Democracy and Dialogue

True democracy is unconceivable without an on-going dialogue perpetuated and sublimated by each new generation of citizens. This Hegelian movement ( Aufhebung) is at the core of the implicit democratic creed accepted and respected by every single member of the community. It is upon this cornerstone that society can evolve and transform itself according to the new needs and desires of all its citizens, each one of them being invited to participate actively in the destiny of the ‘public realm’ (‘res publica’). In order to exercise their freedom of expression, citizens must first be informed and for this reason, access to the knowledge of truth or freedom of information is an indispensable complement to freedom of expression. Thus, the publicity regarding the political life of the nation becomes the very safeguard of the people’s freedom. Commenting on aspects of truth, Nietzsche remarked that ‘the worst enemy of truth is not falsehood but opinions.’

We all have different and differing opinions but democracy can only thrive if every citizen is prepared to accept truths and facts that may disturb their current opinions. If the only truth acceptable has to be narrowed down or sweetened to a few clichés, democracy runs the risk of becoming static and sinking into the ‘soft tyranny of the majority’, foreseen by Tocqueville in his Democracy in America, published in 1840. Covering the Jerusalem trial of the Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann for The New York Times in 1961, Hannah Arendt was grievously slandered for her portrayal of the chief organiser of ‘the final solution’ as a boring, very ordinary bureaucrat. In her chapter Truth and Politics in Between Past and Future (1961) she carefully distinguished between ‘truths of reason’ and ‘truths of fact’. The former are truths of belief, convictions and prejudices which help us constitute our identity. On the other hand, ‘truths of fact’ have to be protected as they foster conversation among us and challenge our ultimate ‘truths of reason’. Without this continuous public dialogue, democracy is nothing but a sham.

Michel Foucault defined democracy as ‘living in truth’ (parresia) which implies a complete openness of views between citizens. It is only through accepting opinions which force us to reconsider our own potential prejudices or ill-founded truths that we can live together and tolerate other ‘truths’. It is only through this truth-telling process that citizens can learn how to understand and respect plurality and diversity.

No Comments Yet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


*