September 15, 2016- International Day of Democracy.
This is an interesting commemoration….I tend to believe that certain things are to be intrinsically valued by all, such that there is no need for external reminders but oh well…
There will be a lot of reflections , I suppose, on this thing called democracy today. International agencies such as the UN, multi-laterals and nations on the local level and dare I say by individuals. I posit that fundamental to this reflection on democracy should be the whole notion of FREEDOM. On a point of order I want to just insert the following as a food for thought.
Freedom and democracy are often used interchangeably, [but are thought of as not] synonymous. Democracy is indeed a set of ideas and principles about freedom, but it also consists of a set of practices and procedures that have been molded through a long, often tortuous history. In short, democracy is the institutionalization of freedom. For this reason, it is possible to identify the time-tested fundamentals of constitutional government, human rights, and equality before the law that any society must possess to be properly called democratic.
I want to use a recent event to examine the question- Are we free? Is there freedom of speech?Indeed are these not hallmarks of democracy?… If not what are some other cogent indicators …Are current systems, institutions and procedures democratically administered when questions can’t be asked and responses respectfully forthcoming?
The lens through which to make a brief examination – Resulting from a recent road accident, I have been without a personal mode of transit and instead have returned and taken to the public transportation…once again. You see I am totally all for public mass transit but that’s another entry. This day in particular I was travelling on an express, premium bus, en route home with my child…With such options as ‘express’ and ‘premium’ how can you not be impressed? Anyhoo, I digress…lol. At a particular junction a very tall and stout woman boarded the bus and announced that she is here to inspect the tickets. She wore a bright yellow top with the clearly, identifying logo, etc. So for those who are not visually impaired and who are beyond functional literacy we could read and determine what she was about…mind you this was really what we had to do…because there was not much more by way of explanation.
I pause here because (1) I took offense to her entry and approach and (2) as a fairly new comer to the system I was, quite frankly, surprised and immediately mentally searched my mind as to where I would locate my ticket.I was not informed by anyone or saw said reminder anywhere that I should retain my ticket. I initially also panicked as based on her imposing stature I wondered what would happen if I did not find this daggone ticket before she got to me. However, whilst all this mental gymnastics was happening to me I heard a male voice to my rear right ask, ‘why do you want to see the ticket?’…good question right?…wellll here was the response…’well Sir you better make sure you have it.’….OMG….WTH!
I was looking quite spiffy that day, midnight black shades and all, but I was livid to the point where my words went ahead of my thoughts and out came, ‘but this woman is not professional, the man has a right to know.’ My son who almost always is embarrassed by me when I publicly defend anything nodged me with his knee (he was standing over me having previously risen and given his seat to a female). As I gave him the obligatory look, he in turn obliged with that warning look, which translated loudly into- DO.NOT.EMBARASS.ME. Well because he had to take the bus more than I, this time, I let it slide. But I was still steaming. So I made a public show of , where is MY ticket. I earned a brief stare of disgust from the [lady] Inspector and some side eyes from a few passenger standing in the immediate vicinity… by now the woman had ‘efficiently’ made her way to the back…no doubt spurred on by the thrill of the fight…saddling up and being ‘ready for this man.’
Of course she eventually got there and the man was insistent on why she needed to see the ticket, she demanded same, grudgingly reeling off the now obvious, ‘its part of my job’ line….The man (who by the way was still in his right) said ‘yes well its all well and good but answer me this- How would I get all the way into and way down the back of the bus, without first having paid at entry at the front door?’…another good question and if I may add a damn good one too!!!!…my son’s knee seemed to press harder into my shoulder here … Also by this time and in that split moment other passengers started to get angry but…at the man! especially when the lady Inspector, in her now booming voice directed the bus driver, to ‘stop the bus’ and let her call for the police to come and take this man off the bus. The man held his ground and even as the passenger next to him tried to placate him and explain that, ‘if he was travelling to the states’…I slapped my head and wondered mentally, ‘oh here we go.’…(the woman passenger continues)…’yes so when you travel and they ask you to show them your ticket, don’t you doit!?…well den is so it go ere so..same way, same thing!?’…as I thought out loud RUBBISH, my valiant male comrade lambasted her and shut her down with, ‘lady stop talk to me please because it is certainly not the same thing here, so stop telling me about when you travel!’
YEASSSSSSS!!!!!! Checkmate my good Sir!…..this post is getting too long so ‘to make a long story short’ ….always loved that phrase…the man eventually stated that he was going to show ‘dis ooman’ his ticket but it was not because of ‘giving up any right’ but as an example of bringing to an end what she did wrong. Quite so!…People the takeaways are obvious but the main thing I want to highlight is that the simple act of that man asking his question and reiterating his position..is a fundamental freedom and right. We should not be afraid to question anything or for that manner question those in authority because guess what that is what democracy is supposedly about. Individual rights. Reciprocal accountability, etc.The fact that the lady Inspector approached the matter in the way she did is not surprising and is indicative of how those in authority operate. Sadly too these simple infringements are manifested tenfold in other aspects of society. The violation of an individual’s right to ask questions becomes the violation of an individual’s right to equal opportunities, etc. Small things have the ability to become bigger one. The violation of an individual’s right to ask questions of one public servant becomes the violation of an individual’s right to question the whole public service. The violation of an individual’s right to question simple unjust procedures becomes the violation of larger injustices…the more things change, the more they remain the same. The institutionalization of freedom(democracy) is the sum total and collective rights of citizens as governments and governing systems are,after all- for the people and by the people.