Democracy as Communication


Democracy is DISCUSSION, and if discussion comes to it, DEBATE. The alternatives, DICTATORSHIP (authoritarian arbitrariness, theocratic pontification) or ANARCHY, import violent imposition onto what should be civilized society.

Therefore, democracy is an oral experience, a spoken art, a speaking skill, a communicative act, an overt, demonstrable effect, regardless of all the printed, written bases of it. Democracy is a living, breathing, noisy, robust presence of community and society.

“Behavioral Democracy” (my terminology) requires basic training (starting early) for living with a social c
ontract that wants to achieve democracy and can only be obtained in the study and practice of discussion, debate, group dynamics, intercultural communication.

Only a small minority of “citizens” have had such training. That in itself is a sad admission. I assert that on the basis of a lifetime of empirical observation of United States presidents, Congresspeople, university administrations, and community leaders of all sorts. The people of this democracy are not imbued with the basic constitutionally guaranteed civil rights. Witness the general villification of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) when they take up unpopular causes! Very saddening.

Now that we have some basic tenets of democracy in place, it’s time to take it to the next higher level (after more than 200 years!) We might aspire to convert the U.S. into a showcase of democracy. What would make this nation the best democracy on earth?

What if we had an election, and every registered voter participated? Except those on their death beds, of course.

All Participate

Blogging approaches the pure electronically mediated democracy that I envisioned years ago. (In “Inventing Democracy: Future Alternatives for Social Action.” Communication Education, 32 (April, 1983), 153-166.) Now many things continue to be democratized. But not all the fruits of democracy are tasty. Like bitter chocolate, palatable or not, the tasteless or nasty can find its way into, and be accomodated by, the good food of a robust democracy. From democracy’s basic freedom, all may participate. Athletics has been democratized; the definition of athletics has changed to any feat of human behavior. This I know, for the bible tells me so: the Guiness Book of World Records. New feats are being invented (evolved) all the time, as categories of human endeavor to be improved upon in measures of time, endurance, etc. The lottery has given us one-dollar millionaires. Celebrity-hood goes to unknowns on TV programs for singing, dancing, modeling, racing around the world, surviving. Highway, street, and pedestrian traffic is a working model of democratization.

Fools rush in to democratization where angels fear to tread. One fool is given the power — and celebrated like Quasimodo, by the citizens who put him up there — to command the mightiest army on earth to enforce the democratization of the world’s theocracies, as it turned out. In spite of the fact he was put in power by demagogic preaching to theocratic-minded people in his own land! O the irony!

Democracy is freedom at the base of the power of participation. There is one area of human endeavor from which no one is exempt. All humans are born into groups of human beings and given instant membership. (The rare exception is the feral child.) Born helpless, the child is given sustenance while language is installed, the nonverbal preceding the verbal. Group obligations, codified in rules and laws, are to be installed in early instruction, as well, but one of the bitter fruits of the underlying presumption of freedom is the power to reject obligations (if the group members have not failed their obligations to teach and model). The result can be irresponsibility, delinquency or crime.

Let’s start with the president of the United States.



  1. Anonymous said,

    March 4, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Thanks so much for the blog.Thanks Again. Will read on…

  2. tensiometro said,

    March 4, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    Author, keep doing in the same way..!

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