Every Tuesday, I have got a group of determined and kind-hearted students who really want to make an impact.
Last Tuesday, we started discussing the word democracy: a definition of democracy, the conditions that are necesary for democracy to flourish, and the current challenges facing the creation of democracy in many countries in this world.
- democracy [Gr.,= rule of the people], term originating in ancient Greece to designate a government where the people share in directing the activities of the state, as distinct from governments controlled by a single class, select group, or autocrat. The definition of democracy has been expanded, however, to describe a philosophy that insists on the right and the capacity of a people, acting either directly or through representatives, to control their institutions for their own purposes. Such a philosophy places a high value on the equality of individuals and would free people as far as possible from restraints not self-imposed. It insists that necessary restraints be imposed only by the consent of the majority and that they conform to the principle of equality.
(from the Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia)
Then, we discussed this excerpt from Thomas Jefferson's inaugural address on March 1, 1801.
From Thomas Jefferson's first Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801
"During the contest of opinion through which we have passed, the animation of discussion and of exertions has sometimes worn an aspect which might impose on strangers unused to think freely and to speak and to write what they think; but this being now decided by the voice of the nation, announced according to the rules of the constitution, all will, of course, arrange themselves under the will of the law, and unite in common efforts for the common good. All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate which would be oppression. Let us, then, fellow citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. And let us reflect that having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions."
Then, we have discussed the conditions which are necessary for a democracy to exist and flourish.
· functioning civil institutions
· free press
· educated middle class
· generally open economy
· increased prosperity
· free elections
· respect for law
· independent judiciary
· rule of law
· freedom from oppression
Which, if any of these conditions exist in Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Togo, Ivory Coast, Sudan, Egypt...