celebrating democracy

A647_34

There are things we yearn for, when we don’t have them… and take for granted very quickly, when we have them. Freedom is one of those things. Often, when we have it, we have a lot of complaints… about the quality of life, the expenses we have to meet, about how unfair the system is, about the vast differences between the living standards of the rich and the poor. In our country, there were a lot of demonstrations a year ago, about the cost of living. A lot of young people who were ostensibly part of the middle class, complained that housing was much too costly… education was a terrible burden… and they just couldn’t make ends meet.

A594_07

This week we had an election of members of the parliament here in Israel. The president of our country, and numerous political leaders urged citizens to vote for the party of their choice. About thirty different political parties attempted to attract the votes of the citizenry. And 12 parties gained representation in the next parliament. The prime minister, the government, and the policies of the country will be determined by a coalition of political parties, usually organized by the party that gains the most votes. On the day of election, we had a holiday. People didn’t go to work, or to school, so as to make it easier for all citizens to take part in the election. We call the day, ‘a celebration of democracy’

C452_032

And in the weeks that lead up to the election, the different parties campaigned, trying to convince us to vote for them. Honestly, it was terrible. It sounded to me like they were selling coca-cola, or cars or jeans. Years ago, they used to present an ideological position. Now, each party was selling its leaders like they were rock and roll stars. They were insulting one another, and making a lot of noise with meaningless jingles. Towards the end of the campaign, I didn’t listen much to the radio or watch TV. It was just disheartening for me to listen to all that propaganda and nonsense. But on Tuesday, election day, I went to the polls early in the morning, and put a slip of paper which identified the party of my choice into an envelope, and slipped it into the ballet box, voting for the party that was closest to my personal political convictions. 67% of the population voted. No one is obliged to vote.

C452_022

At ten o’clock that night, we turned on the TV to hear the first reports. After the polls had closed, the result of sample polls were published, giving us a pretty good estimate of how people had voted. I found it quite surprising and a little disappointing. It wasn’t at all what I had expected. For weeks now, there had been opinion polls every few days, and it seemed like we knew what to expect. I won’t go into the subtleties of Israeli politics. It doesn’t really matter so much, in relation to what I want to share with you. What’s important, is that the results were different from what had been expected, and suddenly we had a new reality to deal with.

C452_031

It was tempting to think, what ridiculous results! I had had this vision of what would be good for the country, and the majority had chosen differently. But thinking about this in the hours and days that followed, I realized what a wonderful thing it was that a whole nation would go in an orderly fashion to the polling booths, and choose their leaders, and determine their fate. And the fact that this happened on a national level, truly reduced the responsibility of each of us as an individual. Our nation had spoken. And suddenly I was reminded of the injunction from the bible, to love our neighbors as we do ourselves. By relating to all my fellow citizens with love, I could understand how different parts of the society had each chosen the different representatives who would now sit in parliament, and determine the laws and policies that would shape our future. Thinking of my fellow citizens with love, I was able to overcome my personal disappointment, and find real hope in my heart that the many different representatives would learn how to work together in order to improve the conditions in our common society.

A593_19

It is getting close to the Sabbath. The newspaper has already arrived. I will be able to read the learned opinions of experts on how it happened the way it did. And I feel truly grateful for this democracy that we have. So much better than a king or a dictator, whose wishes we would have to accept. And if the choices were poor, we will have another chance to change things in four years time. The photos in this post are of political rallies and demonstrations.

Advertisements

66 responses to “celebrating democracy

  1. I enjoyed reading this post. I wish we could achieve the percentage vote that you did in Israel.

  2. I admire the way that you decided to take a positive view of a disappointing result. And I love the idea of polling day being a holiday that celebrates democracy. Too true, we take our freedom for granted. The rest of us look on as Israel decides the next step of its future.

    • I believe that all of us are challenged. Not just the big criminals. There are little criminals too… such as I… who takes things too seriously… and think I know what is good for my country. So we get regular tests, and we all have to examine our tests. Years ago, I thought that our politics could be an example to the world, Gillyk. But since then, everyone wants to be in the ‘middle’. And sometimes it seems as if people here are more worried about the middle class than they are about the poor. So we’ve got our problems too.

  3. It is such a shame that when the choice of some people is not represented in the final ressult they turn to insult and hatred of the winners disregarding the fact that their views were obvioulsy in the minority.

