The word democracy conjures up all kinds of things to people, but generally it means rule by the people. But in practice so far at least, democracy isn’t really rule by the people, it’s rule by representatives of the people. We’ve come to accept that democracy does not mean that everyone has a voice in what goes on. We haven’t been able to come up with a way for everyone to have a say, so we allow a very small minority to represent our interests. Of course this method of governance is better than some others that come to mind, but it’s my contention that because we’ve grown accustomed to being ruled by a few elected representatives in our government, we also accept that other aspects of our lives are controlled by an elite few that have all the information and knowledge. In other sectors of our society: mass communications, the sciences, the law, and even the arts, not everyone has a voice and not everyone has access to the knowledge and information in those areas. At least until now they haven’t.
Thanks to the Internet and its recent explosion of new technology, knowledge and information on virtually any topic has become ‘democratized.’ But not only are information and knowledge being democratized, now anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can publish books, invent words and enter them into online dictionaries, make and distribute movies, create their own radio stations…the list goes on. The Internet disrupts the notion that only the elite among us will be heard from; that we don’t have to bother with the rumblings of the general population. We have come to expect that when we pick up a book, watch a movie, read a newspaper, that we will be listening to the voice of someone with credentials—someone that has credibility, usually due to their education. But what about everyone else that has something to say? Well, too bad for them, at least until quite recently. But do we really want to hear from everyone? I’m not too sure about that considering what I hear each day from people, including myself, that roll their eyes and cringe when they read barely legible ‘tweets;’ or click on unsavoury YouTube links. But why shouldn’t everyone have an outlet for their thoughts and creativity, especially in a free and democratic society? It’s the very same people that insist on the superiority of democratic conventions that cringe at reality TV and shiver with pompous mortification at the lack of literacy in emails. Are we ready for real democracy? I don’t think so. But I do know that it’s here anyway. We have to get used to hearing from everyone now, even if it is a bit scary and makes those of us with the aforementioned elite education, cringe with horror. This is democracy—take it or leave it. And it’s the most real democracy we’ve seen yet in human history. So if you want democracy be prepared to hear the voices of everyone, not just voices of our elite.
What’s next in the history of democracy? Democratization of the political system. Maybe the Internet and new technology can help with that too. Just be prepared for what you wish for, if democracy is really want you want. If we figure out a way to give everyone a voice in government, get ready to hear from everyone, even the ones you’d rather not hear from at all.
Democratizing the law one question at a time