Reflection on the Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence is one of the most important milestones in History. Politically, it is an example of effective public literature. However, the language was very ambiguous. Take the most famous line for an example,

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. “

Who are the “we?” It is rather obvious that the notion of democracy is very different from the American democracy of today. The range does not apply to everyone in this circumstance. The people who wrote the Declaration were religious white men. Perhaps It was clear to Thomas Jefferson that the upper class needs to initiate the democracy and make it appear beneficial to the lower class people, otherwise it will just be a revolution. But there are still countless of people excluded from the Declaration, and not even taken into consideration.

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honour.” This line rings no bells to me, because it does not apply to me. It applies to the religious white men in America, regardless of economic status. But that was it. They would perhaps word their sentences with more discretion if they knew that their own words will be used by the oppressed to declare for their own rights.

To think that the intentions of writing the Declaration is purely genuine is very positive. It is possible that they just desperately needed their independence. But looking at it from another perspective, the American democracy was likely a  happy accident. It was bound to happen, but it really is just a one-time situation that no other power in the world can imitate.

The Declaration of Independence was a good foundation for a democratic government, but it did not have so much democratic intentions in itself. The purpose was to have any other government than the British colonial government, but generations have passed, and the way people interpret it has changed. Many of these lines do not apply to people anymore (and for some, it is doubtful if they ever did) But the values of democracy seems to root deep down in the heart.

I think it is outdated. This is why there are so many controversies about topics like these today. In a politically critical situation, such ambiguous phrases in the Declaration will only work temporarily. It is impossible to make everyone happy forever.

What is Democracy?

A democracy is where the people play a role in the growth of a country and their voices are listened to instead of shunned. A democracy must have a free electoral system that allows everyone to freely vote for who they believe should be in power. We have seen that in the past this has sometimes been beneficial but other times an been an issue… 

What is Democracy? Within Canada, we have grown up in what you could call a somewhat stable democracy. Compared to other countries throughout the world such as the United States and India, Canada has attempted to help satisfy the needs of its people by having a democracy. However, I struggle to see how democracy can be a thing when we all struggle to agree with one another. Are humans accustomed to disagreeing with each other? When we have the choice of whether to agree or disagree with something that someone has said, written, or done we might choose to disagree so we have the chance to give our own opinion. 

See when you are given a higher stand in society it can change you. Changes in the way you think, feel, and act towards others. A clear example of someone who had changed because of power would be the mythical character Oedipus from Oedipus The King written by Sophocles. Although this story is a made-up play it is still relevant to this time. When Oedipus had saved the city of Thebes from the Sphinx many people wanted him to become king. No one really knew of his background or past education; they assumed him to be the best fit for taking over asking. When Oedipus became king he judged people somewhat erratically when someone would talk back to him. When everyone was in his favor you could say he was caring and appreciative of them. Oedipus’s rise to power had undeniably been one of the causes of his downfall. 

The start of democracy had begun in the year 507 B.C. Originally named democratic by Cleisthenes. This leader brought up the idea of “rule by the people.” I wonder if many people questioned Cleisthenes about this idea as many people nowadays also disagree with other people’s ideas. Was the idea of democracy really a bad idea? People come up with certain ideas that they think could benefit society but they don’t realize that these ideas could maybe make society words. 

Something many people want is more freedom. Whether the freedom to make their own decisions or the freedom to speak of their own accord. Does Democracy give us more freedom? In some cases yes because it gives us the opportunity to vote for someone to become a leader. What else do we get from having a democracy in a country? Is there anything else that gives us more freedom and more control over ourselves? Something that gives us equal power amongst those who are classed as above us? Now we are talking about the idea of equality… With equality amongst people, it is not referring to the way we look, act, and not at all how we are physical. It is more or less so talking about the equal benefits all humans should have. Imagine a world where everyone is of equal class… How do you feel that would affect our society? 

Comments on your “Democracy” posts

Amy: “Democracy has disappointed me, because the people have disappointed me.”

The men who designed the U.S. Constitution were acutely aware of the flaws in human nature, and tried to design a system that would mitigate those flaws. In the end, however, no system can be foolproof. As he left the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was asked by a woman in the crowd, “Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”. Franklin replied: “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

Tia: “. . . minorities have a hard time being considered and taken into account when it is always the majority that always wins.”

