All animals are equal but….

For much of my life I have believed in my good fortune in living in a democracy. However, as I watch the events around the world, I am beginning to wonder if democracy is really a myth.

We have been led to believe that democracy is the sign of a more civilised society and that it is a big step forward from the tribal groupings and in-fighting of the past.

However, when I look at governments around the world, I see little evidence of democracy at work. Parliamentarians are busy building political dynasties such as the Bushes, the Clintons, the Kennedys, the Trudeau family and the 49 British politicians descended from political families. There are many more examples, but these will do for now.

These people at the top then build a tribe of supporters, most of which will show loyalty regardless of what their leaders do. In the USA for example, it is estimated that only two percent of the population are likely to change tribes at an election.

Given that those that get to lead the tribe are either the beneficiaries of direct nepotism or the choice of a highly educated and monied few, the democratic ideal of all of us being equal proves to be little different to the hereditary kings, queens, sultans and so on of the supposedly less democratic regimes.

But, lest we lay all the blame at the door of politicians, the same tribal behaviour occurs elsewhere. There are too many occurrences of nepotism or inheritance in the film industry and in things like music and fashion. Would Brooklyn Beckham be allowed to try and make a sandwich on TV if his father had not been David Beckham?

Of course, when it becomes clear to those with aspirations to climb the ladder that the rungs have been removed, then they start their own tribes. The organised protests we see on so many issues from climate change to transgender issues are tribes that form when they discover the mythical democracy does not include them.

We have always needed to belong to something and while some feel the need to assert themselves and lead, there are others content to follow. However, leadership only gets legitimacy from the respect of those they lead. Leaders that lead only for their personal benefit soon become weak leaders and the challenges will soon come from within or outside of their tribe.

When George Orwell’s animals took over the farm they all believed that all of them were equal in the same way that I was taught about this democracy thing. However, it didn’t take long before the pigs saw a way to power and used it for their own advantage.

As I look at the supposed democracies of today it is difficult to believe that the tribal approach of the past has really been removed from our genes. A definition of democracy states it is ‘the belief in freedom and equality between people’.

Paraphrased, this could mean all people are equal. However, when I look around today I think there are too many leaders that think like Napoleon the pig in Animal Farm who added, ‘but some are more equal than others!

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