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In Defense of Representative Democracy (9)

On Pluralism:

According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "pluralism" denotes any theory, which claims that reality consists of a multiplicity of distinct, fundamental entities. The term was first used by Christian Wolff (1679-1754), and later popularized by William James in "The Will to Believe". Pluralism is distinguished from both monism, the view that one kind of thing exists, and dualism, the view that two kinds of things exist. James objected to monism on the grounds that it puts too much emphasis on totality, and tended to exclude individuality and free will. For him, the concept of pluralism is strongly associated with the dominance of external relationships abundant in the real world.

In the socio-political sphere, pluralism can be defined in a number of ways. The definition which seems most encompassing is the following: a democratic society in which members of diverse ethnic, racial, religious and social groups maintain participation in and development of their traditions and special interests while cooperatively working toward the interdependence needed for a nation's unity. It is important to note that the focus of most definitions evolves around the elements of interdependence, development and cooperation among diverse peoples of society or of the world. As I stated in a previous letter, both "tolerance and respect" are essential ingredients for a genuine democracy to grow and flourish.

The following few question marks may provide fodder for some readers and writers of this page to provoke further pluralistic thinking:

1.  How can religious faith or the powerful ideology of individualism limit the realization of pluralism?
2.  How can moral development be modified to educate individuals on different levels: (a) as members of a large society, (b) as members of a subgroup, (c) and as individuals free to explore potentialities beyond any group membership?
3.  How does the media assist or hinder in developing views of pluralism?
4.  How can promoting diversity splinter as well as enlarge human communities?
5.  How does the language we use inhibit pluralistic thought?
6.  Do we need to rethink or redefine a multicultural analysis of our past, present and future?

The thesis of pluralism is simply summarized by an old folktale about a wise man that was asked how one could know the moment of dawn. The man answered, "Dawn is the moment when there is enough light to see the face of another person nearby." Dawn has not come to our Libyan world as yet, but when it does, pluralism will be the main key in creating a bright future for all members of society.

A real democratic society must be a pluralistic one by definition. There is no true democracy without the ethic of pluralism being codified in its constitution. Another wise person once said, "If we don't believe in democracy for people we despise, then we don't believe in it at all". I hesitate to say that the Libyan mindset is still too far from this noble and truly needed concept of PLURALISM.

To be continued

Abdelrahim Saleh

P.S.: I would like to thank T. Mana for his positive appraisal of my modest contribution (Feb.8, 2002) and for his inclusion of my name among such a distinguished group. I'm deeply honored. I wholeheartedly agree with your suggestion of a roundtable discussion. I do think this needs not be a physical arrangement (venue and travel logistics) but perhaps a "virtual" roundtable or "virtual" conference. This is an idea that its time has come. We may even be able to do it periodically and contribute to further our knowledge of our society and country. I hope others will support this excellent initiative and make use of available digital technology. I'm certainly ready and look forward to devoting time and energy towards its realization.


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