The new ad for Wódka Vodka claims to deliver “Movie Star Quality, Reality Star Pricing.” I say Mazel Tov! and move on. But the ad keeps nagging at me because this is a slogan of the age we live in, as if we can all attain the unreachable, say look like Naomi Campbell, have nice manners and brains. Impossible. However, it seems to me we are being sold on the hope that we can live in a democracy without doing any
of the work: be healthy, be educated to think critically, be productive, participate in politics, and be grossed out by inequality.
Let’s start with Spain. Chevy Chase’s words remain prophetic: Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead. Since that lasting death, Spain has flourished as a democracy. For exactly how long Spain will remain a democracy no one can say, except perhaps Chancellor Merkel.
Next, let’s move to Romania. Romania’s former president for life, Nicolae Ceausescu, did not enjoy Franco’s death – patiently awaited. However, like Franco, Ceausescu, while alive, could have been described (as Nixon characterized Franco) as “a loyal friend and ally of the United States.” Since Ceausescu’s execution, life in Romania has been defined as democratic but that is mostly because the Romanian people do not complain to journalists.
Finally, let’s look at Libya. Recently, the Libyan people lost their dictator, whose name, like God’s, has many correct spellings. We assume that everyone has heard the news of Muammar Gaddafi’s passing, so I will come to my point. Which is that while he was treating Libya as his family fiefdom, it would appear that life for the many was undemocratic but bearable. There was little fear of hunger or illness, there was access to free education, which, however, did not ensure any particular quality, but there was plenty of fear of expression and fear of association that might upset the dictator and those he cared about. Now, I hear that there is hope for democracy in Libya. But I wonder exactly what that means: the looks of Naomi Campbell, her brains or her manners? Sharia, or Islamic law, will now guide the Libyan people. But all religious laws, as I understand them, tend to be contrary to the ideals of democracy. So, do you see my problem?