Democracy is a ruling system set down by men in order to free themselves from the injustice of the rulers and their domination of the people in the name of religion. It is thus a system whose source is human beings and it has no connection to divine revelation or religion.
The origin of its emergence is that the rulers in Europe used to claim that the ruler was God's representative on earth and that he ruled people with a mandate from God. They claimed that it was God who gave the ruler the legislative and executive authority, i.e. the authority to rule the people with the Law that he himself legislates because he derives his authority from God and not from the people. Thus they used this claim to oppress the people and dominate them just as the master dominates his slave.
Hence a struggle took place between them and the people. Philosophers and thinkers began to study the subject of ruling and laid down a system to rule the people - which is the democratic system - in which the people are the source of authority. Therefore the ruler derives his authority from the people and sovereignty will be for the people. They possess their own will, exercise it themselves and they execute it according to their wish. No one has any authority over them. They are the master. They are the ones who enact the laws by which they govern and proceed according to them. They are the ones who appoint the ruler to rule them on their behalf through the legislation which the people lay down. Therefore, the entire source of the democratic system is the people. It has no connection with divine revelation or religion.
Edward Bernays suggests:
"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. ...We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. ...In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons...who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind."
The word democracy comes from ancient Greek, with 'demos' meaning 'the people' and 'kratos' meaning 'to rule'. So its literal meaning is rule by the people.
In simple terms, democracy means that the people are entitled to influence important decisions that affect their lives. Instead of having one person making all the decisions in a country, democracy brings together the views and interests of all people so that the future of the country can be decided based on all these views. Democracy is rule by the majority.
South Africa is one of the youngest democracies in the world. Only in 1994, after much struggle and sacrifice, were all citizens granted the right to freely and fairly vote for their representative government, under a democratic Constitution.
We now have a democracy which includes a new Constitution with a vision for "a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights".
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