John Larrysson's Column: Democracy

What does the word democracy mean and how does it work? In a democracy the people choose their own government and then everything is good. Except that it is not strictly true. In theory people choose their own government in a democracy. However in real life people do not agree on very much, including governments.

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From a young age, I worked on political campaigns. We needed to go from house to house and ask them to vote for our party. While most people agreed, we were polite and friendly to those who did not. People supporting other political parties also loved their country, they just had different ideas on what would be best. Sometimes, we lost the election, we accepted that the other ideas would be tried.

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In a democracy compromises and deals are required. In Hong Kong there are many people who want to co-operate with Beijing. There are many people who want Hong Kong to rule itself democratically. (It never has before, but might be worth a try. The British governors were less democratic than the Chinese chief executives.)  There are also many people who are tired of the noise and would like everyone to shut up and get back to work.

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Democracies are often flawed. In Britain rotten boroughs were areas that had very few people, but could elect a member of parliament. Other areas with many people could also elect one member. Hong Kong’s Legco has some people elected with very few votes and others with far more. 

The democratic solution is to have the public choose representatives, by a vote. Then those representatives sit down and negotiate an agreement with the representatives of the other groups. The democratic decision is, and has to be, a compromise. Anyone who just wants to destroy people with different opinions is against democracy, even if they shout the word at the police.

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Related Article: Protester, Demonstrator & Rioter

by John Larrysson

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A native English speaker who has been teaching practical English in Hong Kong for over two decades.


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