04 July 2010

Participation and Democracy

Suppose, I knew nothing about any systems of government developed in the past 250 years. And somebody describes "democracy" to me as a system of government in which the generality of the people participate in shaping the direction of public affairs. This person then goes on to explain the mechanism for participation is that adult citizens have the right every two years to select who will govern the country from an extremely short list of individuals. I think my reaction might be that, at most, this meets the bare minimum for the word "participation." But since, in reality, I've grown up with this system I instead find it entirely normal.

Strange isn't it?

I think public affairs would be a lot more productive and enjoyable if we saw more forums along the lines of what we see in the Baha'i community. Compare contemporary examples of representative democracy with, for example, a Baha'i reflection meeting. Read how the Universal House of Justice describes these gatherings.

Key to the progress of an intensive program of growth is the phase dedicated to reflection, in which the lessons learned in action are articulated and incorporated into plans for the next cycle of activity. Its principal feature is the reflection meeting- as much a time of joyous celebration as it is of serious consultation. Careful analysis of experience, through participatory discussions rather than overly complex and elaborate presentations, serves to maintain unity of vision, sharpen clarity of thought and heighten enthusiasm. Central to such an analysis is the review of vital statistics that suggest the next set of goals to be adopted. Plans are made that take into account increased capacity in terms of the human resources available at the end of the cycle to perform various tasks, on the one hand, and accumulated knowledge about the receptivity of the population and the dynamics of teaching, on the other.

Message of the Universal House of Justice dated 27 December 2005
I like this second option a lot better.

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