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A Democracy of One

Updated: 2 days ago

Graphic saying 'Vote' with a tick and a question mark

It’s easy to view democracy as being just about elections.


But as we’ve just seen in the UK, democracy isn’t that straightforward – especially when the voting system delivers, in the words of one expert, 'the most disproportional electoral outcome in British electoral history' and leaves so many people feeling disenfranchised.


So how can we as individuals truly 'take back control', whichever way we vote – if, indeed, we do.


Clearly, we can’t rely on the system changing when the status quo favours the winners. But neither can we just duck out and leave the health of our democracy to others. It's ours, after all, and without our care and support it can easily become ever more fragile. 


One way to protect it is for each of us to create a democracy of one.


Make the effort


Creating a democracy of one means making the effort to transform ourselves into people with broader, more balanced views. It means seeking opportunities to understand how other people see things, while trying hard to be understood in turn.


In short, it means actively creating around us – within us –  a more nutritious, more varied diet of ideas from which to grow as individuals and as a society. 


I had a conversation a few years ago with a friend in the USA in which I was describing the Brexit situation prior to the vote here.


The friend didn’t offer any opposition to what I was saying and I got the impression we were in broad agreement. 


Many months later, though, I heard from somebody else that the friend actually saw things very differently. They just hadn’t questioned or challenged me because they didn’t want to offend me.


But I wouldn’t have been offended in the slightest. If I were to be offended at all, it would be because someone thinks I’m not capable of discussing a view that’s different from my own.


And I think that’s where the danger lies.


A healthy information diet


There is a real and present danger of our precious democracy dying of malnutrition because 'we, the people' don’t feed ourselves a sufficiently varied diet of information and experiences.


Fortunately, this is something that anyone can start addressing right now.


All it takes is to listen to some different people or read some different stuff. Stuff that challenges us. We can flip the channel, take in some different views or even just start asking the people we know some different questions.


We can actively welcome opportunities to look at things in new ways, without feeling threatened, and discuss differences without trying to win arguments.


As we encourage in creative conversation – understand first, be understood, challenge with empathy and invite challenge.


So that’s my vote. I'm going to become an open-minded, thriving democracy of one – and do my best to spread the habit.

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