Lorianne Updike Toler
Now that Libya has declared itself liberated and finally buried Qaddafi, it, along with Egypt and Tunisia, are looking to build new institutions of government based on democratic principles.
Libya presents anew the "previous question" of democratic government: whether a people can sustain self-government. I have heard, unfortunately more than once over the last months, that the Muslims of the Arab Spring are not ready for democracy.
This has been repeated to me by those of various political strains in different locations around the world - Philadelphia, London, and this weekend at a conference on law and democracy in central europe.
Yet when did the West become so smug? Have we forgotten that America was once snubbed by the English, now two great champions of "the people," as too uncivilized to sustain self-rule? Have we forgotten the example in living-memory history wherein post-communist peoples created constitutions and elected themselves free people?
I was inspired this weekend at the law and democracy conference by the example of Georgia (the country). There, the thirty-something member of the constitutional court of Georgia shared that corruption was rampant. Public trust in the judiciary and police force was bordering in the teens and twenties. To curb corruption, the age at which someone could qualify to be a judge was lowered to 30, and the entire police force was fired and replaced. Old judges have been replaced with freshly-scrubbed young ones as the longer training cycle has permitted, and public confidence and trust in the police force has risen to 80%, judges to mid-60%. Astonishing. Yet here was a people who were also once said to be "unready" for democracy.
Self rule is never easy, and beginnings are always messy. Yet I believe that the majority of the people, unless they, too, have become corrupted, will not choose something that will harm them. There is something inside the soul which wants to be free. To borrow a phrase from Shakespeare, democracy will out.