Friday, February 4, 2011

Democracy- personal

      I woke up today with the concept of democracy on the brain. Here it's been the excuse used for deposing both despots and legitimately elected governments.That's why it's so exciting to see a popular movement in action. No surprise that Tunisia had a quick transition to a new government.  Even in Roman times it was the area of North Africa that was most open to outside influences.  What happens in Egypt remains to be seen and determined by decisions made in the US.
     I thought of my own experiences dealing with my own idea of democracy. In my class I sometimes ask the students to vote on which activity they'd prefer- a reading or grammar (it's an exam prep class so neither option is much fun).  When they're disappointed in the result, I tell them, well, you didn't vote or you didn't share the majority opinion; that's how a democracy works.  Usually they sit in shock for a few minutes.
   Years ago I was on strike from a school in Barcelona.  The strike lasted about 4 months and every decision was made by consensus- each of the 40 or so of us gave our opinion about what the next step would be.  After that glorious experience of solidarity I thought I'd never be able to deal with a top down decision making process again.
   Fast forward a few years to the school of modern languages at Barcelona University. Decisions were made by consensus but it was a consensus fueled by the most vocal.  Much of the time it seemed more of a hassle to argue a position than to just let it pass.  Inclusive or exclusive?  Who controls?  How important is your opinion?  Are you represented?  Those are the most basic questions to ask.


  1. I keep thinking about the reality of one leader for thirty years--no jobs and inflated food costs (thanks to Wall Street's evil practice of trading food futures).

    Is democracy the answer? The majority vote is often disappointing--depending on who is voting, what the choices are and how corrupt the election process is. Majority consensus often refects the loudest voice and not the best choice...and when do we ever get a cross-section of choices.

    Only an activist leader will be able to make change happen--politicians need to consider too many opinions and never get around it.

  2. I think democracy demands an educated population that isn't so easily manipulated. I'm not sure where you can find that- perhaps the nordic countries.

  3. Just recently I was reading something about the history of matriarchal societies, and how the decisions were made in a consensual way, bottom up, first household, then clan , then neighboring villages. Decisions, more often than no,t reflected the common well being. I want to read more about the development of patriarchal societies ( about 6 thousand years ago) and try to think about how/if the practices of consensus could be brought into modern democracies. Probably internet is already doing its share in making democracy ( however you would define that nowadays) more accessible.
    The educated population is a tough one......
    I agree with "the cracked cup" ...activists are the ones who will make changes creating public opinion that pushes politicians to move...