Democracy of Emotion

You know what type of government I fear most? It is not dictatorship, no; it is democracy of emotion. Reason is not that I am more likely to survive under a dictatorship, I am not. The reason is that if a democratic government chooses to wrongfully execute me, it will be that the majority that voted for that government will never consider that they are responsible in any way. Because while a dictator might feel a push against executing someone, I fear that people in democracy would never give it a thought as they just don’t care. While in a dictatorship, my wrongful execution will be rationally consider and reviewed by a vast majority of population, a democratic electorate will just move on, never correcting itself – never introspecting. The leaders will feel that they are just executing the will of the populace and the population will never consider the weight of their words because they are too unimportant, individually, in the final decision.

I also fear that we, as a country, are more emotional now than ever. And that even the most learned of individuals are siding with their hearts rather than rationale. We are, in our support to causes that we hold dear, taking paths that shouldn’t be taken. Probably because we think that the end justifies the means but more likely because neither are we thinking what will be the end nor are we giving a second thought to our methods. And while we are at it, we also discard anyone who is against our stance with labels as retarded as unpatriotic, brainwashed, dishonest and now misogynistic.

In past few days I have received several requests from individuals to sign a petition demanding death penalty for those involved in the heinous crime in Delhi. These are well educated adults who are also likely to be learned. While I oppose death penalty categorically for any crime, I am particularly against such a decision in this case. Because our current laws don’t allow it. Because the crime occurred not due to lenient laws but largely because of almost total lack of enforcement. Because we cannot correct ourselves in future if the victim is wrongfully executed. Because if someone is executed, we will pat ourselves on the back as if we have achieved something great. Because it will set a precedent to use extreme punishments as a deterrent for crime. Because we will support a government that listens to this unfair demand. Because we will keep demanding similar punishment for lesser and lesser crimes and because we will never look back. Because no one will question the decision. Because those who do, will be shunned with extreme emotion. And because we will feel proud every time we silence a voice.

Should the culprits behind the crime be punished? Absolutely. But only according to existing laws. Should we change the law? I would vote against it, but I believe many people will vote for it, at least for now. If a poll is done right now, I believe, we will come up with the biased results because people are being driven by emotion. If you are emotional at the moment, if you decided that the accused of the Delhi crime should be hanged, after you learnt about the crime – I hope that you are not among those who can vote. If you do vote, I hope you are not the majority. Because I will always live in fear.


6 Comments

  • Reply Kunal Pareek |

    elaborating from my FB comment. Kundera called the emotions of the mob sweeping away good sense the Tyranny Of The Heart. 

    It is this emotional appeal that is at the heart of Ultra Nationalism that paves the way for autocracy and dictatorships. The Soviet state, the Nazis all came into power by appealing to the emotional side of the populace. The right wing politics in the US also uses emotional messaging to trump rational ones. 

    Indians are supersentimental people anyway. look at our outsize response to temple issues, psuedo moral issues like women covering up. In case of terrorist attacks people always call for military assault on Pakistan as if it would solve anything. But people still get swayed by this groundswell of anger and hatred. Incidentally it was this same groundswell of anger and hate that made Anna the phenomenon that he was. 

    You may already be living in a Dictatorship Of Emotion :)  

  • Reply Utkarsh Phirke |

    So if people under dictatorship introspect and correct themselves after your wrongful execution(God forbid) where ll it lead? To democracy. People cant feel responsible directly for all the decisions that are taken by the govt. they have a life to lead. You cant blame democracy for that. 
    Regarding the punishment you may say that we re being emotionally driven. But when there’s so many of them you can hardly do anything other than praying. If the girl dies(god forbid) the accused would be tried for murder anyway. In the current demands in law changes it seems that a wrongfully accused person can find it very difficult to come clean. There should be provisions so that there are no false positives.
    I totally agree that enforcing the law is the solution not changing. Given our past reputation we can just hope that we improve.

    • Reply Mayank Singhal |

      > People cant feel responsible directly for all the decisions that are taken by the govt
      They should because they are responsible for it. If the government makes stupid laws, it is a government that they have elected. There is nothing else to blame but democracy for that.

      > anything other than praying
      Then pray to a deity. Do not demand unfair justice.

      > If the girl dies(god forbid) the accused would be tried for murder anyway.
      But she didn’t. And hence he cannot and shouldn’t be tried for murder. Secondly, there have been a motion in past demanding death penalty for rapists but it was shot down (I may be wrong) and many of the women rights organisations opposed it because it will lead to more crimes against women. Instead of just rapes, we will start seeing rape-murders – because (1) The penalty is the same (2) Less chances of conviction because possibly the only witness is now dead.

      > There should be provisions so that there are no false positives.
      How about death penalty for hoarding? Many die because of starvation – some traders hoard resources thus unfairly causing death. Should be hang them? What if we make a system that ensures there would be no false positives?
      Snark aside, no such system is possible in practice. Once the execution is done there is no coming back from it and hence I categorically oppose death penalty.

      > enforcing the law is the solution not changing.
      If you do realize that, then please argue for more resources for enforcement, their education and training, not vindictive pleasure.

      • Reply Utkarsh Phirke |

        >There is nothing else to blame but democracy for that.
        *You may blame democracy but you sounded like you would prefer dictatorship to democracy.( If its of emotion then its comes with democracy. You cant separate it. Better to talk about democracy vs other alternatives.)

        >I fear that people in democracy would never give it a thought as they just don’t care. While in a dictatorship, my wrongful execution will be rationally consider and reviewed by a vast majority of population
        *You didn’t answer where the people would arrive after they review the decision.

        >Secondly, there have been a motion in past demanding death penalty for rapists but it was shot down (I may be wrong) 
        *Yeah its true. The President shot it down. But mercy petitions are often granted even in murder cases. You see there are very few who are actually hanged. (Besides there have been several allegations that the granting of the mercy petitions was “not so noble” on the part of The President.)

        >Snark aside, no such system is possible in practice. Once the execution is done there is no coming back from it and hence I categorically oppose death penalty.
        *Agreed.( enforcement is the key not the end punishment )

        But the law changes proposed in the police and judicial reforms should be thought of as they are likely to make the system effective.
        eg. Time limit on certain phases of investigation is sure to help.

        >If you do realize that, then please argue for more resources for enforcement, their education and training, not vindictive pleasure.
        Yes i’ll do that from now on.( Maybe i was emotionally driven after reading it.)

So, what do you think ?