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Democracy and Revolution in Africa
in the news: As the world watched mass protest movements in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya unfold, many wondered whether the people in those countries were ready for democracy. While much attention was rightfully focused on northern Africa, something of related interest was happening at the other end of that continent. As reported in the Feb 12 2011 issue of The Economist, in a February 5th election campaign speech, South African president Jacob Zuma (and lay pastor) stated, "When you vote for the ANC (African National Congress)...you are choosing to go to heaven...when you don't...you are choosing that man who carries a fork...who cooks people." The same article pointed out that over 80% of South Africans are Christians, and "two-thirds believe that the Bible, as the word of God, should be understood literally."
commentary and analysis (by Stephen P. Cook, founder and manager, project Worldview, www.projectworldview.org): From a worldview theme perspective, it seems that South African worldviews are built around Religious Fundamentalism (theme #9A) and "Moralistic God" (theme #14A). African worldviews have been extensively probed by Robert Mattes, of the University of CapeTown and Global Barometer Surveys. One recent survey asked South Africans which statement regarding the relationship between people and government in a democracy they agreed with: A: "the government is like an employee; the people should be bosses" or B: "people are like children; the government should take care of them like a parent." Over 60% preferred statement B.
Given the South African peoples' religious beliefs, I'd say this survey result is not surprising. As I've previously pointed out (see "Science and Theology: 'The Humble Approach'" issue #14), many Bible toting religious fundamentalists and moralists treat their audience like children needing to be led, like sheep following a shepherd. They claim "I Know What's Best For You" (theme #2B) and tell people to simply follow them blindly, not seek their own answers, not attempt to understand why. When young people need encouraging to listen to many different voices advocating different paths before deciding whom to follow or what course to chart, sadly many in countries gripped by Authoritarianism (theme #20B) hear only one voice urging them to obey.
Whereas those in privileged positions of power once burned books to silence opposing viewpoints, today they shut down the internet. Will the peoples' healthy recent demonstrations in northern Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere for more freedom and democracy become infected with whatever turned the 1979 Iranian revolution into a rigid theocracy or numerous once promising fledgling democracies into kleptocracies? I'd say the strongest antidote to prevent this happening is a strong dose of Intellectual Freedom (theme #30) and Education for Democracy (theme #31).
A country full of metaphorical children or sheep or ignorant, spoon-fed zombies is hardly the well-educated citizenry Jefferson imagined would be "the ultimate guardians of their own liberty". Arguments that democracy won't work without well-educated citizens most notably began nearly 2500 years ago in ancient Greece with Plato. 20th century centralized authoritarian state control of the media threatened the efforts of those valuing education for democracy. 21st century decentralized web based technologies built on the efforts of hundreds of millions of people valuing freedom of expression can remedy this. Pardon my use of slogans/colloquialisms, but I'd say in promoting the true wishes of "The People...Yes!" and "Working for Change" (theme #35B), in touch, in the know citizens are needed to insure "We won't get fooled again!"
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