Lopsided Democracy

Sunday, July 04, 2010
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Above is the song Dimonkransa sung by Myra Andrade of the Cape Verde Islands. Cape Verde received their independence from Portugal on July 5th, 1975. The liberation movement was led by the socialist African Party of Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV). Andrade's father was a member of it, and in fact she was born in Cuba.

Upon independence Cape Verde was a single party government, but in 1990 at a party congress the PAICV approved the introduction of multiparty democracy. In the election that followed the opposition fared well, and Cape Verde has evolved into a stable multi-party democracy.

However, this is not a post about her politics, nor the sort of third world socialism that bubbles through the undeveloped world. It seems to me there is a deeper strata, a bedrock so to speak, which lies under the languid melancholy of her lyrics.

It was said that democracy,
Lopsided democracy,
It was said that democracy
Was like a hidden treasure,
But now that it has been found.
We have all opened our eyes
And each one, relying on his judgment,
Confidently declared that what was round was in fact square,
And went to work, with a great many theories,
To prove that he was right.


(lyrics from the version she sung on her first album Navega)

Andrade is ill at ease with democracy, but for social rather than political reasons. Early in the song she calls it 'lopsided democracy' and as its lyrics unfold her complaint is that each person, not matter how foolish they are (and she clearly thinks many if not most of them are fools), now express a cacophony of opinions and arguments that bury the truth. 

She ends the song singing of English businessman and listing names from Cape Verde's past, some who have been elevated and some who she fears are being forgotten, and expresses distress at this reordering of authority. 

Stripped to its bone, the song is about a lost elite. Andrade is expressing nostalgia for a short-lived one party rule and for an escape from European domination. Of course it is her party that should rule and she now makes her home in Paris. Perhaps it is she that is lopsided, rather than all of the happy fools she mocks?

The time will come when old Náxu’s opinions
Will not be held in higher esteem than those of a babe in arms.
People will come together and cry: enough!
   

Americans forget how revolutionary we are. Jefferson's "all men are created equal..." is both intoxicating and destructive. It is a hell of a thing not to have to step into the gutter to clear the side walk for a swaggering aristocrat. Andrade is intimidated by and dismissive of people who have opened their eyes, and each one, relied on their own judgment, but a free man knows better.

As for coming together and crying "enough"? That is exactly what our 4th of July celebrates and we'll have our Gadsden flags mingled with the Stars and Stripes. Happy 4th of July to you all.

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