|Seeds of New Hope: Pan-African Peace Studies for the 21st Century
by Matt Meyer , Rais Neza Boneza ,Horace Campbell
— published 2008 — 2 editions
The new millennium is still profoundly affected by the bloodshed and conflicts of the 20th century. The world seems to be in a continual state of rebellion. The condition of people in our age, 15 years after the end of the Cold War, is still unhappiness, the incapacity to decide for ourselves, general despair, and uncertainty in daily life, all embodied in the lack of one principle, “Democracy.”
How can we apply democracy to millions or billions of people?
Many of the leaders in totalitarian systems or former colonised countries like those of Africa have responded to this question. The late General Mobutu Sese Seko from the Democratic Republic of Congo legitimised his dictatorships by recalling the return to African authenticity. Leaders in China choose not to understand how more than a billion of people in their country could be given the right to express themselves freely. For those leaders, freedom and democracy rhyme with chaos.
Nowadays we call ourselves civilised, but all humanity is in complete turbulence. International relations are mined by a spirit of competition that creates a climate of anxiety and hostility. The system controlled by a minority of the world population is growing more and more greedy and powerful. This can suppress all hope of realizing ideals in the citizens who are “overwhelmed” and frustrated by the decision-making group. Society has lost the centre of its values. People are living under the threat and fantasy of extinction, terrorism, chemical weapons, and nuclear danger, the indicators of unresolved domestic conflicts.
For the sake of particular perversions of democracy, we sacrifice people and ignore the meaning of democracy which lies in freedom and the respect of human dignity; the foundation of which world identified in the almost cultural-religious dogma: “love your neighbour.”
The disease of stereotypes gnaws all civilisations around the world, creating conflict classes, different groups and denominations. The individual is swallowed up in the herd; humans are dehumanised, losing their selfhood.
The September 11 attack on the United States completely transformed the face of the world. There is no negotiation, no dialogue; only the rationale of the strongest. The fear among us is stronger, and perhaps stronger than it ever has been. International laws still form a mere border between hostility and stability.
How can we stabilise and develop our world?
Democracy is the key, but how can we apply democracy centuries after Athens, to not only one small community or city but to billions of people with different cultural backgrounds and achnowledging the equality of gender? How to understand freedom and human dignity? Could peace be possible after all?
Justice is the answer
The new meaning of democracy – Humans try to resolve the difficulties of existence when confronted by nature and human inter-relationships. Human creates morality, religion, art, politics or economy and a sense of community where each person recognises another in accepting each other’s diversity and there is also a feeling of togetherness and of unity in creation universal values
Society is in existence because human beings have desires and needs. That can only be satisfied by cooperation. There is a need for community. No individual can live in isolation. Human life is entirely social. Community with justice is one of the foundations of democracy, every culture.
The stoics admitted the existence of a natural or moral law that gave certain minimum rights to all and only men without distinctions. “Government has to recognize such rights.” Cicero, the orator, said: “no state except one in which people have supreme power provides a house for freedom.” The emperor Justinian in the
6th century collected one code, “the Digest,” which became the
basis of civil justice in the western world and the forerunner of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations. It brought a new concept of freedom within the laws, equality in the common origin of men; brotherhood on the basis of one heavenly Father and enabled Roman laws to provide an early universal declaration of human rights.
Laws must be made only by the will of the people. King John of England in 15th June 1215 signed the “Magna Carta” which stated that:
– The power of a ruler is limited
– Human rights are more important than the sovereignty of the kings
After the “Magma Carta,” democracy did not advance in England because a feudal class tried to undermine the right of the people. That has become the common problem in Third World countries after the advent of political independence. Leaders were confused between the power of the people, which they were supposed to respect, and their own personal will as an exercise in poor judgement over the people. In 1888, William of Orange from Holland was invited to England to replace James II and to rule according to a revised bill of Human Rights which secured the supremacy of the parliament.
In the United States of America, Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, wherein he inscribed democratic ideals which had been brought to America from Europe and which excluded African American slaves and ignored women. In the Declaration of Independence we find the basic fundamental principle of democracy:
a. Men are endowed by God with the rights of “life, liberty and happiness”
b. All Government depends on the consent of the governed.
c. It’s the right duty of people to unseat any government whose abuses and usurpations lead to nepotism.
d. The power of the government is divided into three sections: executive, legislative, and judicial.
