The word democracy is not as common in its meaning as it is as a process today. The term that first got originated in the 5th century in Athens, is being used in so many parts of the world today with great pride and esteem. The word gets defined differently by different people but the majority explains it in words of Abraham Lincoln, ‘Government of the people by the people for the people’. The involvement of people in this method is what makes it different from other forms of rulings.
The definition of democracy in its easiest form can be understood by knowing the meaning of the words it is formed of. Democracy is the amalgam of two beautiful Greek words, demos, and Kratos. Demos stands for common people and the word Kratos speaks of strength hence the word indirectly refers to the strength of common people. The process was first used in Athens where common people used to gather at a certain place after every ten days to discuss the matters. However, the Athenian democracy was way too different than what we observe today. Democracy has evolved over time. In Athens democracy was an elitist affair, only the wealthy and someone with a good rank like militant would sit to decide on matters whereas the slaves, young and women were left out always. The modern democratic process provides people from all ranks, backgrounds, and classes with the power of electing a representative to speak on their behalf.
Democracy as a process and as a culture is two different things but somehow linked. When talked about as a process, democracy is a power provided to masses after every four or five years to elect their own representatives through voting procedures. As a process, it is about freedom and choice. A person no matter what color, cast, status or wealth he holds is given the opportunity of exercising his vote according to his choice which depicts the aspect of equality a democratic society holds. Democracy as a process may or may not turn out to be best for citizens in some parts but it somehow gives them some say in the public matters. In a country practicing democracy as a process, if the citizens can select anyone from any political party to represent their interests, they can have them removed too on solid grounds at any time. Democracy as a process has evolved from time to time and is still progressing depending on in which area it is being practiced.
Democracy as a process cannot work out efficiently if people do not understand it as a culture. When it fails as a culture, it fails as a process too. As a culture, democracy is something that has been embedded in our societies for periods. No society can ever become successful without adopting aspects like justice, fairness, equality, and liberty. Democracy as a culture inculcates a sense of awareness among the citizens- consciousness of their rights and duties. If a person thinks that it is only government or state that can make things right and that too in a democratic country, then he is nothing but a fool. The position of people in a country is what makes a democracy different from other forms of government. A democratic culture shows the ability of the active participation of an individual in various public matters.
If we want to measure the governmental success of a country then it can only be done on as how democracy is treated there. There are many examples in the world that show how different countries have assumed democracy differently and how they have faced different outcomes too. Today almost all western countries are included in first world countries as they have managed to succeed politically, socially, and economically. According to the EIU’s democracy index, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand, Denmark, Canada, Ireland, Finland, Australia, and Switzerland are the top 10 democracies of the world, and no wonder why. We all know how these countries are famous for their justice system, peacefulness, freedom, and welfare of citizens. The index is based on not only how successful the electoral process is in those countries but also on civil liberties, political participation, and political culture. It has been seen that in these countries there is no fault in democratic aspects: no low political participation or injustice, no restrictions on individuals or media, and no inequality or discrimination.
On the other hand are countries like India and Pakistan who although are democratic in nature but only follow it as a process and that is why have always failed to compete with the first world countries. India known as the biggest democracy in the world is, in reality, a flawed democracy. Although the electoral process that takes place in India is free and fair there are many other basic issues that a common person has to face on a daily basis. Democracy is about providing social support and protection, equal rights, and freedom to its people. However India has failed, there is a rise of fanaticism in India, clashes between Hindu and Muslims, a huge gap between the rich and poor, too much unemployment, and a bad justice system.
Similarly, Pakistan is a democracy only because its political system is based on the electoral form of government. It is only a process but not a way through which a society runs proficiently. The literacy rate is so low that many do not even know how to vote and who to vote. They just vote on the basis of their families’ party affiliations or due to bribery. The country is surrounded by a high level of corruption, injustice, gender inequality, extremism, and illiteracy. There is very little political participation by citizens. And it is not even a flawed democracy because mostly the elections that take place also turn out to be rigged and hence flawed.
Democracy is not something that should only be used during election days because if it is used just as a process it will be forgotten the very next day. Elections or voting does not define democracy. Real democracy lies in how the government after coming to power treats its people, give them the right to equality, justice, liberty, and good life, give them right to question those in power or take part in public matters or policy-making and how it provides them with freedom of speech or freedom of expression. Because these are the main aspects of democracy which can only be achieved if people understand it as a culture, not process.
If people do not know how to use their rights and perform their duties, on what basis to vote for a person, who to choose as their leader, how to actively participate in community matters, how to maintain their surroundings, how to uphold justice, how to protect cultural diversity and how to raise voice against inequality then even if democracy is present as a process in that country, it does not matter. Democracy as a culture is not just an aspect but a secret key to prosperity for the ordinary. As a culture, it values public opinion whereas as a process, it only favors the powerful.
For a better society, the idea of democracy should be first drawn-out to all. People should get familiar with how democracy if used properly, can turn out a blessing to them. Those who understand it shall take a full part in sharing the idea of democratic culture to the whole of their communities by raising awareness, organizing movements, and exchanging dialogues. Sustainable development is linked to democratic culture, hence we should not take pride in being a democratic country by conducting free and fair elections but work together to turn into a culture so that we can produce a tolerant and cooperative society.