A Matter Of 7 Acts
Ece Temelkuran, the Turkish journalist and author, penned a book, titled ‘How to Lose a Country‘, in 2019 on the basis of her personal experience. In this publication, she portrayed the gradual transformation of a country from Democracy to Dictatorship. Soon after publication of this book, it gained immense popularity across the globe, especially in the West. Temelkuran was invited to deliver lectures in different parts of the world, and everywhere people asked her whether it would be possible for Turkey to get rid of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s autocratic regime. To her European and American audience, she mentioned that although Turkey was going through a deep crisis, Europe and the US should also be prepared to tackle similar problems, else Democracy could turn into Autocracy there, as well. According to the Turkish journalist, such tendencies are scattered throughout the world.
In her publication, Temelkuran began the story with the creation of a movement that claims to be of and for the Real People. These people are the authentic owners of a Nation. However, they have been unjustly marginalised through assorted conspiracies, and this is followed by an assault on Rationality and on Language, where new meanings are thrust upon old terms, and argument is replaced by aggressive slogans. The third step is a shedding of all shame and decency on the part of leaders, who, then, teach their followers to do so as well, all in the name of an authentic indigeneity.
In an article (on Temelkuran’s book) published in The Hindu daily on February 21, 2020, Satish Deshpande wrote: “After this comes the dismantling, or co-option, of all the institutions that are intended to act as checks and balances on executive power, including the judiciary, the media and the Constitution. The fifth step is the designing of new citizens, who will be pre-calibrated to the new normalcy that has been speedily established, shrugging off the weight of history.” He added: “The sixth step is the reduction of all liberal and secular thinking persons to a stage of irrelevance and despair where they can only ‘laugh at the horror’ that their country has become. The seventh and last step, of course, is when the new rulers build their own country, having crushed all possible sources of resistance to their agendas.“
Now, one can ask Temelkuran whether the West has managed to overcome the crisis. The Optimists shall certainly draw attention to the US, noting that the electoral defeat of Donald Trump has been a good sign for Democracy. They may also talk about Germany, where Chancellor Olaf Scholz‘s Coalition (of three parties) Government came to power on December 8, 2021. There is hardly any doubt about the Scholz Administration‘s commitment to Democracy. Some may express doubt over the sincerity of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson or French President Emmanuel Macron, as far as Democracy is concerned. However, they are not authoritarian leaders. In countries, like Hungary or Poland, the influence of extreme Right-Wing Politics is undeniable. However, that is an issue of yore. Hence, the danger, faced by Western Democracies, has apparently not increased, but diminished partially. In its latest report, the Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international organisation working to prevent Human Rights abuses, has conveyed this message of hope.
Still, the Western Democracies are facing some serious issues. Although Donald Trump faced electoral defeat in the US, he did not give up, at all. Instead, the former President and his followers are trying hard to bounce back, riding on their Extremist Politics; as they have already started influencing the National Politics, as well as policies of the Republicans. President Joe Biden has announced that his Administration would counter the Republican campaign. However, experts have expressed serious doubt over his capability to counter the Republican’s Politics of Hatred. The underlying divisions and weaknesses of the camp of the Democrats have fuelled this doubt. The situation is so alarming that the results of the 2024 Presidential Election are in danger of being looted. It has been seen that around 2,000-2,500 supporters of Trump had attacked the Capitol Building in Washington DC on January 6, 2021, seeking to overturn his defeat in the 2020 Presidential Election by disrupting the Joint Session of the US Congress assembled to count electoral votes that would formalise President-elect Joe Biden‘s victory. There is no guarantee that their next attempt would fail.
In Europe, advocates of Extreme Racism and Xenophobia, though seemingly weak, have been the cause of renewed concern. Extreme Right-Wing forces in various European countries, under the leadership and initiative of the authoritarian rulers of Hungary and Poland, are forming organisations at regional level. Their leaders are holding frequent meetings. Taking advantage of the European Union (EU) membership, these hard-line politicians are influencing the Politics of Europe. Apparently, this is the episode of War of Position. Hence, there is no reason to feel secure.
There is a possibility of Temelkuran‘s warning becoming a reality (not only in the West, but in the entire world) in near future. Even in Asia, the Politics of Hatred has started influencing the National Politics in various countries, including India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, etc. Incidentally, the aforementioned report by HRW has raised concerns about endangered Democracies.
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