The French Revolution was bloody. The king and hundreds of the nobility and the clergy were killed. Religion was set aside and the principles of morality changed. The concept of freedom and brotherhood was made known to every citizen.
In other nations, Kings were forced to accept reforms based on the principle that people are the source of authority. Kings had either to agree to rule in accordance with the constitution made by parliament or to abdicate.
Today the mentality of democracy has spread all over the world; the human rights declaration is humankind’s most eloquent expression of opposition against tyranny and in support of the expression of the individual. To build up a political and social environment where the state and authorities are servants of the individual, and where respect for rights and duties of human persons is supreme is the aim of democracy.
Think of the terms Demos, like the people, and Cratos as the power of the government. “Democracy is known as the government of the people, by the people, and for the people” (Abraham Lincoln). Democracy is a way of ruling or governing the people. This ruling is usually done by a parliament. The ruling of parliament by representatives of the people freely elected by the
people themselves is based on the principle of “One man, one vote.” The representatives in parliament must stand for “the people.”(or, until recently, men of a certain class and background)
The people must have the right to express their own opinions about the duties and sacrifices imposed upon them; they have the right not to be forced to obey without being heard and accorded full respect for their own dignity and freedom. This is based on the following principles:
– The freedom of religion and of conscience
– The freedom of teaching
– The freedom of speech and of press
– The freedom of association,
Those are freedoms of humanity
Freedom is a living thing. Good societies give the greatest freedom to their people; freedom defined not negatively, and defensively but positively as the opportunity to realise greater human values, genuine respect of the person. In our individual dimension, freedom is our capacity to direct our own development; the capacity to mould ourselves, it involves the acceptance of realities, basic realities such as the need for rest and food or as ultimate as death, not by blind necessity, but by choice. The acceptance of limitations can and should be a constructive act of freedom. The
human who is devoted to freedom does not waste time fighting reality.
Freedom is the power to mould and create ourselves, the capacity to become what we are truly are. . When the structure fails through dictatorship, permissiveness of persons who deny this freedom to other persons, chaos, lawless, stagnation, immobilisation result and replace community and justice.
Democracy is a living and working system of government as such; it is never complex or fixed. No democratic system in the world today is altogether pure. Democracy must provide. Then, a permanent possibility of change.
In the religious-moralistic point of view, we find 3 ideas of democracy, which are:
a) The Christian idea of democracy (out of date)
b) The secular idea of democracy c) The atheist idea of democracy
1. The Christian idea of democracy or George
W.Bush’s kind of democracy
The Christian idea of democracy tends to give the state a Christian background and this system does not always exclude other religions if the citizens want to follow them. Rulers believe in God and in the Divinity of Jesus and rule according to natural laws of the gospel; God is the author of the society and he made society to help men reach heaven. Man has an eternal end as well as an earthly end, for happiness. The rulers have received their authority from the people: “The voice of the people is the voice of God.” Laws of God and Christianity limit freedom. Equality is in the rights and also in the duties. We are brothers because we are the sons and daughters of God. We do not find any laws against natural laws, for example non-legislation of divorce or birth control as they are against natural laws; politics will not be independent from morality; morality is considered here as the soul of society and secret of welfare.
2. Secular democracy. Example: Norsk
Secular democracy gives an artless background to the state and freedom of religion. The laws of the state prevail over religious laws because the different churches are looked upon as particular societies within the state, like any trade union. Leaders rule
according to the laws of the state, without any religious influence. For the sake of a common welfare, the citizens obey the rulers. They do not see themselves as brothers because they have no common Father. They are equal before the laws and the laws limit freedom. Those laws are not against the laws of Christianity but offend what are considered natural laws in Christianity and in a moralistic point of view such as the law of divorce, or of birth control. Morality is kept out of politics. What is good for the interest of state is considered a right.
