Democratic values and Citizenship
Chapter 1: Types of democracy.
Started as a direct democracy in ancient Athens. A political system to give power to the people and safeguard the city state from land owning aristocracy.
Council of 500 who were changed regularly to come up with different ideas to improve their city state. Other citizens were duty bound to participate. Pericles introduced payments to encourage people to participate.
Today we have representative democracies. Citizens choose a group to represent them and this group make most of the decisions.
Negative element of modern democracy:
Electors become passive (most common and biggest threat)
Citizens are unable to participate in most decision of local, national, European and international level.
Positive element of modern democracy:
Values such as Liberty (freedoms of speech/expression, belief, association movement), Equality (gender, race), Tolerance (race, disabled), Participation (everyone have equal vote in elections), Patriotism (to do the best for your own state) and Loyalty
Multicultural societies will flourish in a democracy.
Democracy is the best solution to attain justice since there are law courts and policies try to reach social justice.
It is important to pass democratic values and the importance of being an active citizen to the young generation in order to safeguard our state and make sure its future is in the hands of critical thinking minds that can do good choices for their own country.
Chapter 2: What is citizenship?
This concept was needed to be rediscovered after different threats such as political crisis, environmental crisis and international threats such as aids emerged and led to the feeling of helplessness when one finds himself in front of these issues.
The European Union has become one big nation including 28 states. This led to the losing of frontiers and with the technology of today the citizens became citizens of the world.
This means that citizens shouldn’t only be concerned about what is happening only in their background but what’s happening around the world
The meaning of Democracy is fading away. We have to teach young citizens and nurture the importance of the concepts of Citizenship and Democracy through education.
It should be understood that democracy gives the best conditions for citizen to flourish and that Citizenship on the other hand is the means to achieve Democracy. B. Crick says that a state without citizenship or a program to achieve it is at great risk.
We should also instill the importance of active citizenship and participation at all level especially in the local level like social clubs, football clubs, NGOs etc.
Wain says that people should form pressure groups to guard mutual interests such as Lil Din l-Art Helwa in Malta. Also the media should be used as a powerful watchdog and be careful to avoid those that use it for their own interests.
It is through education that we have to instill in the young citizens rational and critical minds to control egoism and selfishness in a democracy.
Miller says that citizenship is not something people learn while growing up like eating and sleeping but is something that we have to indoctrinate into them through education. We should respect others’ ideas while being critical. Citizenship:
A set of rights and obligation t hat gives equal rights in political community.
A consumer of public service with consumer rights
Not only a right holder but has the duty to participate and shape his community.
Parsons says that nowadays advertising and other media is influencing young people and the families are no longer the guidance and this creates instability, insecurity and independence. Therefore citizenship should be seen as a safety net that give equality to everyone and keep us safe against the challenges we face.
Oliver and Heater: A good citizen is one that enjoys his freedom and is vigilant to defend it against the abuse of power while participating in the local community.
Chapter 3: Citizenship responsibility at all levels.
In Ancient Greece participation was a fundamental right as well as a duty. Liberty: freedom to do whatever you want without compromising the others’ freedom.
Young citizens should be aware of their responsibilities and be encouraged to take part in the shaping of their society.
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Citizens should be away of their rights and gain what they need from society while contributing in its development and their own well being.
Through education we should instill the importance of democratic citizenry while teaching young citizens the value of diversity which is an important value in democracy.
Active citizenship can be achieved through voluntary works. This way one improves his knowledge, motivation, skills and experience.
The European Commission designed a program that runs from 2007-2013 that encourages and recognizes voluntary works at all level, while promoting the values of tolerance and solidarity among young people.
Chapter 4: The benefits of democracy.
We are so used to live in a democratic society that we take for granted our rights. We become cynical about the values of democracy. Looking at the number of refugees is enough to see how many people crave for such values.
Freedom of speech and press were one can say what he thinks without being suppressed. Other governments in an authoritarian society impose censoring and even imprison thousands of people that try to protest.
Freedom of believe/worship were one can practice any religion they want even if the majority practice a particular religion and also associate himself with any group he wants.
Democracy gave power to all the citizens. Therefore choices are not done only by a few but by all. Today all the citizens choice their representative party the day of the elections. This is done after comparing all the parties’ promises. In our democracy everyone has equal votes.
We have referendums. Decisions that the party elected cannot decide on his own but all the citizens have a say. Lately we had a referendum on divorce and before we had to decide whether we wanted to join the EU or not.
We have majority rule without imposing on the minority
We can remove the government from power. This happens because that party didn’t keep the promises he made before the election.
Equality in front of the law. Everyone has the right to a fair trial.
The possibility of having NGO’s that can protest against lack of commitment from the government.
Still democracy has its challenges like corruption or majority can be wrong or motivated by inappropriate reasons. Also the government might be afraid to take good actions against groups of people because he will loose votes.
Even if it has challenges, democracy is the best system that promotes rights to the citizens and tolerance. Democracy allows people to choose their destiny.
Chapter 6: Constitutionalism
The most important aspect of democracy is that people are able to govern themselves and enhance their way of life with laws that safeguard their rights.