This raises a perennial problem for any democratic system: how are the rights of minorities protected? To put the question another way: How can we prevent a democracy from being a “tyranny of the majority”?

William: “Every human should be seen as equal . . . . Democracy is truly never going to be accomplished if we don’t have equality for every living soul.”

Clearly the word “equality” in such assertions does not mean that every human must measure exactly 175cm tall, or that every person has equal talents as a musician, dancer, athlete, or mathematician. What, then, exactly, do we mean by the word “equality” in these assertions?

Cecilia: Democracy “functions best in an elite country of few citizens, where the people are willing to take responsibility for their logical decisions.”

Is democracy a system that works only in a small community, and breaks down in larger political bodies like a modern nation-state? Is it even possible to have democratic government in a nation of millions of people, most of whom have never even seen each other in person? Does modern information technology offer a way to overcome the problems of “scaling up” a democracy?

Trevor: “. . . there is no such thing as freedom, and no such thing as democracy . . . .”

Such outcries of dissatisfaction come, usually, from people who enjoy large measures of freedom and democracy but are disappointed with the end results. People who have been systematically deprived of their civil and human rights, however, or people who have never had a chance to vote for their leaders, have repeatedly risked their lives to obtain “freedom” and “democracy.” To such people, these words are much more than empty concepts. Are such people foolish to put their lives at risk for civil rights and a democratic government?

Democracy

After reading the first chapter of Bernard Crick’s Democracy: a Very Short Introduction, and watching Astra Taylor’s documentary, “What is Democracy?” the thing that has become most clear to me is democracy’s lack of universally agreed-upon definition. “Democracy” is the kind of loose word that governments can throw around to make everybody trust them without having to provide basis for that trust. The great thing about words without definitions (great for the manipulative, at least) is that each person will assign the definition they like most to the word, and so by using it you can please to everyone. A statement with an equal lack of meaning would be “We, as your governing body, pledge to do what is morally right.” These words that give us nothing but fluffy thoughts of rainbows and unicorns serve only to appeal to our emotions, and stop us from actually considering facts of reality. They put our heads up in the clouds in hopes we’ll be unable to see back down to the truths of the real world.

Dismissing the word itself, there are dozens of things to discuss in the various meanings of “democracy.” The most basic definition, rule of the people, provides us with possibly the vaguest idea of all. Who gets to be a “person”? Historically, women and black people were excluded entirely. Theoretically, an argument could be made to exclude the uneducated. Presently, youth have no voting rights. Realistically, the public majority is ruled by emotion over logic, and only a very small minority have any potential to rule indifferently and justly. So what do we do? Turn to the simplicities of dictatorship? Well, no. Democracy, as a form of government, is a miserable mess with more convolutions than spelling in the English language. However, it still remains the best of the worst. I have no wish to live in a country ruled by a single person– the probability of that person being, in nice terms, vastly unqualified lies around 99.9-100%.  The same goes for a small group of people, or any other variation we’ve tried. Humans simply have no claim to perfection, and thus to the right to rule each other either. In short, every form of government sucks, democracy just sucks a little less because it makes it a little less easy for messed up and delusional people to ruin things for the rest of us.

In terms of democracy as a substitute for freedom, equality, justice, or any other such idealistic word, there are also some interesting things to consider. For instance, when using democracy to mean equality, the argument of equal opportunity versus equal outcome comes up. Does equality mean that every person has the chance to be successful in life (however we define that other abstract term), or does it mean that every person should, in the end, have equal success in life. If we ignore the many privileged people who think that if you’re “only” systemically oppressed instead of openly enslaved then you have “equal opportunity” to those how haven’t been oppressed at all, then this question is actually quite interesting. Obviously a just society would have every person born with an equal capacity to succeed in life, but would that society also be morally obligated to ensure each person did succeed in life? Moving on to freedom, should we have the freedom to murder whomever we please? To rob the local bakery when we get hungry? No, of course not. Freedom defined as anything but access to our human rights doesn’t work so well.

