They can burn books, destroy libraries, forbid languages, ban beliefs, delete past times,
draw new present times, order future actions, torture and execute people...
But they still don´t know how to kill the intangible and bright
bodies of ideas, dreams and hopes.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007



Democracy: ¿'life assurance' or enlargement of its expectancy?
Chronicle of a wait

By Sara Plaza

Why it is so difficult for us to understand it? Why are we interpreting it worse each time? Where did those many adjectives we dress it with –after having taken off its real meaning– come from? Is it for unknown or for fear? Are we afraid of it, maybe? What does it happen with democracy that we take it from one place to another, neither knowing where to put it, nor where to place ourselves? Where do we always choose to stand aside? Why do some look at it with disdain, others with distrust and the majority with certain reluctance?

I do not know if we ever knew that democracy should neither be subordination, nor submission; it does not consist of blindly obey the rules; neither it implies a unique thought, nor it means to grant our rights; and, of course, it should not be the goal, but the path trodden step by step to. Democracy ought not to defend the public against the information, neither to hide it, nor to spare or censor it. Democracy, if it has to do with something, it is with taking part, with critical thought, with the protection of our rights and the subsequent responsibility. Democracy is path, a philosophy of life, a vital project.

United Nations ex secretary, Mr. Kofi Annan, during his speech in Istanbul on the occasion of the presentation of the Civilizations Alliance report, stated: "the problem it is not in the Koran, the Torah or the Bible, the problem is not our faith but the faithful and the manner they treat each other." Neither do I believe that the problem is democracy, at least not the entire problem. The problem has to do with the behavior and the attitude of citizens. We behave as it democracy did not really matter to us. However, we expect it to fulfill our deepest longings, even the answers to the questions that we never made to ourselves.

"How it is possible that something like this happens in democracy?" This is the only thing that worries us, but we never wonder how is it possible that in an organization system, where it is said that the power lies in the people, I do not have anything to say? And I do not have anything to say because I am waiting for others to say it. Because "I already voted for them", because "anyway, in the end everything remains the same", because "all of them are thieves", because "it has nothing to do with me"...

Following the logic of this stream of thought, we come to the conclusion that in democracy things happen, and we do not seem to be at all worried about the whys and the wherefores, since we only ask ourselves once and again how is it possible? That is, we presume that certain behaviors are impossible in democracy. Are they? We should not forget that there have been many different democracies. For some people the first example of democratic system was in Athens in the V century BC, whereas many others consider that there were earlier examples in ancient civilizations and in the tribal organization itself. Sometimes as political system, sometimes as social organization, democracy has had different senses: there have been direct, representative, deliberative and participative democracies; elections had been held and the rule of the majority has been accepted; rights declarations have been written and freedom has been defended...

However, where are equality, justice and the rights of the minorities? Democracy for not being too much democratic and we for not having studied about it enough –we use to get tired when half of the work is finished, the half that benefits us, of course–, it does not seem that we are going to agree in the way we want to live together. Here is where the impossibility of some actions might be. I do not think that democracy is a bad idea. Neither I believe that we are idiots, but many times we behave as if we were. With its failures and our negligence we are condemned to wait for a long, long time with our arms crossed. Do we really want to wait? Do we really want to stand aside? Do we really want to be quiet?

If we want to defend our life and deserve it, if we want to live it with dignity, we will have to think twice some of the limits that exist in any democratic system and develop a responsible citizenship. It should be desirable to abolish and exile demagogy, paternalism, the instrumentation of people, dogmatism and indoctrination. We should not allow to be told what to say or do, to be banned to discuss, to be used, to be treated with pity, to be flattered or subdued. We do not have to necessarily agree, but we should know why we do not agree. Neither are we equal, nor we need the same, however, we are not so much different and what hurts us is quite similar.

Since we do not want to be deceived, we should not be mistaken by ourselves. The person we are and the person we want to become someday should not walk aside from each other. A democratic system, as a way of living together, should come closer to people, humanize its institutions, tread where women and men left their footprints, not only outline the silhouette of their dreams. Democracy cannot be and must not be a "life assurance". How are we going to invest in something that tomorrow we will not have? It will not be worthy enough to try to live today? It is not a utopia, or at least, it should not be.

It we are talking of living what about working for enlarging our life expectancy? But not under any conditions, of course, not at any price either. And not by any manner of means, condemning the life of the rest. Democracy is a way of interpreting our citizenship. Throughout humankind's history and probably through our own history –we do not have to forget that each one should be the author of it– we have verified that there are other manners of explaining it that in addition to be less desirable are absolutely harmful. Different forms of totalitarianism, imperialism, fanaticism, terrorism, dictatorial regimes or military governments, in order to enumerate only a few examples, mix up stability with subordination. It is our duty not to confuse those two terms. And, above all, we do not have to fear that something bad might happen to us if we decide to change, shake or stir obsolete and out of date structures that serve us little and badly.

Whatever we have to say, our critic ought to be constructive, because under the squared stones, though we are not going to find the sea shore, we should be able to discover a fertile land. And if we populate it with working hands, rather than insisting in overheating and deserting it, our children will be able to pick up its crops. Only if we believe that we can, they will be able to continue believing. We will have given them back the hope which we seem to forget in any place by an oversight. If we stop waiting for what democracy has to offer to us, perhaps someday we will write the chronicle of its trail. If we manage to save our boat from sinking and we do not continue throwing ourselves overboard, maybe we reach in a good harbor. We cannot live alone, though sometimes we pretend to be the only ones who are sitting at the feast. Let's look for the best way of doing it together and if one day we have something to celebrate, that it be the life not the death of a system that it is not perfect but comes closer to what many dreamt of and what many fought for.