The problem in coming up with these laws is the balance between the freedom and the laws because laws restrict freedom.
The government should look at the interest of the whole society so he has to limit the rights of some individuals. Example taxes.
Free market/libertarian philosophy says that ‘as little control as possible over people that provide for themselves’.
Societal philosophy says that ‘government should control and provide the needed such as education, transport, health, banks etc
Constitution is a written document limiting the power of the government over the rights of the citizens. It is the fairness in the running of any club/group/society.
Constitution is a set of laws/principles that determine the power of the government. Before the laws are implied over the society, they are first judged in a constitutional court to make sure that the government is not abusing his power.
Separation of power: the separation between the legislative and judicial power from the executive power.
Chapter 7: Democracy and Minority Rights: The European Experience.
Democracy started in ancient Greece as a direct democracy, in which all men of 18 years and older could become part of the council of 500 which was changed regularly so that different people can come up with different policies.
This type of democracy changed to what we know today as Representative Democracy in which all the citizens of 18 years and older can choose their representative party after they give us their policies.
The representative party is chosen by majority rule, but on the assumption that majorities should not vote to persecute minorities because this will transform into a dictatorship like what happened in Nazi Germany or a civil war like in Yugoslavia in 1991.
Today’s democracies have to make sure to safeguard their minority groups.
Federalism – State territory divided into regions and cantons which have their own legal system. Cantons are responsible for citizens needs such as education, police construction, etc while federal government is responsible for defense, foreign and monetary policies.
Chapter 8 & 9: Globalization.
Technology>Development in technology brought the furthest places near each other. Example air travel brought the furthest place reachable in less then 24 hours and media brings news from all over the place in your room.
Unfortunately such development was used in an incorrect way. For example the recent riots in England happened because the media showed the video were the police shot an innocent.
Because of easy communication and development in technology everything became cheaper and people starting migrating more to find better jobs.
Vince Caruana says that everyone in the world is connected with what we do. We are affected by the choices of other people and other people are affected by ours. Therefore we should understand that when we are choosing something we are influence by what is happening around us and therefore need to develop a skill to respond positively to such influences.
All the development and globalization have put the people in a great awareness of what is happening but still it has the be each one of us to care about that and do something about it, not just in our surrounding but all over the world.
Educational and experiential programs and activities at local, national and international levels that aim at encouraging young people to develop interest in global issues and the need to involve themselves and do their part in solving such issues.
UN stated that 2005-2014 is the decade of instilling sustainable development in young citizens through education.
Mr. Ping says that global issues such as AIDS/HIV, terrorism, poverty, wars and environmental problems should be solved by global solutions. Everyone needs to do his part and not just the UN or EU.
Civil society and its potential impact on such issues play an important role. Initiatives like Make Poverty History and other NGO’s are good examples of active citizenship.
Chapter 10: The Concept in Practice- Local Issues with International Repercussions.
Constitution is the guide for democracies to work in favor and help all the citizens. International democracies like EU and UN provide many forums where different governments can share their knowledge and experience on global issues
Development in transportation and communication helped in the spreading of political, economic cultural influences. Example when in 2004 the Imnajdra temple were vandalized, not only in Malta but in all Europe there was a call for harsher penalties when caught vandalizing.
Unfortunately such developments led to the spreading of terrorism and other threats like Aids and brought with them other problems related to pollution
Robert Pirsig, in his ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ said that even if positive element of modern technology are diluted by negative element like pollution, we still are doing our best to counter these negative elements and bring out the most of the positive element of technology.
Even waste management and Renewable energy resources are becoming more popular and cheaper to use so that we reduced the negative element that technology brought with us.
Anthony Bonanno shows us that we should preserve the temples that were left by those before us because they are aesthetically fascinating and show the present and future generation what kind of people used to live before us.
Chapter 11: My role as a Democratic Citizen
Biggest disadvantage of Democracy is that people think that they only need to participate when it comes to selecting their representative party, which is then responsible for the choices of the society.
Education should not only emphasize on teaching subjects but also on instilling in young citizens the skills, attitudes and critical thinking that one needs nowadays to come up with the best choices for his society.
Citizens do not only have rights, but also obligations and duties towards the society.
A citizen should be informed of what is happening around him, the decisions the government is taking and how these will affect him, his family and all of society.
A worrying fact is that in 2004 P. Caruana gave questionnaires to students and it turned out that 31% of the students would do nothing when they are against something implemented by the government, 53% would just criticize and only the rest would get involved in a campaign.
We also still see that in Malta we have lots of discrimination when it comes to gender and skin color. Some say it’s a cultural problem but Enslin and White say that it had become natural that women stay at home and have domestic responsibilities while men are more fit to do the rest and nowadays we still see this since people haven’t become accustomed to the new type of living.
Another alarming fact is that from a report in The Sunday Times it was found that a high percentage of the Maltese don’t accept illegal immigrants. This breaks the belief that we Maltese people are hospitable.
Vassallo suggests that this situation shows lack of diversity, one of the most important values in democracy. There is the need to put forward the message to accept others, their culture, rights and the fact that we are equal.
