Saturday, August 4, 2012

Democratic fair game

Since I'm writing a lot about democracy lately, let's level the playing field and lay out the ground rules of an open and free democratic debate, for use both on my blog and elsewhere.

In my opinion, we need only two rules:

1. Attacking, challenging or questioning an idea, a concept or a political opinion is always acceptable.

2. Attacking, threatening or discriminating against a person or a group of people is never acceptable.

There you go. It's as simple as that, I say.
But of course, this is an idea or a concept, so anyone who thinks otherwise is welcome to say so. ;-)


  1. Nice rules. However, the effectiveness of the two rules is depending on how you interpret the words, especially "discriminating". Also, by "attacking" do you only mean physical attacks, or also verbal attacks? And what is a threat, really? Just saying, easy rules makes for a lot of interpretations... the world is not an easy place... best regards, Dag-Heine, attourney/wordbender

    1. Hi and welcome to my little corner. Thanks for the comments and please accept my apologies for taking so long to get back to you on this - some times real life gets a little crazy around here (and you asked me questions I had to ponder for a while)...
      No, the world is not a simple place and yes, simple rules make for a lot of interpretations. -Which to an extent I do believe is how it should be, precisely because the world is not a simple place and hence, if the rules were not open to interpretation, they would become virtually impossible to enforce unless specifically crafted for exactly the case at hand. -Which would kind of defeat the whole purpose of having rules in the first place, I’d say. Rules are not made for specific cases. Rules are made to say something about what kind of society we want and how we should interact with each other in such a society. Rules are made for a reason and with an intent.
      Years ago, I remember overhearing a discussion where you spoke about the letter of the law vs. the intent of the law and how law enforcers should try to see the intent of a law and enforce it accordingly, not just read it letter by letter and enforce as if the world was black and white and the law was there for its own sake. –Or at least that was the point I thought you were making at the time and it seemed like a good point to me.
      Anyway, back to my two simple rules above and how to interpret them:

      Firstly though, I am under the impression that my rule 1 is “undisputed” at this time and your questions are in regards to rule 2, correct?

      So, my definition of an attack in this context would be something along the lines of “deliberately hurting another person”, and yes, this would include verbal attacks, which can be quite vicious and hurtful although they leave no physical scars and are generally considered less serious than a physical attacks. Also, I would include deliberate damage to property under this rule: It would count as a form of attack against the owner. In other words, it is not acceptable for me to take a sledgehammer to your bike – not for any reason.

      So, basically, you may say that your neighbor has a truly rotten idea if that’s how you feel about it, but you’d do well to also specify why you feel that way and how you believe things could be made better. And you may not say that your neighbor is a truly rotten person for having such ideas, because then you’d be attacking him as a person and not saying anything about his ideas at all.

      Discriminating is indeed hard to define, but basically, the idea is that you should always strive to see people for who they are, not for what they are. More precisely, you should look at each and every person around you as an independent individual and let your attitudes towards this individual be governed by your actual experiences and observations of this individual, not by labels like “man”, “woman”, “disabled”, “Jewish”, “smoker” or “socialist”. I know, it can be a lot harder than it sounds, and some times it can be really tricky to draw the line between a perfectly legitimate precautionary measure and an illegal act of discrimination against a group or an individual. I don’t have all the answers, but I do believe my intentions are pretty clear. ;-)

  2. Hows this.... If I challenge the rights of a group to be here in Norway - for instance, if I wanted to say that Rom-people should not be allowed to enter Norway, is this challenging the right of free movement, protecting the national borders, or discriminating a group??? Not that I have this opinion, but I do think that it is legal to have it (althouhg I do not condone it). Yours truly againg, Dag-Heine, attourney/wordbender

    1. Well, actually, I'd say that depends on your reasoning and how you propose to enforce it. For example, if you say that Rom people should not be allowed to enter Norway, I'll consider it illegal discrimination of a group. But if you say that people who have a criminal record should not be allowed in, then that's a legitimate political opinion.


Thank you for your interest in my blog and please feel free to comment on anything and everything you see here. I'm always happy to hear from my audience. ;-)