The US hits the empty drum of democracy

Since the United States began hosting the annual Summit for Democracy as a way to counter what it perceives to be authoritarian regimes, the West has made a greater effort to distinguish China from developed Western nations by focusing on the narrative of democracy versus authoritarianism. This approach is a reflection of the US’s Cold War mindset and shows how desperate it is to get support from other Western nations in order to create a front against China. However, the action also makes clear the US’s underlying concern about its eroding global power. The Western narrative that pits democracy against authoritarianism is based on dichotomous thinking and stems from a “us versus them” mentality. According to American political scientist Samuel P. Huntington, “true enemies cannot exist without true friends.

 

We cannot adore who we are unless we despise who we are not.” It is necessary to identify foes before one can identify friends. This binary way of thinking has its roots in Christianity’s monotheistic exclusivity, which regards non-believers as heretics. This way of thinking also applies in the US when it comes to creating alliances against nations that are seen as enemies, especially those in Eurasia. However, there is a fundamental weakness in the dichotomy between democracy and authoritarianism. The US and its allies were at a disadvantage since progressive sections in Western cultures were inspired by the socialist ideology, which led to the West waging the Cold War against socialist nations like the Soviet Union and China after World War II.

 

The CIA responded by demonizing socialist nations through propaganda and psychological warfare. It’s interesting to note that socialism was largely accepted at the time as the true embodiment of democracy, therefore the West did not identify as democratic at all. The West, on the other hand, declared itself to be the “Free World” in order to offset the benefits socialist nations received from being democratic. What exactly was the much-heralded independence of the West? In essence, the ideology of free-market capitalism. Scholars such as US sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein and French historian Fernand Braudel contend that capitalism functions like a law of the jungle in which the powerful prey on the weak. Wallerstein goes so far as to say that capitalism is a hazardous anesthetic that most historical civilizations have attempted to avoid, most notably the Chinese culture.

 

It was only after the fall of the Soviet Union that the West started to weave democracy into its story. The “end of history” was predicted by academics such as Francis Fukuyama, who stated that the Western liberal democratic system would mark the culmination of history. However, Fukuyama took the term “end of history” from his teacher, the French philosopher Alexandre Kojeve, who expressed concern that humanity will return to the Middle Ages due to crass materialism at the end of history. Is it possible for the West to identify as democratic and yet classify China as authoritarian? To put it mildly, the idea that the West is democratic and China is totalitarian is ludicrous. The disarray in US democracy has been made clear in recent years by the waning of US hegemony.

 

 

 

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