Democratic Competences: Values

My first step in determining my level of democratic competence was to find a definition of this term that makes sense to me. I added my few cents to the European Council‘s original description, because I think that democracy also provides or should provide benefits. The EU Council doesn’t talk about benefits, only challenges and demands, probably assuming that benefits are apparent and that everybody has the competences to seize the benefits of living in a democracy. I have some doubts here, hence the update.

The first type of competence to be considered are: VALUES “Values are general beliefs that individuals hold about the desirable goals that should be striven for in life.” (EU Council) Hm, not sure about the “shoulding”, but values certainly “motivate action and also serve as guiding principles for deciding how to act.” And “…they have a normative prescriptive quality about what ought to be done or thought across many different situations.” According to the Cambridge dictionary, value is the importance or worth of something for someone, which is typically determined by how useful or important something is to a person. Both combined it seems that in a democracy, certain things should have importance or worth for citizens and the goverment, because these things are beneficial or essential for oneself, others, or society as a “compound”. In other words, a citizen in a democracy should be willing and able to assign worth and importance to these “desirable goals”.

According to the EU Council, specific values are essential for participation in a democratic culture because without those particular values, all the other competences like attitudes, skill, knowledge and critical understanding are mere general political competences, which could be applied in different political systems (like tyranny) just as well. The U.S. just experienced first hand, how political competence, lacking democratic value, can rock the foundations of a democray. For participating in a culture of democracy, the EU Council suggests the following values to be of crucial importance, meaning, I need to value these if I want to claim democratic competence for myself:

  • Human dignity and Human rights
  • Cultural diversity
  • Democracy
  • Justice
  • Fairness
  • Equality
  • The rule of law
  • Sustainability (not in the EU Council’s list, but I think it should be)

This feels like a lot. Even without looking at the details, it appears to me that it’s “complicated” or “demanding” to be a democrat unless we are lucky and most of these things come naturally to humans?

To assess where I stand with my competence concerning democratic values, I have decided, for starters, to create a TABLE. In it, I mark for each value whether it has played out in my life as a Challenge or a Benefit, or both. The column ‘Challenge’ refers to situations where my right has been challenged, or I am struggling to uphold this value for some reason, or I have difficulties to make use of this right’s opportunities and benefits for myself. I have also noted, which of these rights haven’t been an issue in my personal life, like, I have never participated in a law case, and I was never tortured. This can be a result from living in a democracy or it can mean that my life just hasn’t included any situations where this right had to be invoked.

In my next posts, I intend to take a closer look at my competence regarding some of these issues (not attempting an indepth psychological analysis of the matter, though). I’ll sort all my musings under the category “Demoratic Values” and they will be linked in the TABLE, once published.

Table for the Assessment of Democratic Values
as personal Challenges and/or Benefits

Human Rights and
Democratic Values
Experienced as a CHALLENGE
 in my life
Experienced as a BENEFIT
 in my life
No incidents / no experience with this
 in my life
Article 1 (Freedom, equality, solidarity)XX
Article 2 (Prohibition of discrimination)XX
Article 3 (right to life and liberty)X
Article 4 (Prohibition of slavery and slave trade)XX
Article 5 (Prohibition of torture)XX
Article 6 (Recognition as a legal person)X
Article 7 (Equality before the law)X
Article 8 (Right to legal protection)X
Article 9 (Protection against arrest and expulsion)X
Article 10 (Right to a fair trial)XX
Article 11 (Presumption of innocence)X
Article 12 (Sphere of freedom of the individual)X
Article 13 (Freedom of movement and emigration)X
Article 14 (Right to Asylum)X
Article 15 (right to nationality)X
Article 16 (Marriage, Family)X
Article 17 (Right to property)XX
Article 18 (Freedom of thought, conscience, religion)XX
Article 19 (Freedom of expression and information)XX
Article 20 (Freedom of assembly and association)X
Article 21 (Universal and equal suffrage)XX
Article 22 (Right to social security)XX
Article 23 (Right to work, equal pay)X
Article 24 (Right to rest and leisure)XX
Article 25 (Right to Welfare)XX
Article 26 (Right to education)XX
Article 27 (Freedom of Cultural Life)XX
Article 28 (Social and international order)XNot sure
Article 29 (Fundamental Obligations)X
Article 30 (Rule of Interpretation)XX
Human dignityXX
Cultural diversityXX
The rule of lawX

NOTE: If you would like to explore your own standing regarding these values, below is an empty table for download. If you like, please share what you found, I am curious to learn about your experiences.

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