Fully Embracing Democracy

The last five hundred years of Western history have been all about championing the worth, dignity, rights and responsibilities of individual human beings in the context of increasingly egalitarian institutions. Not that it hasn’t been three steps forward and two steps back at times. I just hope that as we settle into this new century, this third millennium of the “common era”, that we try to take a breath, relax, find our balance and our internal compass, and continue to “move the needle” in our egalitarian embrace of “all of us” rather than the millennia of hierarchical “us and them” thinking that we are coming out of.

So I am talking about embracing perhaps a broader version of “democracy” than just citizens having the right to vote and making decisions by majority rule. Beyond those important elements of political process, “democracy” embodies an egalitarian ethos encompassing the Golden Rule, the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and an approach to all our human systems and institutions consistent with that ethos.

So how would that play out? Here are some examples that I respectfully submit for your consideration…

As citizens, let’s take a deep breath, feel the ground firmly below our feet, and know that we are among friends and fellow travelers before we continue to turn our elections into winner-take-all contests between good guys and bad guys (whichever way you frame the sides). Let’s not forget to practice the Golden Rule and welcome this new self-defined “Tea Party” constituency to the table, whether we agree with them or not. Listen to what they have to say, whether or not we agree, so as to encourage them to dialog and listen back. Let’s remember that the democratic process thrives on different points of view tussling with each other, within the rules and ethos of the process.

As entrepreneurs, managers or worker-bees, let’s relax our grip, remember that the wisdom of the whole is generally better than the wisdom of the few, and encourage everyone in the meeting to be heard. Let’s question authority in a respectful and productive way, because good governance makes good decisions. Let’s proactively encourage everyone to acknowledge and exercise their stake in the enterprise and find and exploit the opportunities to bridge that “us and them” gap between labor and management. It is not always possible but there are generally moments when it is.

As adults working with youth in schools or other venues, let’s take the weight off our shoulders, and let our young charges speak their minds in an atmosphere of truly mutual respect and dignity, and fully engage them as the key stakeholders in their own development. Let’s allow ourselves that our youth have much wisdom to share with us, and as the Golden Rule advises us, acknowledging theirs helps them acknowledge ours. Let’s not get stressed out trying to be magicians and constantly be trying to trick kids into learning things they may not yet be interested in. Give them more opportunities to tell us when they want the wisdom we can share with them.

And finally, as parents, let’s learn to model a more facilitative leadership style and take my mom’s wisdom that “kids will tell you what they need” (at least in most cases) and not get caught up in the herculean exercise of trying to stage-manage every aspect of their lives. To the best of our ability instead, create safe space (to the extent that is possible in each of our circumstances) and and enriched environment where our kids have access to loving and thoughtful adults along with the plethora of knowledge that is now freely available out there in books, Internet and other media. Human beings are born to be constant learners, and if we facilitate and unleash, rather than over-control those instincts, we allow our kids to reach for their greatest and most unique potentials.

I firmly believe that one of the key reasons that life at times feels so complicated right now is that we are pushing against this egalitarian tide and clinging to the old-fashioned power-over control model of interacting with each other when it is increasingly inappropriate. I don’t think we fully grasp it yet, but we have become a grown-up species with a sophisticated culture, and each of us as individuals are for more capable than we appreciate.

And for me, since I believe in the persistence of consciousness beyond each lifetime, our “souls” are evolving with every century and incarnation and we will discover that we can leverage that collected wisdom more so than we do now. I know many (or even most) of you do not share that view, believing that we only live one life (for better or worse) before either ending our existence or proceeding to some sort of different realm. But if nothing else, the Information Age we live in allows us to upload and leverage so much more of the previously learned wisdom of the world at a much younger age.

“Democracy” is a broad and beautiful concept, founded in ideas of love, mutual respect, and undeniable human development. I respectfully urge you to embrace it in every aspect of your life and see if it pays dividends for you as it has for me in my own life.

3 replies on “Fully Embracing Democracy”

  1. Thanks for this. A voice of reason! I’ve been wanting to write something similar but don’t have the time, energy, words, or *guts* to do it! 🙂

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