A few things about democracy and competition

The results of the recent presidential election are being digested by both supporters’ groups. There are many scenarios emerging right now, some really bleak, some more optimistic. The fastest to accept the results were the financial markets. After all, Trump is a Republican, a party that favours free markets.

But this article is not about that. It is about our misconception as a society about what democracy and competition is. From kindergarten to university, we are being taught that competition is the only way we can succeed in the society. Moreover, it is the only way one can reach her maximum potential. ┬áBut what we are not being taught is that for every successful person there are many more unsuccessful persons that didn’t manage to find the right support to advance their career. We are never being taught about how success is not possible without someone else failing. We are not being taught to appreciate the loser, a person that has dreams, hopes, motivation, and has perhaps worked as hard to reach their level of fulfilment.

We are being taught that the winner takes it all, there is no room for the second best, third best, etc… This is fundamentally wrong, because from our experience we know that what differentiates the winners from the losers are often circumstantial reasons and not the capabilities of those persons. And here we come to our democracy, or what we have defined as being democratic in our era. Democracy is equal to voting, to freely electing your leader. This is such a minimalist definition of democracy that strips out the human nature from politics altogether. The idea of winning should not be similar to any democratic version of politics. First, winners are always taking just a part of the votes but get all the representative power. The loser has to surrender completely and her voice might not be heard again until the next elections. Second, choice doesn’t always mean that the process is democratic. There is an illusion of choice. Like in the case of the American elections, we had to choose between a mild conservative and a crazy “conservative”. Choice is anchored in the political inertia, a massive force that has shaped how we deal with society and there is barely any room for change.

And one can argue that Trump is change, Brexit is change. No, it is not. It is a path we have already taken in the past. It is nothing new! I know many political scientists that exalt when they hear the word “democracy”. But them jolting to this shows how entrenched they are in a system of thought that is unilateral. We don’t live in democratic times, we don’t have democratic governments. We live in a paradigm of competitive politics where the winner is the absolute answer and everybody should bow to the will of the majority. This is real politik or the politics of the jungle.