Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Democracy is...human

What does democracy mean to you? Democracy is more than just ballot boxes, politicians, and foreign policies. Democracy is freedom, democracy is empowerment, democracy is humanity. The context of democracy may vary from country to country and culture to culture, but the basic tenets are universal.

Photo: Democracy is the coexistence of different religions, freedom to worship, freedom from worship, freedom to be an individual without having your religion required on an identity card.

From (many of) the same organizations who brought you the Democracy Video Challenge comes the Democracy Photo Challenge.
The Challenge

Take a photo that completes the phrase Democracy is… and share it with the world.

The Prize

Special exhibition of your photo at the United Nations and at galleries in New York and Los Angeles.

The Timeline

* July 7 – July 28 – Submit Photos
* July 28 – Submission Deadline, Midnight GMT
* Aug 19 – Online Voting Commences – International Photography Day
* Sept 15 – Winners Announcement – United Nations Day of Democracy

The Details

* You must be 18 or older to enter.
* Submissions must be original photographs (digital or analog) taken by the submitter.
* Contestants may enter anonymously.
Visit the website for more information and to see photo entries.

Here are some photos of mine that I could enter. With the exception of the last one, taken in Nicosia, Cyprus at the open border crossing, they were taken in Beirut.

Democracy is seeing the glass as half full, not half empty. It isn't easy. Getting people to cooperate for the greater good of society is a daunting task. Does democracy have its problems? Heck yes, a great number of them. But consider the alternatives: dictatorship, dictatorship, dictatorship. No matter what form a government claims to have - monarchy, communism, theocracy, fascism, sheikhdom, etc. - a dictatorship is a dictatorship is a dictatorship. Though there may be bumps along the way, democracy gives you the freedom to travel the road of life in your own vehicle (though speed limit signs may be posted so you don't endanger the lives of others.)

Democracy is information and access to it. Freedom of speech and press are essential components of democracies, as well as the right of people to peaceably assemble to exchange information. Transparency in government and access to public documents make a government of the people by the people for the people. In democracies, websites aren't blocked, and people aren't arrested for posting negative comments about a president on Facebook. A democracy facilitates access to information by ensuring people have access to technology through updated infrastructure, fair regulation over telecomms companies, and provision of access through public libraries, school equipment, and government websites that give the people transparent information.

Democracy is economic opportunity and empowerment, workplace safety laws, labor rights, unions, fair compensation, entrepreneurship, property rights, access to capital, strong institutions, private sector participation in policymaking, good governance, no corruption...Democracy doesn't discriminate against race or ethnicity or religion.

Democracy is hard work, yes, but in a democracy, there is no line on the horizon - the possibilities of life are endless!

Democracy allows people hope for the future.

Democracy is peace. The oft used phrase "democracies don't fight democracies" is true. Security, safety, peace of mind, these are the things that democracy brings. When people have control over their own destinies, when they have enough food to eat and a roof over their head and healthcare when they are sick, they tend to be content. Of course there are exceptions - there are always exceptions. It's called life. But generally, in stable, strong democracies, people enjoy their rights and tolerate the enjoyment of rights by others.


Democracy has gotten a bad rap for various reasons, and the whole West versus East mentality to which people on both sides of the Atlantic stubbornly cling has much to do with that. Look, democracy isn't perfect. Everyone knows that. No form of governing can be perfect, because it's people who do the governing, and we all know how flawed is the homosapiens species (and the sub-species politicus sapius is even more flawed than the average Joe or Yusef or Jose.) But I'll take a voice in things that affect my life over someone telling me how to live any and every day I am sipping that sweet, sweet oxygen that keeps us roaming this tiny rock we call Earth.

1 comment:

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