    • Yes, I agree with you. It’s a shame. But there are a lot of criticisms of the democratic process, and there are some who take advantages of the weaknesses of the system, and some lying politicians who mislead the public. But though the system isn’t perfect, I still believe it’s the best one around. Thank you for coming by, Bill.

  4. A 67% turnout is remarkable Shimon. The people of the UK are now so heartily sick of the way our politicians carry on, the scandals, the expenses fraud, the idea that they now deserve a 30% increase in salary whilst imposing austerity on the very poorest and weakest in our society has meant that in a recent election, only 15% of people bothered to vote.
    This is quite shocking and clearly to the detriment of the democracy we hold dear but sadly it is my opinion that in this new age of the career politician, whose principle aim in life is to keep his job and gain re-election whilst persuing selfish ends, our democracy has become a demockery. It is truly a worrying time. The statesman of the past have been replaced by slick, second hand car salesman types who you know would sell their grandmother for a handful of votes.
    Some people say we get the leadership we deserve but I think this is very unfair. We have two and a half parties here and you couldn’t get a cigarette paper between them. We have a party which clearly serves the multi-nationals, the banks and the rich, and a party that pretends it doesn’t whilst serving the interests of the multi-nationals, the banks and the rich. Democracy has been sold to the highest bidder only the ordinary folk of course, weren’t invited to the auction.
    Lobbyists dictate policy and the best funded lobbyists get what they want. Ideology is conspicuous in its absence. To suggest we live in a democracy where we can vote for the government of our choice, doesn’t count for much if, in reality, there is no choice. I paint a fairly bleak picture but in my opinion it is bleak. Why else would the parties of extremism, once more, be emerging from their hiding places across Europe?
    The democracy in Israel sounds to be in a much healthier state. It will be interesting to see how the new parliament develops Shimon.

    • You know, my friend, I can’t really say much about the situation in another country, but it does seem to me that some of the illnesses that are plaguing the west have come around to my country too. And my impression is that politicians do reflect the attitudes and the morals of the people in the country. The big question, is how do we get a whole society to wake up to the fact that they’ve become too materialistic, or too selfish? Many times, the faults of government feed a vicious circle. The reason it was decided to give an above average income to public servants was so that they wouldn’t be tempted to take bribes. But when everyone is looking out for No. 1, it can get more than a bit depressing. Thank you for your very thought provoking input, Chillbrook, and let’s hope that the exchange of ideas will stimulate some young folks to press for changes.

      • It’s is sad and dangerous, I think, when politicians, who probably spend £100 on lunch, charged to expenses of course, tell people on £65 a week benefit because they can’t find work, that they need to take a cut to pay for the greed in the banking community that led to the government bailing them out to the tune of £454 billion (and that’s just the figure we know about) to ensure the whole rotten greed fueled system wouldn’t collapse. It is indeed a worrying and depressing time.

        • Yes, there is good reason to worry. Lets hope that reason will open people’s eyes before the situation becomes so bad that people will despair regarding the system.

  5. An enjoyable and fascinating post. I definitely was tired of our campaign ads, so I tuned them out in a variety of ways. Plus, 67% impresses me.

    I appreciate your notion that agree with it or not, your country has spoken and you are willing to accept. Yep – it’s time to move on.

    One question – you vote for parties not individuals?

    • There are many people who would like to change our system, and it might happen one of these days. But in this country, we vote for the party, and not for the individual at the head of the party. This is to make sure that every part of the population is represented. Then when the election results come in, the parties have to decide to work together, and a majority coalition in the parliament gives power to a group at its head, which then chooses the prime minister, and the other ministers. I’ve always thought it a good system, but there are some who would like us to be more like America.

  6. How nice to celebrate of democracy! I hope and wish everything with this new parliament goes well. I dream for my country too. But it is only a dream… At least I wouldn’t be able to see the real democracy! Maybe the next generations… Makes me so sad… We are a democratic country but we have a one man voice. Can’t talk more… Thank you dear Shimon, as always wisely written piece. Blessing and Happiness, love, nia

    • Thank you very much for your comment, Nia. It really touched my heart. Yes, it is a difficult and fragile process to conduct a democratic society… and sometimes, even great democratic nations have fallen into a mud hole. I think that what is most important that we bring up our children to have respect and for our fellow man, and to honor justice. Sending you my best, Nia.

