I am no politician but I sense that one of the characteristics of a democratic system is that it allows the majority to rule and be heard. On the outset, the rule of majority makes sense. In national elections, the party that receives the most votes is the one that is allowed to govern. One of the downsides of the rule of the majority is that it ignores the minority group. For me, an even more serious problem I have with the rule of majority is that it claims that the majority is right. It suggests that we should go about whatever the majority says because if the majority supports it, then it must be that it is the right thing to do. There is a saying in Amharic: ‘Wushet sidegagem ewnet yimeslal’. In English, it loosely translates to, ‘a repeated lie seems like the truth’. So when a lie is repeated by a large number of people, people tend to take it as the truth. And the few people who are truly right are considered as an outcast or as mad.
In the book entitled ‘fikir eske mekabir’, a book widely acclaimed in Ethiopian literature, there is a personality who goes by the name of ‘gudu Kassa’, which loosely translates to ‘the crazy Kassa’. This guy strongly opposes the feudal system in which the story of the book is set. Honestly, the one thing that stayed in my mind from the book is not the love story, which many find to be quite deep but rather the character of ‘gudu Kassa’. Through his progressive thoughts, this person challenged the then existing mentality of his society. He was labelled as ‘gudu’ or crazy because he had different views that went against the thinking entrenched in the feudal system. It did not matter whether his thoughts were right, but the only idea that he was different made him considered as wrong. Simply put, different was synonym to crazy in the society that he lived in. I believe that this is a typical characteristic of a society where herd mentality is the norm. In such a society, the herd is always right.
What is considered right or wrong can be a matter of judgment, of course. But there are indubitable rights which go hand in hand with the basic nature of human beings. For instance, the right to live is a basic human right that he or she is given at birth. A political system that supports ethnic cleansing can in no way be considered the right political system regardless of whether the majority of the nation’s population supports it. A culture that forbids girls’ education can in no way be considered right because girls are given the same rights as boys to use their God gifted minds. A leader that insults and discriminates people based on their racial background can in no way be considered the right leader because people are born equal and die equal. Simply because the majority votes for such a leader does not make him or her, the right leader.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where the majority rules. But the good news is that the choices and decisions of the majority will prevail and sustain only when these do not go against what we call basic human rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. These include, but are not limited to, the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and the right to feel safe and secure. The rules and decisions of the majority will have a lasting life only when these go hand in hand with basic human rights!