Democracy, like most excessively convoluted ideas, only leads to more questions when we attempt to ascribe it an “answer.” I could go on forever about all the discussions that branch out from it, but I also have better things to do this weekend, so I’ll leave it at that.

What Is Democracy?

In the very vague definition of democracy, it is that the people rule. This sounds coherent with the sense that we control our own lives. However, it has never been properly put into practice, nor should we really wish it to be.

Before watching the documentary, I had a positive perception of the word. When I was younger, I was never really exposed to politics, or if I was, it was too boring to fully comprehend.  I have never really felt that the government was against me in any way, so I guess I didn’t believe knowing such things would make an impact in my life. However, the documentary completely changed the way I see how the government operates now.

My current view of the term democracy is complicated. I cannot decide to really support the idea because of its definition. I believe that the people should have a say in government, however there should be a moral ground for everyone in the system. The few questions that already popped up are: is everyone responsible enough to take part? do the citizens actually want to hold responsibility for themselves? and what is this moral ground?  To all of these questions are indistinct  answers. Politics can be a very personal thing, connecting our religious values, gender, ethnic and cultural identities, as these are all important factors is our lives. Having a diverse country with many different backgrounds could seem to be the ‘ideal’ setting for democracy; theoretically everyone can be ‘heard’ or, it can also be the grounds for many conflicts.

In conclusion, democracy is the best system that we’ve been able to create so far, however it is still lacking greatly in giving everyone equal opportunity. For instance, minorities have a hard time being considered and taken into account when it is always the majority that always wins.

What is Democracy?

In theory, democracy is a collection of voices being heard; making a difference. It’s freedom, justice, inclusivity, equality, empowerment. It’s the knowledge that when you make a decision, that choice is pooled into a defining  category that dictates the leader of your nation. And yet, dig deeper, and those values are negated.

We like to define democracy as “majority rule”. This definition seems to overlook the fact that we often have minority governments, like we currently do in Canada. Even when we have a majority government, is it truly a majority? Typically, voter turnout lies around 60-70% of eligible Canadians. When polled about their reasons for abstaining to vote, many claim they’re either disinterested, they disagreed with all the political leaders, or are too busy/away. How can we claim to be a democracy, a system run by the people, when 30-40% of citizens aren’t having their voices heard, or don’t want their voices to be heard?

I would like to consider democracy as fair. And technically speaking, it is. However, can we call the system that empowers those with “opinions” that discredit someones existence fair? I love the idea that everyone is entitled to vote, but at what cost? To me, democracy is a flawed system. In so many instances, what I consider the bad has conquered the good. It shows the world the sheer number of people willing to deprive others of their fundamental human rights and respect. It shows us that people are willing to ignore climate change, permit racism, allow homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, misogyny. . . Democracy has disappointed me, because the people have disappointed me.

To me, democracy is the voice of the people. It’s the oppressed receiving the chance to fight for their rights, and the oppressors having the ability take those rights away. It’s the exclusion of youth; society telling us that we are not capable of having our own opinions. It’s the explanation people use to justify hateful speech, and malignant beliefs. It’s the segregation between blue and red, conservative and liberal, right-wing and left. It’s the boundaries created within society; the rationalization of hate.

Democracy is the best system we have. However,  there is an evident difference between something being the best of the options, versus being good regardless of comparison. The system needs reforming. Our society needs reforming.

What is Democracy?

What is the point of democracy? What do we want to get out of the world, and how does our view of what a good government should be interplay with that goal? Is what we want happiness, is it the absolute ability to do whatever, is it total power over other people, is it equality and justice, or is it a total disregard for society, to simply accept our future rests in the hands of technology to govern us. Whatever it is, it is not unanimous. How could the world be so pleasingly simple? I would go so far as to argue the whole idea of democracy is the epitome of audacity, irrational and impossible, a concept existent merely within the sentimental construct of our minds. The thing we commonly refer to as ‘democracy’ in the everyday world is merely the persistent failure resulted from the continuous attempts tried to achieve this ideal. The day we all become satisfied becomes the day satisfaction becomes irrelevant. We would have nothing left to be satisfied about, as there is no remainder to accomplish. Us, the democratic citizen, would be reduced to a sac of potatoes to rot in front of a TV for eternity. This explains why ‘democracy’ is so fluid and exists following such different hierarchies; to attempt to achieve our ideal, we persue the democratic government from different angles, with different ideas, by people with different biases and levels of authority. To describe democracy as the majority rule is utter lunacy and is so paradoxical it is absurd. People are ever-shifting, throwing new leaders into the spotlight (or under the bus), to achieve their demands and reach what they think is freedom. However, there is no such thing as freedom, and no such thing as democracy, and these people are using their ‘democratic’ government to try and achieve a better life; in other words, they are using democracy to get even better democracy. Thus, an infinite loop is formed, frequently broken by a breach in democratic ethos, where a tyrant/tyrants, shifts the political view from the need of total equality to something else. Then, the spirit of democracy comes knocking back on the doors of the people’s minds, and what happened is undone, whether it took one, ten, or a thousand years.

