much more bearable. You might even say it has an... edge.