3. Atheist democracy
The system called Communism is not really democratic because the dictatorship has its own way of ruling, always monolithic or one party. The foundations of democracy – freedom of speech, religion, of thought, conscience – are often not always, totally forbidden and repressed, a mock democracy. The ruler leads the people not for their good but for the good and progress of the dominant ideology (the party or power of the country). The chief of the state is the supreme authority. They are brother/sister without a common father, their leader is their father. Only the ideology is free, so free that people could be sacrificed for its good.
In Africa, democracy is presented as just another form of totalitarian power because of its cultural background, but wherever there is human nature, there is the possibility of democratic form of government. In Africa years ago the chiefs were not only the makers of the laws and administrators, but were also judges of those who broke the law. We should consider historical facts in Africa to settle democracy. “There is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, no more dangerous to manage than
the creation of a new system” (Niccolo Machiavely 1513). It will be unwise to destroy the old system before building a new one.
Democracy must have limits. Democracy without restrictions is the worst form of government. Democracy includes taking the participation of all. Building a space of Dialogue. Laws are a necessary condition for democracy and any law is a restriction of our freedom. Democracy must be for the good of all classes of people. Political parties should work for the good of the society and not for the good of the parties themselves.
To build a dignified society we have to educate the public to be people because the masses, the mob or the public is the mortal enemy of democracy. Democracy is not about the number but the consciousness of the individual as being a part in the progress of the society. Therefore, people does not mean a mass of individuals, a crowd; people means citizens living together who are consciously responsible and aware of their duties, their rights, and their freedom is limited by the respect, the dignity and freedom of others. Democracy cannot be a government of the masses, for the masses, by the masses. That is why many countries have fallen into a cycle of crisis, because the people were not mature enough to settle on a power which would provide equality and freedom. The men of the future have to work through others and for others. A mass, a crowd, a mob lives and works by other peoples’ convictions. A mob is always ready to follow a flag today or in the future. Being irresponsible for its actions provokes a dictatorship.
Training for democracy
Training for democracy consists of knowing and applying those fundamental rights as the rights for citizens to express opinion about duties or burdens that civil life imposes on them, the right not to be forced to obey in civil matters without first being heard, either directly or through representatives; this requires a sophisticated education and an understanding of the power of modern mass communication.
# Mass communication: introduction
According to De Fleur and Ballrokeach (1989), communication enabled inventions and solutions to problems that marked the stages of human civilisation to be shared and passed down to succeeding generations. The stages in human communication are associated with development of speaking, writing, printing and the mass media in “the information society.”Each development did not replace its precedent. Persons exist as units of the society. Alone, each person is isolated, meaningless; only when with communication with others does one become valuable. Different conflicts in our societies are misunderstandings or breakdowns in communication; we could eliminate those conflicts by applying the method of dialogue to human relations. When a person is engaged in communication, public relations (usually considered a form of lying), advocacy and counselling, one is a part of the society. Human life is essentially social and a democratic society must not be an individualistic society.
# Personal opinion formation
The use of a basic education and personal development, the practice of social charity and social justice reducing selfish tendencies, useful meetings and well-prepared discussions, reading and talking and listening to one another requires wisdom and information. The interaction of people of different classes or denominations is useful for stability and an integrated society. The societies in the process of education and formation have to develop a sense of trust. Without trust, we are destined to endure at an increasing level of criminality as we see in most of the great capitalist towns of the world. Leaders have to be attached to principles and laws without discrimination.
Concept of freedom
A human being is free not because he/she does what she/he wants but because he/she does what is reasonable, and to go against the reason to do what he/she likes means that he/she is slave of his/her pride or of his/her instincts or something else. There is freedom when we follow the wish of the reason or of the soul unless these are reasonable.
When I am thirsty, I have the possibility to choose between water, cola or a beer. That is reasonable, but if I know that to drink too much beer will make me drunk, give me a headache or even waste my money, then choosing beer at that special moment will not be reasonable.
There is free action which is supported by awareness. I am not a slave; my instinct therefore is to follow feelings and wishes where they are against reason is slavery that will lead to irrationality
Human freedom, as we know, has limits, no one is fully free, all human power is totally restricted; we are born without our consent and we shall die without it. Nature itself limits our freedom; if you want to live you must breathe and eat. Can someone say I am free and so I want to live without breathing? The condition of our nature goes beyond our freedom. As our nature is limited, our freedom too is limited. If we could have an infinite, we could have an infinite freedom. If we are free, our neighbours are free too. We are not allowed to use our freedom to destroy the freedom of others.
