The Democracy Book-Principle 14

Select your language

Read the Previous Principle, Read the Next Principle, or Return to table of contents

Principle 14: The military is under the direction of elected lawmakers and managers.

Group of citizens, group of military men

Military officers can scare people. That is because they are in charge of the army. The army has guns and can force people to do things. That is why in some countries the military is in charge. But it is not right! In a democracy the military is not in charge, the regular people are in charge. The regular people tell the military what to do. The military is there to serve the wishes of the people. When the military rules, it does so by fear. That is not good. People should be free to decide how they want to live. They should not have to live in fear of the military. In a democracy the lawmakers and managers are in
charge because they are elected by the people. The military takes orders from the lawmakers and managers.


Just when the question about the role of religion in a democracy was settled someone else tried to take over the democratic way of life the kids were enjoying. This time it was the military. Well, not the real military. You know, not adults with guns and bullets. It was some of the managers. A group of them had been appointed to make sure the games were played by the rules. They started wearing uniforms and many of them had started marching about, saluting, and being saluted by their officers.  They were starting to act as if they were more important than other kids. Some of them had begun carrying clubs so they could threaten the other kids with them.

There was one incident that was particularly bad. Three boys who were really into the military thing started waving their clubs at another boy. He refused to let them push him around. They demanded he give them bribe money—he refused. They struck him with their fists, then with their clubs! They beat him up real bad. Then they bragged about it to some other kids, but Nadesh overheard them bragging.  He knew it was time to do something about these military boys.

Nadesh called a meeting to discuss the situation. There was a lot of excitement in the air and everyone came to the meeting. Everyone except the boy who was beaten up. He was in bed trying to get better.  The military boys were not looking so mean now as they sat stoop shouldered on a bench way back in the room. They mostly looked at the floor.

The first complaint was delivered by Petra. “So what are we going to do!? I think it is just awful that the people who are supposed to help us have started hurting us!” She sat down.

Then her friend, Marcela, stood up. “These military boys have taken on power we did not give them. I say we strip them of their power. No more uniforms, no more clubs and not more saluting!” She sat down amidst cheers, clapping and calls like, “no more clubs!” and “no more bribes!” and so on.

Nadesh spoke next. “We need order—that is what managers are for, to help us have order and see to it that things run smoothly. But these guys got out of hand. They turned into thugs, and stopped acting as managers who serve the group. They were more concerned with having power and pushing people around than they were about helping.”

Several people gasped and a shiver of excitement ran through the crowd, as one of the military boys at the back was standing up to speak. Oh no, what would he say! But when he spoke, it surprised everyone.

“What we did was wrong. I admit it now. I loved getting to wear a uniform and have people fear me.  I took money from several kids in exchange for favors. All I had to do was touch my club and they did what I said. But it was wrong, and ... and ... I’m sorry.” He was wiping tears from his eyes now. But he continued to speak. “You say you need order and I agree. But a simple colored arm band, or certain color of cap would be enough to let people know who the managers are during games and so on. We don’t need these uniforms and we sure don’t need these clubs. Oh yes, and taking money should be stopped at once. No more bribes!” Then he sat down. The other military boys were still looking at the floor, but Sergio, the one who had just spoke, was now looking at people. He was no longer looking down.

Elena had suddenly appeared and walked over to stand by Sergio, with an arm around his shoulder.  She was smiling and he was starting to smile. Someone said the lawmakers should meet and make very clear laws about how any military-like positions would operate. The military people would have to do exactly as the elected lawmakers said. After all, the voters are the bosses, not the military!

But Nadesh knew it would be important to have close supervision of the military positions or they could get out of hand again. He was thinking so hard that he actually said aloud, “The regular people are in charge of the military and not the other way around.” Then he looked around and could see that only a few had heard him. But he knew he would be saying it for others to hear, over and over again.  When people have freedom they won’t tolerate being pushed around by the military! This he knew.  To be continued....

Activity: Select 3 or 4 children to be “soldiers.” Instruct them to, at make believe “gunpoint,” herd all the other children to the back of the room and force them to do silly exercises.  (Example: Look up/look down, close eyes, look to the left, look to the right, etc.) Then, stop the action. Ask the children how they like being told what to do by people with guns. Switch scenes.  Elect a leader. Have the leader call the army to him/her. Leader tells the army to lay down their guns, and then tells them to do the exercises. Ask the class if this is more like a democracy— elected leader giving instructions to the army. Yes, it is. In a democracy the army is not in charge. The people are in charge. Lawmakers and managers are the ones who actually tell the army what to do. That is because the lawmakers and managers are speaking for the people.

Read the Previous Principle, Read the Next Principle, or Return to table of contents