  7. I hope it works out for the best Shimon. I’m glad you can overcome your disappointment and think of your fellow citizens with love.xxxxx

    • Thank you for your good wishes, Dina. Believe me, I have many faults… and I have moments, when I can’t find the love in my heart. But I try, because I think it’s right.

  8. I love how you resolved the feeling of disappointment, and as to the high precentage of voters, I can only say: The people have spoken! Now how this will manifest itself in the coalition, this would be a whole different story. Shabbat Shalom.

    • Actually, it’s hard to overcome disappointment… and that was my accomplishment for the week. The people have spoken, and I’m hoping the results will be positive. We had very good luck this time, because there were quite a few good choices available to the public. Wishing you a very good week, Rachel.

  9. I admire your perspective, Shimon…and thank you for another glimpse into life in your Land.

  10. I treasured reading your reality of the election process and the celebration of democracy, Shimon. I am also lifting up a prayer that the citizens always have that voice. Blessings.

    • Well, I join you in that prayer, painter lady… you know, there are some people in my country who are still praying for a king. But with all the disadvantages, there are some very good things about democracy.

  11. Thank you, Shimon, for sharing the process of elections in Israel and your own process of coming to the acceptance of results different from what you had reasoned to be the best. I agree that freedom is precious and democracy, in theory, ensures freedom for all to elect leaders who can be trusted to honor those who didn’t vote for them, incorporating ideas from everyone in their decisions.

    I wish we had a much stronger turnout at our polls here in the United States, and that our democracy wasn’t so appropriated and unbalanced by capitalism; It seems a viscous circle; the wealthy, usually corporate decision-makers, buy the candidates and votes, which reduces the turn-out of the disenfranchised. Those in power re-draw the lines of districts they represent and the powerless lose more opportunities to be heard.

    Democracy may be the best human system for governance, but we’ve lost our direction here, and I hope we can find our way to a government that is in greater congruence with the theories upon which it was founded…

    I am so thankful to learn how these processes flow in other places and appreciate the time you took to share.

    • I can well understand your feelings, Catherine, about the weaknesses of democracy, and how it seems at times that it has been co-opted by capitalism. But in my life, I have seen half of Europe go the way of socialism, choosing it because of uplifting ideals, and a sense of responsibility for the weak and the poor. And in the end it turned into a terrible disaster. And when the people had their choice, they voted against it. I myself, made great efforts to find a society that enabled the highest morality. And what I discovered was that a few select people can live according to the highest ideals, but in a pluralistic society, you have to make room for everyone. I believe that the US democracy, with all its faults, can take the credit for a lot of freedom, and a very high standard of living for the majority of its population. Thank you very much for your comment.

  12. It is very interesting to hear how your system works. A day off to vote is a great idea. We should do that in the US to make it easier for people to vote. I am so glad we have a democracy, but we also have some shady dealings here on voting day. Voting is made purposely difficult in some districts in order to discourage people from voting–usually working people and minorities, who have to wait hours in long lines, or who are purposely intimidated in an effort to scare them away before they vote.

    • Every society has its weaknesses, Naomi. And when we have ideals, we concentrate on how to improve our society, and how to overcome some of the negative aspects. And sometimes, idealism can lead to a worsening of the situation, as in the case of prohibition in your country. And then, we have to correct the mistakes. It’s a lifetime of work. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the advantages we have, and what works.

  13. I was disappointed in what happened in your election as well but appreciate what you said about overcoming your disappointment. Great photography as usual 😉

    • Yes, Linda… sometimes we’re disappointed in the choices of a friend, even when it isn’t really our business. Sometimes I follow the politics in another country, and also feel disappointment. Thank you very much for your comment.

  14. It is easier indeed to work on personal freedom when there is a certain amount of political freedom in the society is which we live. For such societies maybe the next step on the evolutionary tree (if we believe in an upward progress of humans) is to ponder what freedom is – freedom to worship as we want, freedom to choose our brand of ice cream, freedom to have our children schooled in a public school or not, freedom to do contrary to our knee-jerk response of like or dislike! What do we want to be free to think, feel or do? But I agree, we need to celebrate what we do have now, this instant.

    • I do appreciate your thinking, Orlando… especially about the evolution of the human kind, and societies in general. I suppose that in some places there were more reasons to believe in evolution than in others… But I don’t see freedom as an end in itself. To me, what is most important is that we live good lives, happy and healthy, and on good terms with our neighbors, producing food, housing, schools and entertainment that perpetuate a sense of well being for the society as a whole. I believe that there can be ‘too much freedom’ or ‘too much fun’, having a damaging effect on the population.

