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.