Democracy's Hour

The Christian Science Monitor, May 23, 1991 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Democracy's Hour


'PEOPLE, your government has returned to you."

These words, spoken by playwright-president Vaclav Havel to his fellow citizens two months after the November 1989 "velvet revolution" in Prague, were taken to heart not only by Czechs, but by people across the globe waking to the idea that totalitarianism need not be a permanent condition for people and nations.

In 1991, the idea of democracy is on the march. Marxism has been discredited by one of the most basic litmus tests around - practical experience. President Bush this week called on Fidel Castro, one of the few remaining committed Marxists, to open up Cuba's frozen political system. On Tuesday, Ethiopia's President Mengistu - a Marxist whose rule has led to mass starvation in East Africa - fled his country.

As today's Monitor series on political "Global Frontiers" notes, efforts in El Salvador to include labor unionists in the political process, and a freer press in Algeria, are examples of a larger, worldwide impulse for greater democratic freedoms. The fact that the Soviet Union sided with the West in the coalition against Saddam Hussein's aggression made a "new world order" at least temporarily possible.

Yet it is far too early to announce, as some would, the "triumph of democracy" in today's world. The failure of Marxism hardly means the automatic ascendancy of an idea as complex and as grounded in Western values and culture as democracy. Democracy has long been described as fragile, as an "experiment." Abraham Lincoln noted that democracy is always "one generation away from extinction echoing the Founding Fathers' Puritan-rooted concern about the corruptibility of human nature, and also implying that s elf-government in this world is not simply a "state of nature" that can be accepted unconsciously, but is something that must be learned and worked at. Democracy is not a mechanism; it must have a soul.

Tides of feeling must be examined. Optimism is not an accurate barometer. In the early 1950s there was great hope in some internationalist quarters for a new world brotherhood.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Democracy's Hour
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?