1st Station – Exploring Language
Find yourself a quiet space in which to work. You will need access to online reference sources, a pen and paper, access to the Wonderful Weight of Responsibility worksheet and a copy of the Discovering a Spirit of Democracy resource sheet either in hard copy or online.
What is Democracy?
It’s a big question. Our response, in the context of political systems and structures, will differ depending on where we are in the world and our own experiences and perspectives.
The term ‘Democracy’ is derived from the Greek dēmokratiā, which was combines dēmos (“people”) and kratos (“rule”) – rule by the people. In a political context we might associate democracy most directly with voting – the process of people having a say in their governance. But is democracy really about the process, or are processes (such as voting) an outcome of democracy? If so… what is democracy?
The Cambridge Dictionary defines democracy as “the belief in freedom and equality between people, or a system of government based on this belief, in which power is either held by elected representatives or directly by the people themselves”.
Using this definition, can we build up a broad definition of Democracy, starting with a belief in people’s right to “freedom” and “equality”? What other rights do you associate with Democracy?
Take out your Wonderful Weight of Responsibility worksheet and note down some thoughts on the “Rights” side of the scales to start a word cloud.
Now have a look at the two lists of words below. On the left are some positive principles associated with democracy whilst across the page are listed practices that are opposed to democratic beliefs.
Note down a short definition for each. You might want to look some of them up using a dictionary or other online sources. Then use some of these words, and add other words and terms of your own, to add to your democracy word cloud, emphasising with a larger font or contrasting colours those rights that you consider to be the most important, according to your own views and context, and a smaller font for the rights you feel are less important.
Promoting and upholding…
- Human and Civil Rights
Against, and in the face of…
Take a look at the Bill of Responsibilities launched by the South African Government in 2008 as a guide for learners and schools. It outlines responsibilities that correspond with the rights found in the Bill of Rights, in Chapter 2 of the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the country: https://www.gov.za/about-government/government-programmes/bill-responsibilities
Now ask yourself:
Revisit your word cloud and see if you can add to the “Responsibilities” side of the scale. If these are the RIGHTS of democracy, what are the RESPONSIBILITIES? Can you have one without the other? Can we expect to have an inclusive society in which we have rights such as freedom, equality and justice if we do not each take responsibility to promote and uphold those virtues? Can we demand a right for ourselves at the expense of the rights of others? Does the right to equality come with a responsibility to challenge discrimination? Can we expect the right to express an opinion if we don’t take responsibility for listening to the opinions of others? Does the right to be informed come with the responsibility to question and learn? Does the right to freedom of speech come with the responsibility to consider how the rights of others are affected by what we say?
Take another look at your word cloud and see if you can add to the “Responsibilities” side of the scale. Can you add at least one responsibility for every right you included? Ask other members of your household what they think and discuss your ideas with them.
What would happen to “Rights” if you added more weight to the “Responsibilities” side? What would happen to “Responsibilities” if you added more “Rights”? What does this demonstrate about the relationship between rights and responsibilities? So where do we start in seeking to bring about positive change and increase the rights of all members of our societies?
If you are working in an online group, discuss your thoughts, and compare word clouds with your classmates.
A Spirit of Democracy
Mahatma Gandhi once said “The Spirit of Democracy cannot be superimposed from the outside. It must come from within.”
When we take responsibility for understanding and tackling some of the challenges faced in our societies, and we develop capacity and commitment to promote freedom, fairness, equality and justice, in the face of oppression, prejudice, discrimination and injustice, Round Square describes this as having a Spirit of Democracy. We consider that along the way to developing a Spirit of Democracy we make 12 Discoveries about our capabilities and virtues and learn to apply them in an effort to bring about positive change.
Locate your Discovering a Spirit of Democracy resource sheet, place yourself in the role of a Round Square Explorer and read through the definitions of the 12 RS Discoveries in the context of Democracy.
Circle any words or terms that you want to look up and use your dictionary or online sources to do this.
Now ask yourself these questions:
- Do these Discoveries together make up a complete definition of what it means to have a Spirit of Democracy?
- Which of these do you consider to be the most important? Which are the least? Why?
- If you could add a Discovery to the Spirit of Democracy list what would it be and how would you define it?
Write your own Discovery along with a definition and give it an icon.
Now watch this short film in which SoulPancake asked people aged 0-100 how they would change the world :
If you could change anything about the world what would it be?