What is Democracy?

In 2013, the Chinese government published “Opinions on Cultivating and Practicing Socialist Core Values.” It was of little importance to me, who was only ten at the time. But the teachers made every Chinese student memorize “The 24 virtues”, which was a big no-no for me. When entering the school gates each morning, a teacher would randomly pick students and listen to them recite “The 24 virtues.”

If translated into English, it would sound something like this:“Prosperity, democracy, civil, harmony, freedom, equality, justice, lawful, patriotism, dedication, integrity, and friendliness.” I was an ignorant rebel who never memorized it and suffered quite a lot from detention.

But do notice that the Chinese government wants us to be democratic good citizens. It never occurred to us that being democratic in an almost (really, almost) totalitarian country was a problem. I remember learning about the types of governments, and when I first knew that China is a Communist China, I was surprised. Funny enough, I thought I lived in the “democratic centralism”.

To me, democracy means capability. You can only be democratic when you are capable. How can you respect someone else’s rights if you yourself are discriminated upon? How can you believe in individual freedom if your life depends on someone else? How can you be so sure of your words if you’ve never had a chance to speak? Democratic values can exist almost anywhere in the world. Pick any society and you might find traces of democracy, even if it is only among a few people. But to have a democratic government requires strict conditions. It only functions best in an elite country of few citizens, where the people are willing to take responsibility for their logical decisions. You can’t just put your opinion out there, and not take any responsibility for your words. Citizens need to realize that they are the government, they are the country, they are also the people. They need to collectively reflect and adjust the society’s values on the scale between the “common good” and the individual’s rights. If failed to find such balance, democracy will be an empty terminology serving a corrupt and dysfunctional government.

Democracy means much more than just freedom and justice. The term Freedom, like democracy, is highly controversial. Freedom does not exist without chains, and Democracy doesn’t exist without exclusion. Freedom is a result of sacrifice, a seemingly worthy exchange from either yours or someone else’s misfortunes, and oftentimes, other people suffer for your happy freedom. Then why don’t we apply some justice to the system? Justice doesn’t apply to everyone. It only serves for either the majority or the minority. It risks the possibility of being seriously abused in any government.

But Democracy is irreplaceable. It is desirable. It is also a privilege. However, It can be no more than an illusion. The term Democracy has no faults in itself, but every government can become a pile of lies; lies building upon lies. That’s why I love democracy, but I have no hopes and no trust in any democratic government.

WDolan_What_Is_Democracy?_History_DRJ

What Is Democracy?

This is not a black or white question. And it does not strictly apply to politics. Democracy to me, is not only about rights and freedoms, but about working together to make the world a better place for every living creature. Some may believe it pertains to governmental aspects of life only, but to me it is much more than that .

A great example regarding democracy is the “Black Lives Matter” protest movement as it involves a number of groups from society that are working toward including blacks under the umbrella of “All Lives Matter.”  Every human should be seen as equal, and so should the earth we inhabit. In the Bible , we  read about how God wants us to rule over all other living things , but the way that we do this is  not in necessarily in a democratic manner as it can depend on the political agenda.

Now if I wanted to provide a  political  definition of Democracy, I would say there is no straight answer. Some believe no government interference would be true democracy.  However, others may disagree and say that governments ensure there is proper order to avoid mayhem and violence. Democracy is truly never going to be accomplished if we don’t have equality for every living soul.