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How wrong it is understood.
Democracy is a very good thing. But unfortunately, it is not really understood by most of the people in the world.
Democracy means indeed freedom of speech and the freedom to vote for the politicians you want to be in power.
But above all, democracy means something much more important: The freedom to associate with others and the freedom to solve community problems together with others. In a functional democratic society, the people do not only enjoy the freedom to speak and to vote, but they also take advantage of the freedom to associate in order to solve community issues together, therefore they assume the responsibility of living in a functional society.
Democracy doesn’t only mean that we just have opinions and we choose who will govern us every four or five years. Democracy means that we are free to join our forces in order to solve the problems in our society. From cleaning the streets together, to making associations that fight against any abuse of the government. At the very least, democracy means that we are free to check what our governments are doing and we ask them to do better (by protesting loudly) whenever an abuse occurs. Living in a democratic society doesn’t imply that we are just free to ignore each other and nothing else than that. Democracy doesn’t only come with freedom to ignore and to be indifferent, but it also comes with the responsibility of trying to find solutions together for all the problems in our community. If we will just ignore each others, then the democracy will turn into something ugly: all kind of abuses will be tolerated because of our indiference. Communism doesn’t work for sure – because it’s anti-democratic. But democracy also doesn’t work without good citizenship. That’s why we can see so many failing democratic states all over the world: because democracy doesn’t work when the people are indifferent and just ignore others. Without good citizenship there is no pressure on the politicians, government, police, judiciary and businesses to force them into a better behavior. Without the pressure from the citizens, those who are in power are free to commit any abuse. The best example that comes into my mind now is Philippines where in a single incident 58 people were massacred (34 of them were journalists) the Maguindanao massacre in 2009 and where children are imprisoned in the same rooms with adults, resulting in sexual abuses. Such abuses are possible only because the citizens allow them. A small abuse that is ignored today will encourage it’s perpetrators and it will lead to bigger abuses tomorrow.
This fundamental aspect of democracy is neglected in today’s world: that democracy doesn’t work without good citizenship and without assuming responsibilities.
Our politicians want us to think that democracy means only the freedom of speech and the freedom to vote. They promise to implement solutions but only if we give them the power.
They do not call the people to join them to create associations and solve things together, based on donations and voluntary work (like for example creating social housing). The politicians never try to implement solutions before coming into power.
That’s because they don’t really want solutions. The only thing the politicians really want is power. They don’t care about the people’s problems. They only use clever words in order to climb into power. It doesn’t matter if they are democrats, liberals, conservative, republicans, socialists, communists, fascists or ecologists. The politicians are all the same – they promise solutions but only if you give them the power. Without power, they won’t move a finger to create associations, cooperatives and NGO’s that can make a difference. And when they exceptionally do something like that, everyone can see that it’s astroturfing, not grasroots.
All the community problems can be solved by engaging the people of the community to build solutions together. Most of those solutions do not even require the involvement government. The people can solve those problems. We are missing this fundamental point. That’s because our education is simply wrong.
Even in some non-democratic regimes people had and have the freedom to associate and to help each other – like for example in the communist eastern European countries. But they had no idea how important was that freedom and how much they could do with it.
It’s a sad reality. The politicians don’t care about the people. They don’t care about others. But where is the root of the problem? The evil is inside us. Because we also don’t care about others. Before we blame the politicians, we should blame ourselves for not doing something to solve the problems in our community. Ever happened to you to meet some friends who talk about all kind of fancy stuff (cars, chicks, movies, legs of some famous actress) and you were wondering why they wouldn’t talk about other things like charity and community work?
The politicians of today’s world are very happy with this sad reality. They don’t want us to understand that we can solve our problems with community actions. They want us to be weak, they want us to think that we need to give them absolute power and privilege in order for them to fix our problems.
Therefore we, the people of this world, we are very weak and incapable to handle things on our own and we don’t have the capacity to create sustainable communities.
That’s why we have corruption, poverty, wars, dictators, economic crisis and so on.
Because we are educated so wrong we can see how all the big charities and foundations that claim they want to change the world are incapable to have real communication, we can see how they don’t engage the people to talk and to find solutions together, and worse than that, we can see how the people are accepting this situation.
Our education is wrong, and our indifference is even worse.
When you open the TV, it’s 95% about entertainment in form of sports, behinds and breasts of some fancy ladies, paparazzi fotos, etc., and less than 5% is about people who give a good example to their communities.
We are constantly indoctrinated in all public debates that the solutions come only from the politicians. Nobody comes to the TV to tell us that WE can solve problems and we should not wait for the politicians to solve the most of our problems. Therefore we always expect the government, the system, the politicians or the ideologies to fix everything for us. No system and no ideology can work without good citizenship. The only system and the only ideology that can really work is good citizenship. For example, in the recent years a new communist movement was formed in USA: Occupy Wall Street. But although they have a forum and they debate ideas together, all they do is only complaining and asking the system (or the new communist leaders) to fix everything for them. They would never talk about creating cooperatives together!
Our education is bad because we always expect the system, the government or new ideologies to find solutions for us, instead of involving into finding and creating those solutions on ourselves.
And all that is happening because we don’t understand this fundamental aspect of democracy – that we must use the freedom to associate, which is the root of the democracy. That’s why we become incapable to talk and to find solutions together.
So, what’s the solution?
One important step is to try to involve or at least to support some charities and NGO’s that are active in your community. Then you can ask some basic questions like “how many orphans are in my town?” “how well they are treated?” “how do old people or people with handicap live in my community?” and try to find answers. Try to engage your friends in such conversations. If they are not interested in such conversations, then probably it’s a very good idea to try to change your friends. Most of the people complain about the politicians (including your friends). But if they don’t care about others, then why would the politicians care about others (in this case about your friends)? Which leads to the idea that such people might be a bit hypocrite. That’s not to say that all people are hypocrite, but we can say for sure that all the people are indoctrinated to think in selfish terms. Therefore, if you feel it helps you to do better, change your friends, and find others who are interested in searching and finding solutions for the problems of your community – and also for other communities, not only yours.
Such a change will generate debates, talks, forums and will lead to the creation of groups of people who will implement solutions together.
We need governments and politicians, we don’t have to get rid of them. But we must constantly check them and we should always pressure them to deliver good governance. When the politicians commit abuses, they are doing them because they move into the shadows. And those shadows exist because we create them, with our indifference. So, those shady acts of politicians are going undetected because we do not check the things we should check. Therefore the fight starts with killing the monster that reside inside us.
In the end, I would like to quote from Marcin Król, one of the top contemporary Polish intellectuals:
“Western societies have achieved what liberal writers long yearned for: the equality of opportunity that comes with freedom of choice. This achievement was possible due to many restraints and is maintained thanks to a strong civil society. But the very idea of civil society assumes that we want something more than negative freedom, that we want to unite and struggle for common good, even if we do not see in it any immediate profit.”