EDITORIAL: Egypt, History and Democracy

After thousands of years of civilisation, history has brought us to this point. Human good will has prevailed. Despite the evil figures that have come and gone, we find ourselves in a system where our voices are listened to: this is democracy (‘demos’ meaning ‘people’ and ‘kratos’ meaning ‘power’). People power has strongly shaped the history of the last 25 years, from the fall of communism in Europe, to the Arab Spring in the Middle East. Yet the safest and most stable democracies are not those that have come about by a violent revolution, but those that have evolved by the will of the people.

Democracy is not just a word. It is not purely a political system; nor is it purely an ideology. Democracy is a mentality. Populations must want change in favour of the majority having a say, not change in favour of anything that is different to the last government. Democracy cannot be forced on a population, nor can it be achieved overnight. Democracy requires the long term development of mentality until a point is reached where the people demand a system which is fair to all, not just to a small elite or social group.

It is for this reason that Egypt is in turmoil today. Nearly overnight the nation went from totalitarianism to its first democracy: a democratic revolution instead of a democratic evolution. It is distressing to see oppression in certain states, yet it is this oppression that plants the seeds for democracy to sprout. An external force cannot pull a plant out of this seed. However, what it can do is water this seed and create conditions that are conducive for its growth. An externally-backed assassination of a despot and externally-forced elections are examples of trying to ‘pull a plant out of a seed’. An environment of stability should be created and a proper education system made which teaches good morals, as ultimately it is these morals that make for the foundations of a democratic mentality.

Education is vital for democracy, as stressed by Franklin D Roosevelt: “The real safeguard of democracy, is education.” There is no stronger piece of evidence for this then to study the world’s first democracy: Athens. Athens was the hub of intellectualism and learning, and it is from these that democracy germinated. It is unlikely that the democratic revolutions of the Middle East will bear fruit as revolutions more often only destabilise the environment. Nations like those in the South Caucasus, on the other hand, could find themselves in a state of democracy sooner: as the Soviet-born generations grow older and the children born into freedom start to take the reigns of power, we will see more evolution.

We require a sense of patience to see democracy flourish: impatience is counter-productive. The UK is among the best example of an evolutionary democracy. Over the course of a thousand years it has gone from a despotic monarch to a democratic government, and the democratic mentality has become ingrained in the minds of the British. This is the safeguard of our democracy here. It is a mistake, however, to think we can extend democracy overseas overnight by one regime change. The peaceful growth of democratic mentality is what bears the most durable and secure flower.

— Vahe Boghosian

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