A full understanding of democracy is based on a full understanding of freedom, equality and sisterhood/brotherhood of humans. Freedom is not rebellion but rebellion could be an interim toward freedom. Freedom means openness, a readiness to develop, to grow morally-spiritually-physically; it means being flexible; ready to change for the sake of human greater values.
From the universal declaration of human write, we can synthesise the following kinds of freedom:
# Freedom of religion
Every person is free to choose his belief, or a faith, and the state has to make it comprehensible to the people to avoid tension and harm to the society. By respecting that freedom, we make ourselves ready for love and fraternity in the society because we will have tolerance to work with others. Religion is a personal
affair and also a social affair. The 18th article of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, approved by the U.N, says that every individual has the freedom of conscience, and religion and one of these freedoms includes the freedom of changing one’s religion, and displaying one religion openly. This means not only personal worship, but social and public life within limits of laws.
By tolerance mentioned earlier, we have to understand firstly that men have to learn to develop a capacity of love instead of hatred or atrocities. Tolerance is one step to love. Tolerance does not mean love by any means. Love is a delight in the presence of other person’s and affirming of their value, development as much as one’s own. Love requires the ability to have empathy with another, to appreciate and affirm his potentialities; love also presupposes freedom. You can love someone as long as you are free. To love someone because, by accident of birth you happen to be a member of his family, is not love. Love is not a given by choice; you can love only in proportion to your capacity for independence, as Spinoza said: “truly loving God does not involve a demand for love in return.” For example, to produce a piece of art requires that the artist be able to bring out his love, to give without thought of being rewarded. Then, to love means to give and to give demands a maturity of self-feeling.
# Freedom of expression and press
Everyone possessing truth or constructive ideas has the right to pass it to others through speaking or other means of communications. Everybody has the right to express their opinions on certain facts and principles and to discuss the opinions of others. Those rights of speech and press are limited by the laws of justice, of charity, of truthfulness, of the church and laws of the state. A speaker or a writer can be a writer and may be prosecuted when using false statements as:
– Defamatory libel,
– Seditious libel which induces people in violence;
– Blasphemous libel against beliefs,
– Obscene libel,
– Official secrecy,
– Abuse of copyright,
– Contempt of court.
# Freedom of association
Man is a social being; he is obliged to live in some association with other men. In a democratic country, citizens are allowed to have meetings and to join the associations they feel like joining.
All men are born free and equal in respect to their rights, meaning equal opportunities, equal justice and right. All men have the same type of soul, red blood, and flesh; they need air, food and drink; are born in the same way and will die in same way. As an Bantu proverb says, “All men’s nostrils are directed downwards.” Equality of men can be reached by education, public morality, honesty, fair standard of living, and democratic ways of living. As men are equal then they are brothers; there are no brothers without a common father. But by learning love, men can achieve true brotherhood. Lack of social charity makes a country unhappy. Citizens are often indifferent and that creates only anxiety, criminalities and other social evils. The Golden rule that we can find in all the big faith or religions in the world is: “Do unto others what you would like others to do to you,” in other words “love your neighbour.” You will learn to be a brother or to love someone by going to the other, by sharing feeling or interest, by sharing a common language. Interaction between nations, races, tribes, and classes should be made easy; international laws, institutions and laws must be strengthened. In general, for a world democracy we need a strong sense of internationalism and humanism.
The new society must harmonize the basic values of the contemporary times. We must implement a democracy whose major institutions, resources, industry, health, etc., are public; a democratic world in which all states participate. And that can be accomplished by a total reform of education. An education through the art of human relations must stop inculcating the values of an industrialised society, such as materialism or endless competition, and promote values such as cooperation, charity, respect, peace,
and consensus instead of majority rule. The world needs a democracy with converging ideas based on human rights, laws instead of diverging ideas like we have now, which create only conflict and confusion. A man’s life must be based on cooperation with other men and the natural environment.