Active citizenship should be given more importance when it comes to education and put into schools’ timetables so that young citizens grow more active, responsible, critical minded and safeguard our democratic society.
Chapter 12: Human Rights.
After WW2 the UN was more concerned on human rights. There was more promotion and protection of these rights. It was a universal declaration of human right that put into equality all races. Unfortunately the UN failed in the attempt to make these rights effective world-wide.
Alan Gewirth says that when it comes to human rights, one should be morally driven and not legally or politically driven.
People think that political leaders have to defend their rights as citizens but when they see they are unemployed and one of another race is working, they see that race as a threat.
The threats against human rights are not decreasing, like HIV and AIDS. Some don’t accept these people as their employees because they might die and so have to find others to replace them. Computerized personal files are also a threat to these people.
We should promote human rights as well as educate citizens to respect and live with these principles. These should be considered as moral codes, and are there to affect our choices in a good way.
Chapter 13: Citizenship rights and duties.
Concepts of democracy and citizenship tied together > one can’t happen without the other. Democracy is the participation of the inhabitants in the running of the country. These inhabitants have now the role of citizens and have rights and duties.
In ancient Athens, only those urban inhabitants were citizens. Slaves and foreigners where not considered as citizens. Today everyone is considered as citizens.
Today’s citizenship comes from the French revolution in 1789, where from slaves of the king, people where turned into what we know today as citizens with rights and duties and the institution of slaves was abolished.
Rights and Duties may be difficult to distinguish. Citizenship can be seen and the responsible way to bring about the common good. But what is voting, a right or a duty?
Citizenship participation in 3 levels:
Expression of opinions in local and national levels.
Citizens can both participate and even present themselves as candidates for election. Local council brought power even closer to the citizens. Decision-making on local issues were brought closer to the community.
It is a curious and interesting fact that when it comes to voting Maltese people have one of the highest percentages of participation. Also lately there have been a big change in the number of voters that change their political party. This happen because one might be influenced by egoistic reasons such as a favor from a friendly parliamentarian or genuine reasons such as good concern for the society and its’ environment.
Voluntary works: A group of people with the same interest such as guarding the flora and fauna or the physical and historical environment of their country. Such groups try to change the public policy without any of the members trying to join the parliament. They usually try to change the opinion of the general public or the local and national government.
The development in the mass media made it possible to use such media to inform citizens what is happening at present and also they can use it themselves to share their opinions.
After the fall of communism in the 1980s, the concepts of democracy and freedom of opinion and conscience have spread along the world. But unfortunately we still see corruption and injustice that don’t let the realization of such concepts.
The EU brought with it these rights:
The move freely between the territory of member states.
To vote or stand as candidate for the European parliament.
Diplomatic protection in non-U state.
Chapter 14: Democracy and Pluralism in Broadcasting: The Maltese Experience.
For democracy to work properly, citizens should be active and informed. With the help of the mass media citizens can share information and opinions and become critical and independent citizens.
The role of mass media is to keep informed all the citizens on what is happening at present, and in doing so it’s helping the citizens to make better decision to develop their society.
When the printing was invented and spread all over the world, the church and state of countries in which there was no democracy and freedom of opinion and of expression had to censor the printing product.
Censorship – writing had to be approved by the authorities before they get printed. Writings which were not approved would have been burned.
In other countries with a parliamentary system of government the freedom of press was introduced, like in Britain in the 2nd half of the 18th century. In Malta the freedom of press was given in 1839.
Then came the television and radio. In the 1962 these new technologies came in Malta but at first they belonged to the state. Then privately owned stations started broadcasting in 1991.
The mass media helped in the gaining of political consciousness and the press and its political insight gave was another reason for citizens to become literate.
Now we have the internet. It brought in our homes thousands of websites from across the world and makes it easier and quicker for people to talk with each other even from a long distance.
The phenomenon of the internet couldn’t be censored and so it’s up to the citizens to decide what to belief and what they want from the net.
These types of media brought with them a lot of advantages when it comes to inform citizens and educate them but with these advantages some challenges appeared. People started to use to much of such media leading to R.S.I’s and abuse of children is just a click away.
Chapter 15: The Concept in Practice: Legal and Illegal Immigration and its Immediate Long Term Effects.
Lately the number of boats with illegal immigrants entering our coasts has increased dramatically. This is due to the fact that they find themselves in a bad situation and forced to leave their country.
Unfortunately most of the Maltese people are becoming more racists and we often here racist comments when we see a dark skinned man/woman working because people see them as threat.
This also brought fear of international terrorism and so policies that limit the freedom of new arrivals and even state control over the points of entry had to be implemented.
Such control didn’t have the wanted effect. On the contrary there was an increase in criminal traffic of illegal immigrant.
The big migration is seen as threat to the identity hold dear by most of the Europeans. It creates anxiety about the new changing world.
Students should be encouraged to practice diversity. Rather then just distinguish ourselves from other races, we should accept them and learn from their culture.
Instead of trying to stop immigration we can try to get most out of it and promote integration which is a profit for both migrant and European citizens.