Opinion

Why democracy is abused

As an advocate of futurism and looking into politics in democracy at the present in the light of its consequences for the future in terms of democracy in Ghana and the globe which will help involve the youth in national decision, I am deeply concerned with what is happening to democratic processes in Ghana and with what the citizens of Ghana seek to ignore or con¬demn in what is happening in the world, largely as a consequence of what is happening to democratic processes elsewhere.

Basically, I believe that we should not be waging war to defend democracy, but rather, a non-violent struggle to truly achieve it.

Stretching on the challenges being faced with democracy I have captured below as some of the consequences of what we are going through as a country.

Firstly, I think that democracy is under threat because it is misunderstood. Secondly, I think we have failed to provide an education which enables young citizens to truly understand democracy. Thirdly, I believe that the cornerstone of democracy is tolerance- necessary for the understanding of the diversity and complexities of societies- which necessitates and sustains democracy. Fourthly, I hold that dissent ensures the integrity of democracy, and lastly I believe that great challenge is posed to educators by the current crisis in democracy. Democracy is the politics of,

• tolerance,
• diversity,
• And dissent.

The topic under discussion is not only meant for representatives of public institutions and elections but democracy is supposed to be the sovereignty of the people.

Tolerance through democracy in today’s decision making should allow citizenry to confront their public problems and political dilemmas.

This should enable them to determine their policy course which makes up the country without any obstruction.

The moment democracy is disallowed as the mechanism for allowing cultural, social and political diversity to flourish in a measure of societal development, I say democracy has been a failure. To add, democracy cannot be imported and imposed by another.

Democracy in Ghana should in no way shift from ballots to bullets, and the reason I can make in such a shift is because democracy is in essence a mode to man¬age complexity and conflict; not to manipulate them in the interest of no one political group.

The main present needs of Ghana’s democracy should be the practice of transparency in policy making, the preven¬tion of intolerance, the preservation of diversity, and the protection of dissent.

Transparency is essential for citizens to have the information they need to make decisions (especially exercising their franchise) and to form opinions upon which they may exercise political urgency.

Prevention of intolerance is the business of democracy ensuring that the other minorities and non-elites of all kinds are discriminated though given the chance, can make constructive and imaginative contributions to national development.

Dissent is at the heart of the democratic process, especially when disagreement with those in control of the state becomes necessary to preserve democracy.

The preservation of diversity in a democratic society-a society made by people, a living system-is essential to the sustainability of the democratic system.

Our society today has missed the essential core for universal human dignity of acknowledging the innate human worth in ensuring that all persons’ are given the opportunity and space to define themselves, not be defined by oth¬ers, not even by their own societies.

Another important value lost in Ghana’s democracy is human equality, the principle that human difference must never be the basis of discrimination or the denial of rights (through tribal consideration in job choice and political affiliations) or the benefits that are to be shared in a democratic society.

Social and economic justices require that the citizens and the government be committed to the well being of all Ghanaians. Policies should not be for the benefit of one group (neither of any political interest) at the cost of another group.

In my political concept it holds that the government is to ensure citizens’ rights and that the task of government is the promotion of the common welfare of Ghanaians. The common welfare brings forth another important value, the value of sustainability of keeping the democratic process alive and ensuring that the needs of the present generation are satisfied at the expense of the needs of our future generations.

Government agencies must help to teach the youth skills of resolution and identifying common interests of disputing parties around which resolution can be built. We need to teach the skills of reconciliation, how to reintegrate disputants into a common community on the basis of mutuality and reconstruction of relationships.

We must teach how to create a new situation in which these kinds of conflicts arousing societies can be resolved through creative contention and do not have to reach the point of destructive and/ or violent conflict.

We need to develop in our youths and adults alike the skill of self-awareness to ensure civility, a habit necessary for a constructive democratic discourse. It involves respectful refutation of the ideas of others that we may not accept. It requires that when our values force us not to agree, or to agree to disagree, we disagree within the wisdom of a wonderful 20th century man.

No matter how great an error may be, we are human beings, still the possessors and subjects of rights, which must be respected even, and, especially, as we deal with those with whom we profoundly disagree.

And if we are going to disagree, we need the relevant information on which to base the disagreements on; we need to know how to acquire information; we need the skills of information acquisition.

If we demand transparency, we must also develop in ourselves the ability to acquire and use all relevant information and, as educators, we must develop that ability in our youth (both the in-school and out-school).

Two other skills that I think are particularly important and which we could try to practice in national peace education in the country, are what we call reflective listening, that is listening as u think of the full meaning of the other and participatory hearing, that is, the ability to test what u have heard in your own comprehension so as to participate with the other in a process of communication can lead you toward a common truth, something that I advocate should be part of our national discourse as described in the UNESCO book (Reardon, 2001).

These two skills are absolutely essential in the most contended areas that we are dealing with today. These are some of the key questions we can face now as global citizens and as peace initiators.

 Identity; who defines us, self or society?
 Security; what security? The security of the state, the security of the society, the security of the people, gender security?
 What are the boundaries between human equality and respect for traditions based on inequalities?
 Sustainability; in a world of poverty, how do we meet present needs and still ensure the future of the planet?
 Sovereignty; how do we respect national independence and prevent some gross violation of human rights by the state?

The practice of these skills is the substance of tolerance, essential to democ¬racy because without it, we cannot embrace diversity. It is important to recog¬nize that tolerance is not a static situation; tolerance is a threshold point in a process of the broadening and strengthening of democracy.

Written By: Felix Atsu Ackuayi
Location : Tarkwa
Tel : 0248153587
Position : Co-Founder (Youth Peace Movement, YOPEM-Ghana)

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