  15. A philosophical view of your election process and indeed, democracy in action.
    The pathetic cosmetic “spin” is the same over here. Grown men acting like little children trying to belittle and out do one another. Promises that will be immediately broken when their party gets into power. Yet still it is democracy, of a sort.
    UK politics is so corrupt now, especially amongst the richer classes, it needs a complete overhaul from bottom to top. If we ever had a coalition like yours or those in Holland or Belgium, we would never have a viable government, all the rich classes think they are always right, the working classes (99%) don’t like being talked down to and the anarchists just wanna kick everything that moves.

    • Thank you for your comment, Marshland. I think that sometimes conventions can drag us off the beaten track and into troubles that are very hard to get out of. It’s really a delicate balance. And things usually have to get very bad before people are going to go to the trouble to repair the damage. In our country, after a great enthusiasm for free enterprise and the ‘American way of life’, people are beginning to ask themselves if there shouldn’t be some sort of maximum on the differences between rich and poor. Unfortunately, we have so many difficult issues… that occasionally some of them get lost in the shuffle.

  16. does it seem that there will be any major changes on the horizon because of the election results? if so, will those changes be positive or negative for you as an individual but also for the country as a whole?

    • Since I believe that there is a lot of room for improvement in our society, I am hoping for some major changes. But it is hard to tell yet, Rich. The coalition still hasn’t formed, and then it depends on how well people will be able to work together. Not to speak of the fact that we are surrounded by hostile countries… On the whole, though, I am optimistic.

  17. Your post took an interesting and positive turn Shimon. Your open mind is admirable. Politics I’m afraid, is one of those areas where my mind is not so open as I would like it to be.

    • Here in my country, when we have criticisms towards someone, some folks say, as a joke, he neither steals nor murders. The point is, that principles come into play just when you’re dealing with something that’s hard for you. It’s when our minds are not open, that we have to work to open them. Thank you for your comment, Chris.

  18. “Thinking of my fellow citizens with love, I was able to overcome my personal disappointment, and find real hope in my heart that the many different representatives would learn how to work together in order to improve the conditions in our common society.”… What an wonderful sense of awareness and caring Shimon. If only more people could begin to think like this, of us all as part of the whole, rather than fragments in opposition. This was an excellent post and I enjoyed learning more about the election process there. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!

    • Thank you very much for your comment, Josie. I think that in this modern world, we are sometimes tempted to thing that loving our neighbors is sending smileys and words of encouragement, telling people to be compassionate towards themselves. But how much more important is it, to feel love for the human being who thinks differently from us, or who belongs to the opposing team. That is what I believe regarding loving our neighbor.

  19. Oi! I will NOT go into the pathetic politics that we have here in the US. So sad. Beyond pathetic. Having the rhetoric bombarding us on TV…on (Unwanted) phone calls, on UNwanted e-mails. And we don’t even have the ability to turn them off. And…they are already starting the rhetoric for the next election…4 yrs from now! Shame!

    • I agree with you, Bob. It is really hard to take. That is why I just stopped listening to the radio or watching the TV as we got close to the election. I found it offensive… even the messages that came from the side I had sympathy for. Fortunately, you live in a beautiful environment, and love music. I think it should be relatively easy for you to filter out some of that noise.

  20. Your writing always has such a gentle thoughtful way about it, I do love to read your thoughts here.

  21. Dear Shimon …. yes I have tears in my eyes as i read your post. What a generous and empathetic response you have to an election which brought disappointing results for you.

    We in America could take a good lesson from you. After the last elections, the hate and vituperative comments were just overwhelming. I couldn’t believe public figures could display such poor sportsmanship. They whined and howled and right now are doing everything they can to thwart our President at every turn.
    I watch our freedoms being trivialized and abused every day. I see our politics infected with meanness and our culture decimated with violence and vulgarity,

    Democracy and Freedom aren’t free … they require responsibility and fairness. We need so many more people like you here in America in our public life. So so many more.

    Thank you Shimon, for a ray of hope.

    • I have to tell you, Nikki, that I’ve been somewhat aware of American politics for some time; especially since I started reading blogs. And it seems to me that the language used in the last elections in your country, was a backlash to the way certain people referred to President Bush when he was president. There was so much contempt. And unjustifiable insults. It was no surprise then, when some of the same stuff started coming from the opposite direction. I do hope there will be some readjustment in your country.

