The 'Democratic golden rule'

30 September 2007
The 'Democratic golden rule'

EuropeNews September 30 2007 By Henrik R Clausen

The 'Democratic golden rule' is a simple response to the classical question: "What is democracy except the right to throw a ballot every 4 years?" The real short answer is: "Everything"

The slightly longer, which constistute the golden rule, runs:

"Don't bother chosing the politician who agrees with you. Choose the one most likely to listen to you."

90 percent of democracy runs between the elections. It's the ever-running process of lawmaking, budget negotiations, decisions, press releases, news articles and reactions in the newspapers. A truckload of material and events, and frequently a bore to read, too.

But if you're into democracy & influence, this is your lifeblood.

Some say that power is divided equally among everyone in a democratic society. Some say that it absolutely isn't so. The latter are right. In a real democracy, power is up for grabs for anyone who bothers to understand the process. When a majority decides not to participate between elections, and just a minority does, can one blame the minority of activist for having an unfair share of power? Nope.

This has implications, also for integration of our new citizens from the Middle East. As an example, immigrants of 1st and 2nd generation in my area just recently discovered that their local school (Nordgårdskolen) was scheduled to be shut down, due to massive problems with the kids disrespecting the teachers, and all kinds of related problems that simply caused the teachers to give up in despair.

Suddenly, the parents went into despair as well. In their daily lives they stay in their own circles, hardly read Danish media, and still use their mothertongue. No wonder important news passed them by for months on an end. Even when they got the news, they hardly had any idea how to handle it. They had no idea of the usual democratic tools for influencing policitians and making them change their decisions. Some complaining happened on the radio, but noone started writing to the newspapers, collecting signatures, coming up with alternatives for their school or making demonstrations. Things they simply did not know about, or did not trust to have an effect.

Compare this with what happened at the other end of town. One school (Sødalskolen) had problems with immigrant kids, the other (Engdalskolen - incidentically the one I used to go to) was doing fine. Politicians decided to 'fix' the problems of the former school with an administrative fusion of the two schools, making it possible to move difficult kids to the second school and then hope the problem would dissolve by itself.

The parents of Engdalskolen thought this blatantly stupid and started a protest movement. They created banners, T-shirts, collected signatures, held speeches, wrote letters, did all they could to influence the politicians. It worked. The city council scrapped the school fusion plan - the parents got what they wanted, by means of democratic tools available to anyone who cares.

Which brings us back to the begining. 90 percent of democracy lies inbetween the elections, that when you discover an important issue you care about, something to stand for, you do it. And you make a difference, get what you want, and can avoid frustration and anger.

An overlooked aspect of integration is to teach our new citizens the tools that really makes democracy tick. It's so ingrained in our culture that we don't even bother to teach this at school or university - we're just assumed to know this by 'diffusion' from those in the know.

Time to change this and make a concerted effort to change this. To tell our new citizens that if they desire a change in society, they should pass up Allah about it in favor of the politicians. Who, in modern societies, have a much better record of listening to citizens anyway.

Of course, an important precondition for this to work is that you have already elected politicians who are able and willing to listen to you. Thus the golden rule.

Good luck!