THE INTERNET AND DEMOCRATIZATION: A VIEW OF THE DEBATE AT THE UNIVERSITY CLUB
"This House believes that the Internet is the greatest force for Democratization in the world".
Such was the proposition put before a select group of people at the Erste Klasse, University Club in Mid-town Manhattan. In an event sponsored by the Oxonian Society (www.oxoniansociety.com), the third annual, "Percy S. Douglas Debate", between members of the Society and Cambridge Alumni NYC. Speaking in favor of the proposition were society members: Cyrus Habib (St. John's)- a Rhodes Scholar, Truman Scholar and Soros Fellow. David Simon (Trinity)- a Rhodes Scholar and Truman Scholar. Daniel Raglan, LMH, partner in a Wall Street law firm and Atif Ansar who has had extensive experience at the World Bank, having worked in Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa. In Opposition were: Christopher Tine (Kings) - ex-Cambridge Union Society debater. Bobby Webster (Trinity) - ex-Cambridge Union Society debater. Diana Torres (Magdalen) - ex-Cambridge Union Society debater. Partho S. Ghosh - (St. Edmund's) a Wall Street Investment Banker.
The debate was well attended and was conducted with grace, a good sense of humor & fair play among all the participants. The debate was followed the traditional,'Parliamentary Style', born of course in the UK but now followed the world over. Of course it would be easy to point out the conceptual fallacy of the entire proposition, and, in their heart of hearts, few if any members of the team in favor of the proposition would whole heartily agree with it. By definition, 'Democratization', insofar as it is a realistic proposition in today's world outside of the advanced and semi-advanced countries of Europe, North America and parts of Latin America and the Orient, is for the most part dependent upon much more important variables as: increases in literacy, urbanization, education and per capita income. And, those do not even begin to list the other key variables that are necessary, such as homogeneity of population and perhaps equally important of all: a soupcon of luck. The sections of the planet where these factors are not present, or are so in only diluted form: much of Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, perhaps half of the Oriental nations and of course, almost the entire Near and Middle East, also tend to be lacking for almost completely lacking in Democracy and Democratization. As can be readily seen, the 'internet', or lack thereof, are hardly perquisites for either Democracy or Democratization. On balance of course, no doubt, even with all of its stupidities and vulgarities, the internet is a force assisting Democracy and Democratization. It is just that per se, by itself it cannot operate as some sort of deus ex machina. Merely one positive variable among many others.
Was the above jejune insights brought out in the debate? Yes, in fact they were, as (having the easier of the argument) the contra side from Cambridge, brought down their heavy artillery upon the poor members of the Society. And, while the latter did attempt to shore up their position with the occasional valiant counter-attack, their proposition was gradually in the course of the evening, worn away by the repeated logic chopping of their opponents. Praise in particular should be awarded to: Messieurs. Tine, Webster and the witty Mlle. Torres. On the opposing side, Messieurs. Habib and Simon were good-humourly ferocious in defending their side of the argument.
All in all a most enjoyable and intelligent evening of argument and debate was had by all.