Editorial 32 March-April 2013
Cuba, Cubans, women and men need for the democratic present and future, to acknowledge and trust the civic value of representativeness.
In the middle of the 21st century, we don’t live in Pericles’ Athens where all of the citizens used to go to the Areopagus to exercise primitive democracy personally and shouting. Not all of the ones who lived in Athens were free and thus citizens and not all of them went to the theatre to discuss the matters of the city and we must remember that it was reduced to that: a small city if we compare it to today’s cities; and the matters discussed were the matters of the city. Democracy was born there and also the civic-mindedness of the “polis”, that is to say, “Politics”.
The times have changed and modern society is no more the small State-city but State-Nations, regional communities and even an international community such as the United Nations and all the other global systems. It’s absolutely impossible to exercise democracy the way it was practiced in the Athens of the ancient times.
Then the representative institutions were born where all of the citizens have the right and the duty to exercise democracy through their representatives elected by them and among them. Thus, representativeness is the main path of modern democracy. Without a legitimate and participatory representativeness elected freely and with responsibility, the democratic institutions don’t work and the authoritarianisms have free access to control and manipulate power.
However, the new technologies and the independent fabric of civil society are other alternative and direct ways to democratic participation. Nowadays, the twitter, the sms, the blogs and other digital publications do what in Athens was done shouting. The citizen journalism is another way to exercise personal and group sovereignty. The new technologies of information create public opinion, build transparent societies, weave civic coexistence, exert political pressure; they are a defensive shield for the most vulnerable ones, they articulate effective and direct networks of solidarity, but these technologies are not enough. Participatory representative institutions are indispensable. Without institutions there is no country, we already said it in our Editorial Number 12 of November-December 2009.
We can also say that without representativeness there is no democracy. To trust in democratic representativeness is an unresolved subject matter which all Cubans should rescue and approve. The future of Cuba depends on civic education that would prepare us to acknowledge, believe and trust representativeness as a mechanism to exercise the sovereignty of every citizen through the institutions freely elected and controlled by civil society.
We already know the vice, sins, corruption and limitations of the democratic institutions throughout our history and by the way, it wasn’t like that all the time and in all cases. Cuba used to have efficient, legitimate and renewable democratic institutions. We don’t obviate the lack of political representativeness in the present structures of power either.
In spite of those flaws typical of civic illiteracy and a poor ethical education, the democratic exercise can be saved combining four elements: citizen sovereignty, representativeness, institutions and democracy. These are the indispensable pillars to respect, defend and promote all Human Rights for all persons and the best way to the search for common good in its highest degree. Winston Churchill used to summarize it with his keen humor in the mid 20th century: “Democracy is the worst of political systems … with the exception of the rest of them”.
However, for the citizens to be able to believe and trust in the representativeness of other citizens before the democratic institutions either at the level of neighbourhood organizations, the groups of civil society or the State powers, it is necessary that the representatives have a minimum of virtues such as:
- 1.Ethical and personal virtues absolutely proved.
- 2.They should be honest and reliable persons that know how to work in a team.
- 3.They should be freely and democratically elected by the ones they represent.
- 4.They should exercise their freedom and responsibility to propose changes, criticize, denounce or object other proposals they believe are not according to the criteria of the voters, all of this respecting persons, law and morality.
At the same time, every elected person to represent a specific group should keep these civic duties:
The representative exercises the sovereignty of the citizens that choose him only by order and during the time agreed. Nobody can claim the right to speak on behalf of others if he has not received that assignment in advance. This assignment is called “mandate”. The representative cannot reduce his participation to personal criteria or individual proposals. He is a speaker; he presents and defends the criteria and proposals of the ones who have elected him democratically. If it were not so he should be revoked by his very voters. He should render account of his administration to his voters according to the periodicity they decide.
The representative should be a person who shows a proven integrity and a straight conscience. Transparency should be one of his virtues when he speaks and when he acts. He should not use political masks or dishonest methods even to obtain honest ends. His personal principle should be that the end does not justify the means. He learns the straight use of civic and political means with the purpose of searching for the common good and the high end of pacific coexistence. His main characteristic is the respect for the opinions and projects of others. He publicly and privately resigns the use of personal offences to his adversaries and attacks to their private lives. He rejects the disqualifying and violent language. As a human being, he can make mistakes, and then he must recognize it and ask all for forgiveness.
The representative is a public worker and he must try hard with agility and competence. He should be diligent and efficient during his administration. His voters should watch and evaluate his determination, perseverance and appropriate participation which should be skilful and vigorous without fuss. He should have frequent, direct, open and affective contacts with the ones who chose him in order to evaluate his management, correct mistakes, receive new instructions, change methods or improve them, give account of the achievements and the lateness or failures in his work. This is the guarantee and the channel for a democracy where voters can participate and have a direct and leading role. The representative should also and above all, be diligent in his personal training and in the attainment of greater professional competence and in the search for the greatest possible amount of information about the situation of his country, province, neighbourhood or organization of the civil society he represents so that he can take decisions based on proper information, ethically acceptable and consistent with the reality in which he lives and with justice, peace and the degree of human coexistence he is pursuing.
Every representative should submit himself to the alternation in the public service. It’s the guarantee of democracy. It’s the cure for the excess of leading roles, populisms, authoritarianisms and chieftainships. Besides, it’s the most convincing evidence that he is only a representative and he is not carrying out the assignment just for power but for disposition of the sovereign one which is the local or national human group that chose him. Alternation is also the opportunity for all the voters to have access to the service of the representative. After he finishes his mandate, the outgoing representative has the duty to give his successor all the information, means and unresolved management with honesty and transparency to guarantee an agile, effective and total representative transition. Alternation should be established by regulations or laws in advance and with rigor specifying the term of the representation and the possibility of being reelected or not. The duration of the term and the number of times of reelection should be determined.
The maturity of a civil society ethical and civically educated can be measured by the degree of acknowledgement, confidence and agility they use to accept, defend and promote democratic representativeness at the level of the groups, associations and institutions of civil society as well as in the public service in the State structures and in international relations too.
The exercise of citizen diplomacy will contribute efficiently to the acknowledgement and practice of a new concept of relations among countries which is called public diplomacy. This one not only promotes the bonds of communication and cooperation among States but also among the civil societies of the respective countries. In that dialogue, the representativeness of civil society is the guarantee of all the voices and projects to have access to and have a leading role in international relations, in this global village in which not only summits are organized but also horizontal meetings among representatives of peoples.
Cuba needs to recognize the civic and political value of representativeness and accept, promote and trust in the mechanisms of representation that independent civil society may give itself. If we don’t learn and trust in a representativeness controlled democratic and systematically we will be a fragmentary, autocratic and not very respected nation. Our voices, proposals and projects won’t be able to be heard and appropriately supported and the way to a representative and participatory democracy will be in agony and delayed.
Let’s work for an ethical and civic education that cultivates us as representatives and as represented as well. Seriousness and confidence are two necessary qualities to achieve that.
Pinar del Río, March 14th 2013.
Day of the Cuban Press.