Democratic Competence: Attitudes 1

I tried to figure out which VALUES I need to have as a democratically minded person in my previous post. I learned that the values in the Framework model of the European Council (EC) form the foundation of democratic competence and are essential for any political competence to be considered “democratic”.

According to the EC, “an attitude is the overall mental orientation which an individual adopts towards someone or something (for example a person, a group, an institution, an issue, an event, a symbol).” Attitudes usually consist of four components: a Belief or Opinion about “something or someone” we are facing, an Emotion or Feeling towards it, the Evaluation (either positive or negative) of it, and a particular way of Behaviour towards that object or person.

It seems that all attitudes start with a belief, like “democrats are communists” or “Trump followers are stupid”, “women can’t drive”. As a result of any belief, there is an emotion (perhaps fear, or anger). Based on that emotion, there is an evaluation, like “this is dangerous” or “this is fun” and last, there is a behaviour or action as in “not with me, nope” or “Let’s go”.

Now, what is a belief? The best definition I ever found is this one by Morty Lefkoe:

A belief is an assumption about the world (or any part of it) that I have decided to be true FOR ME.

Whether a belief is really “true”, meaning it matches the reality out there, is a different story. However, any belief affects the person holding the belief and the reality of those around them. Once a person has adopted a belief, it causes him/her to perceive reality and react to reality per that belief. The bible even claims: as you believe, thy shall be done on to you.

While anybody has beliefs, opinions, emotions, evaluations and behaviours towards pretty much anything in their life, the EC holds the opinion that people need to adopt the following attitudes in order for a democracy to work properly:

Democratic Attitude What it is
Openness to cultural “otherness”Openness is an attitude towards different people, world views, beliefs, values and practices, resulting from a belief that they are in some way beneficial for us or at least not a threat. It’s more than a mere interest in exotic experiences for personal enjoyment, like a holiday trip to Bali
RespectAn attitude towards someone (or something) who we “believe” to have some kind of importance, worth or value, which again warrants our positive regard and esteem (more on respect below)
Civic-mindednessAn attitude towards a community or social group that is larger than our immediate circle of family and friends, to which we feel a sense of belonging. Civic- mindedness may be held towards multiple groups of any number
ResponsibilityIn a culture of democracy, role responsibility and moral responsibility are important. Role responsibility is connected to civic-mindedness, where we adopt the responsibilities of our role(s) in the community. Moral responsibility arises when a person has a moral obligation to act in a particular way and deserves praise or blame for either succeeding or failing to act in that way.
Self-efficacyInvolves a positive belief in one’s own ability to undertake the actions required to achieve particular goals. It is associated with self-confidence. Low self-efficacy can discourage democratic and intercultural behaviour even when there would be a high level of ability, while unrealistically high self-efficacy can lead to frustration, disappointment, or disaster due to a lack of ability.
Tolerance of ambiguityPeople with a high tolerance of ambiguity evaluate situations which are perceived to be uncertain and subject to multiple conflicting or incompatible interpretations in a positive manner, accept their inherent lack of clarity, and deal with the ambiguity constructively. Low tolerance of ambiguity leads to a single perspective on unclear situations, a closed attitude, and fixed and inflexible categories for thinking about the world.

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