  22. Reading both the post and the comments reminds me how much many different governments and populations have in common with the US, despite the apparent differences. We all struggle in this day and age with pop-cultural influences and bullying and other unproductive and non-germane issues that threaten to run away with serious political and social discourse and progress. All the same, we find people around the world who share our struggles and our fears–and also our hopes.

    • Hi Kathryn. This issue, of the similarity or differences between different peoples has become the focus of much discussion in Europe these days. There are some who look for the similarities, and there are many. But strangely enough, it seems that the more people are similar, the more ugly their differences can become. This is sometimes seen in disputes within the family. I suppose that when we are similar, we have higher expectations, and more bitter disappointments. Thank you for your comment.

  23. I enjoy your perspective, Shimon. Our political systems are similar. It’s best to be hopeful, since there’s always the possibility of change in the future.

    • Yes, I do have hope. The fact that the electorate can dislodge the government, and political leaders every few years gives us reason to hope for positive change. Thank you, yearstricken.

  24. It is interesting to me that a large percentage of your citizens vote. Ours do not. I am always reading that freedom is taken for granted. Of course, it is. That is the way with humans and dogs too, I suppose. We grow accustomed to things as they are. We always want more than we have and complain about not having more regardless of how well-off we are. We squabble like children. We fear and we hate and we fight. We are hopeless creatures. But, somehow, we create marvelous things and share beautiful ideas. The world is however we see it. I choose to see emerging democracies and a new world order.

    I enjoyed reading about your political system. Americans are with Israelis in support of our common interests and our common destiny. I believe that is true.

    • I agree with you, George, about a new world order. I think we’re already seeing the beginning of that. I hope you are right about emerging democracies, but I’m not so optimistic about that, right at this moment. I do agree with you, though, about the similarity of aspirations in our two countries. We have a great respect for America. Sometimes it seems to me that we imitate the wrong things… but that’s another story.

      • Yes, I agree that there are many characteristics of American society that you do not want to imitate. 😉 I am not so naive as to believe that democratic societies will spring forth in the Middle East. However, once people taste a bit of freedom, they cannot be contained forever. Let us hope.

        • I share your hope. It’s just I’m watching Egypt after a year has gone by since they managed to get rid of one dictatorship… and here they are with the same problem again. It’s discouraging. But as you say, if people have had a taste, they keep trying. I do like to look at such things optimistically.

  25. What a beautiful post. I detect deep disappointment, but such grace, compassion and generosity of spirit you exhibit, rather than anger or bitterness.

    • Actually, it wasn’t deep disappointment. It was just that I was hoping and expecting something else. But it’s important to keep one’s perspective, and remember what is really important. In the end, it was a learning experience for me. Thank you for your comment, Emily.

  26. This was so interesting to read! In Australia, voting is compulsory. But I’m sure that if it wasn’t, nobody would have voted in the last election, and nobody probably would in this one. It really annoys me when the people up for election advertise themselves in the way that’s nonsense and not helpful – like how you described. To actually have an idea of their true political standpoint, you would have to do a lot of research, and I’m personally not very good at looking through hundreds of pages of proposed ideas/legislation. Our election is happening somewhat soon as well I believe, so that will be interesting.

    • There are some people in my country who feel that we ought to obligate people to vote, but so far, most are against the idea. The question is to what extent the state should involve itself in the lives of the citizen. But I do believe that it’s important to try and influence the government, and to take advantage of what choice we may have. Thanks for the comment SighYuki

      • You’re welcome 🙂 I would like to see how many people would actually vote in Australia if they didn’t have to, but I don’t mind the compulsory voting either. If you have a chance to influence your future, you always should try to, I believe. It’s just difficult to sometimes when all the choices seem non-ideal. 🙂

        • Yes, that’s the biggest challenge, when we can’t identify completely with any of the candidates. But even then, I believe that choosing the best, or the least aggravating, insures that someday we’ll have someone we can really trust.

          • That’s it! Sometimes voting isn’t about voting in who you want most, but keeping out who you want least by voting for the other person haha

  27. Hallo,
    This is for you, for being kind to others and me, http://www.bigcards.nl/card/pickup/bc-c7cf3c10/

    Sweet Valentine greetings, Summer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s