Democracy is a tool for promoting equality, legitimacy, credibility, transparency and accountability:
- Equality through the fair distribution of wealth and power.
- Legitimacy through choosing the right person to represent the society.
- Credibility through fulfilling promises given to the society.
- Transparency in present and future policies.
- Accountability for leaders' policies without fear or hesitation.
Every democratic process should pursue these interests to be successful. However, these interests by themselves don't offer the necessary explanation of why individuals who lead the masses tend to actively participate in movements for democracy.
Historically, states were able to get their independence by uniting societies under a leadership for the sake of national identity — nationalism. After independence and with the creation of the state, individuals sought self-identity within a nation.
Once I was questioned: "Why do some people seek unrest, since they have ‘everything'; the house, the job and an excellent salary?"
To answer such a question, we have to look deep into the human nature and our creation. Humans as part of the natural environment and like any other living soul, are rewarded physiologically for their actions. This physiological reward by the body system (in the brain), makes us feel good — euphoric, if a certain action is repeated.
This natural addiction makes us always seek more; otherwise we end up in a depressed mood. ‘Physiological addiction' is a natural body reward, enhanced in habits such as physical activity, achievements, participation in society or pride in a community. However, failure of exercising those habits makes a person hopeless and frustrated.
As a result, the natural leaders or ‘community knights', seek — in the subconscious, and before the family and society — the feeling of success that will lead to a better future and eternal reputation — glory.
Achieving such pride alleviates hopelessness and increases the euphoric mood especially when repeating the success process. From here, we can see that democracy has a vital role of selecting these natural leaders by giving prominence to leaders with genuine legitimacy that is based on their experience, qualification, reputation and sincerity.
In a modern political system, the psychology of ‘self-identity' can't be explained from a political point of view alone; rather we need to analyse the human nature. So natural leaders should be keen in allying themselves not necessarily with strategists, officers, economists or technical engineers as advisers. Rather, they should venture deeper to understand the human nature and seek the advice of psychologists and psychiatrists.
This is a first step to understanding and disciplining themselves, in addition to, appreciating and understanding the actions of individuals in their society. Weakness in professionalism and lack of ‘sport spirit' (and/or flexibility) will lead to ‘political radicalism'.
The issue is about the faith in the ability to evolve, which will allow us to accept and adapt to change. Thus a leader who lacks that faith will need psychological assistance to accept the inevitable change.
However, if a leader is left without assistance, coupled with lack of that certain faith, he will not be able to cope with the stress created by his/her duty and end up under the mercy and manipulation of an unethical consultants (even unethical medical practitioners who agree with all the requirements of the tyrant and satisfy their needs with complete disregard to the code of ethics of the medical profession).
Such faithless leaders will end up hitting a concrete wall, because they can't change themselves or accept change, but neither can they change the human species!
Dr Mansour Bin Tahnoun Al Nahyan lectures in political science at the American University of Sharjah.