Is democracy a basic social good?

It is a word with no real definition, but rather a word that can be interpreted differently to each individual who uses it. This word is democracy, and it can instill a sense of liberty, freedom, and patriotism at least for many Americans. Realistically, it is a way of life which has a sense of altruism to it; it is for the overall good of a people. In many ways it can be a good and positive thing for a society, and this can be demonstrated in examples that occur in everyday living. My personal feelings and beliefs towards democracy will be viewed next to the views of the great philosopher John Dewy, and those of Native American Chief Oren Lyons.

There are many things in life that we take for granted. It is not every day that I wake up and immediately give thanks that I live in a democratic society, but is more of a subconscious idea that we know exits in our life. I do, however, feel privileged and lucky to live in a country that stands for freedom, equal rights, and active participation by its citizens. It is so tremendous that we as citizens have the power to make decisions for ourselves and the social good. Those are the kinds of ideals of this modern democracy that our founding fathers wanted for all; basically a country for the people, by the people. Democracy is not a very complicated principle, but it is a simple thing that affects our everyday life, no matter how trivial the event. We as a democratic country try and strive for the basic social good. This means that this concept primarily looks out for the welfare and satisfaction of every individual who falls under that government. It is not out to place harsh and unwanted rules and restrictions on its people. Rather, it allows them to take part and have a say in their government, provides them with equality, and gives them a freedom to live a life with no oppressive rule. This liberty which we as Americans possess singles no one person out; it is there for the taking by all.
While the word democracy literally describes a type of political and governmental state of mind, it is not only meant to be used by those in high ranking officials. This term applies to everyone who falls under its rule, and encourages those people to benefit and to be strengthened by its principles. John Dewey describes how it does indeed shape individuals into better people by stating, “democracy is a personal way of individual life; that it signifies the possession and continual use of certain attitudes, forming personal character and determining desire and purpose in all the relations of life” (Dewey, 2). What better way to add to the basic social good by implementing a way of life which can allow those people affected by it to help each other, and ultimately their government. Dewey also goes to show that since democracy allows for the everyday man to have free speech with his neighbors and to educate himself with public information, that person can use that power to better society as a whole. He also sees democracy as a gift, something so irreplaceable to all who embrace it in saying, “Democracy is the belief thatthe habit of amicable cooperationis itself a priceless addition to life” (Dewey, 3). Here, John is saying that democracy is an act of working together in the society to make it better for all. This is similar to the story of American Indians’ ways of life.

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As John Dewey describes how democracy is a good thing which benefits the overall welfare of society, Native American Chief Oren Lyons displays some similarities in his thoughts of how this way of life is profitable. There are instances in which the modern democracy aspect of Definition H was discussed in his speech “The UN Year of the Indigenous Peoples 1993.” This American Ideal, as it is can be referred to, describes democracy as something in which all can participate and where everyone should respect the equal rights of all its citizens. His opening remarks clearly agree with this when commenting, “Our societies are based upon great democratic principles of the authority of the people and equal responsibilities for the men and womenand freedom with respect was everywhere” (Lyons, 1). The Chief here means that the overall good of society, freedom and respect, is a result of the actions and decisions of its participants. These traits of this form of self-government is one of the fundamental characteristics of what democracy is, and Lyons goes to show that since it gave the people liberty and reverence towards each other, it aided to their social good. “This was a great was of life across this Great Turtle Island”, states Lyons, and his belief was that democracy was something which all prospered by (Lyons, 1). The social good does not only apply to the present time, but to the future as well. Just as we make decisions which will affect persons many years from now, Chief Lyons shows how democracy helped his leaders to “be men of vision and to make every decision on behalf of the seventh generation to come” (Lyons, 1). Not only does this social good of democracy affect the present, but it is meant to continue on and affect the future as well. I now feel reassured that my beliefs are very similar to two influential thinkers regarding this subject.

When first thought of, the very word democracy brings to mind senses of rights, duties, and liberties. When regarding America, this is most likely the case in many of its citizens. My belief on how democracy is a social good seems to agree with the beliefs of both John Dewey and Chief Oren Lyons. I feel like my view is consistent and proper with the norm. I have stated previously that I see democracy as something which is present in the events of everyday life. This is most likely something which is again taken for granted, but nonetheless is just as important. We possess a great power, the right to free speech and opinion. As minor as this can sometimes be, this is a great tool to our and others’ advantage. Dewey supports this idea with, “the heart and final guarantee of democracy is in free gatherings of neighborsto discuss back and forth what is read in uncensored news” (Dewey, 3). This advantage of a democracy gives not only the readers the freedom to read what they wish, but it also gives some form of media the liberty to write about events without fear of punishment or restriction. This has the potential to educate the public, enabling them to become more wise and aid in the decision making of this country. As was discussed in class, the media helps inform us of many things in our lives which ultimately will guide us in making wise choices about running our government. This is a major concept on why a democratic lifestyle is a part of the social good. Additionally, modern democracy focuses in on its partakers respecting the equal rights for all. We can make everyone’s lives a better and more enjoyable experience by giving aid to those who need it and being helpful in general to aid in the overall benefit of society. Chief Lyons was emphasizing the same concept of democracy in his speech, and showed how the democratic standard of living was not selfish but rather was there to support the social good of all. This is very evident in his statement, “We were instructed to be generous and to share equally with our brothers and sisters so that all may be content,” and shows that his people sought equality for all and were satisfied in doing so (Lyons, 1). This would be the idealistic thing to do in our modern world, and I hope that many others besides Dewey and Lyons would agree with me.

Democracy is a very powerful and basic part of our lives. It gives us the privilege of possessing freedom, equal rights, active participation, and responsibility to help govern our nation. We are making the choices which will affect us, and if we look at politics right now, we see that we influence decisions that affect our every day lives. This is evident in Dewey’s opinion when he says that democracy is a way of life. As a democratic people, it is our responsibility to ensure the welfare and equality of others. Chief Lyons says the same when his people were generous and giving toward others. That is why I see democracy as a wonderful thing to have, as it gives us power as a people, and enables us to strive only for the social good of America.


Works Cited
Crick, Bernard. Democracy a Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press,
2002.

Dewey, John. “Creative Democracy.” (1939). April 16, 2005
Lyons, Chief Oren. “The UN Year of the Indigenous Peoples 1993.” December 10,
1992.