The archons of “Western democracy” have long held the belief that liberal democratic ideals are universal and therefore must be spread across the world at all costs. Where they did not promote the so-called western democratic ideal, they at least believed that it would eventually prevail because of its intrinsic merits. When that happened, according to Francis Fukuyama, it would be the “end of history” and the sublime final conclusion of civilization. However, more often than not, Western powers have orchestrated regime change overtly and covertly, knowing that a good nudge (with a dash of violence) could speed things up.
Today, an emerging Cold War 2 is cocooned on the Western side under the guise of “democratic values” opposed to “autocratic regimes” such as Russia, North Korea and China. This rhetoric is repeated over and over to Western domestic audiences to create a sense of animosity based on an incompatibility of autocratic systems at the deep level of ‘values’. This leads to some strange bedfellows, of course, as the US president struts about fist-bumping despots in the Gulf, while funding the arming of fascists and fascist sympathizers in India; not the best embodiments of liberal Western values, to say the least.
Nevertheless, the liberal concept of democracy, according to Western dogma, derives from a long tradition of civilized government in the West that began in the ancient democracies of Greece and reached its ideological peak in the Age of Enlightenment, with white men wearing gray wigs writing wonderful treatises. by candlelight, including those of Jean Jacques Rousseau, Jeremy Bentham, David Hume, Adam Smith and John Locke among many others. It was through their well-informed and enlightened vision of a transformed society, based on the conditions of Europe which they sought to improve, that Enlightenment thinkers proposed liberal concepts which must be taught to savages of color. around the world to improve their lives. miserable lives, they say.
This dogma is so deeply ingrained among Western readers that to question it would amount to medieval heresy, and self-congratulatory Western pseudo-intellectuals would rather die than renounce the merit of Western genesis of democracy. liberal.
This dogma, however, is precisely what has been challenged in a recent tour de force by Davud Wengrowe and (now deceased) David Graeber, two eminent anthropologists who gathered a torrent of evidence in their monumental book The Dawn of Everything to challenge the notion that “the West” even invented the precepts of liberalism. Instead, it was contact with the First Nations of Canada (New France at the time) and the rest of North America that really got Westerners thinking about the monstrous nature of kings, lords, loan sharks and churches in their country of origin.
First Nations leaders were, as many local and foreign accounts of the time claim, men and women with profound powers of reason complemented by a worldview that placed them in harmony with the rest of the world. When these chiefs encountered Western merchants, mercenaries and missionaries, they not only extolled the virtues of their native way of life and the happiness it abounded in, but they raised piercing and deeply constructed critiques of grief, greed, the pettiness and misery that characterize European society. Authors Graeber and Wengrow construct a rich and detailed account of how these First Nations instead taught Westerners the importance of individual freedom and freedom, equality and brotherhood among peoples and participation political, civic and economic life.
One of the most influential among these First Nations was the Wedyat (Hurons) through their chief Kandioronk, who lived on the land that is now Montreal, Canada. Kandioronk was universally acclaimed, by friend and foe alike, as a man of exceptional charisma, intelligence, strength, and endurance. He attended dinners at the Governor’s house and gave speeches so rich, eloquent and breathtaking, that the reporting officer Baron Lahontan compiled them in a book entitled Curious dialogues with a savage of common sense. Kandioronk had also served as the Wendyat/Huron ambassador to France and had thus seen up close, and with critical contempt, the debauched nature of European (bad) governance, (bad) management and (bad) education in Europe. ‘era. .
Baron Lanhontan’s collection of Thoughts of Kandioronk became an instant best-seller among the reading public in Europe, due to the way Kandioronk pointed out the flaws of European society and why it needed a dose of (this which we would now call) liberal values.
Kandioronk’s speeches were recorded during the 1680s and 1690s and were popular among European intellectual circles in the 1720s. Kandioronk and popularized them further, giving Rousseau a little too much credit in the process. Meanwhile, other thinkers of the time also began to advocate superior elements of First Nations indigenous social systems as a remedy for European ills, without crediting the origin of the ideas. In the 1770s and 1780s, revolutions broke out in France and the United States which “began” the spread of liberal democratic values, but which, as Graeber and Wengrowe relate, were clearly not Western in origin.
This new and better-informed reading of history, which underscores the fact that liberal Western values were not born in the West but rather among the indigenous peoples of the Americas, has several important implications. First, it relieves us of the hollow dogma by which “liberal democratic” values can be used as an insidious battle cry against other nations, including China these days. Second, it helps to show why Western countries support autocratic regimes in the first place and also limit civil liberties in their own country since they themselves are not fully committed to this value system. Third, it gives us a better appreciation of civilizations that are now gone (destroyed by the West, no less), but whose wisdom lives on. Fourth, it reduces the exaggerated role of the Greeks, who would have been long forgotten had it not been for the progress made on their work during the Islamic Golden Age, and who anyway disliked democracy and saw it as a system under -optimal (especially Plato).
Most importantly, and fifth, it allows those of us who live outside Western liberal countries to truly embrace liberal democratic values without pandering to the same countries that have colonized our lands and destroyed our societies. These Western countries are now increasingly irrelevant, and we are doing them no favors by building a democratic society guided by reason, healthy civic participation, the rule of law and respect for society and its institutions which, ultimately are accountable to us. For a country like Pakistan, liberal democratic values are exactly what is needed to build a better society, as it has done in Europe. Better yet, it is not because of some dead Europeans whose children live off the wealth that has been stolen from us. Instead, it’s because great spirits, like Kandioronk’s, can live within all of us.