Democracy needs people who question the status quo, who do not simply accept the existing conditions. People standing up for what is right, even when it is uncomfortable or unpopular. But how far is protest allowed to go? And is it necessary to challenge the boundaries of democracy to keep democracy alive?
On Monday the 24th of April in Berlin, climate activists from “Last Generation” started street blockades throughout the city. Their demands to the government are centered on adhering to the Paris climate agreement. Specifically, their first demand is the introduction of the 9 Euro Germany-wide train ticket and a speed limit of 120km/h on highways.
It is already clear what a wave of outrage and hatred their protests will trigger. And yes, this kind of protest is annoying, it hurts and is incredibly disturbing, but the activists are not enemies of democracy, as many parts of politics and the public call them.
It is crucial to challenge the boundaries of democracy to keep it alive.
Democracy is a system of government that is built on the foundation of the people’s sovereignty. It provides equal opportunities for citizens to participate in the decision-making process and enables them to elect their leaders through a fair and transparent process. Democracy is often touted as the most effective form of government, but it is not immune to challenges. In fact, democracy requires constant evolution and adaptation to remain relevant and effective. Therefore, it is crucial to challenge the boundaries of democracy to keep it alive. And challenging these boundaries can not come from within its institutions, it must happen through the people and protest from the streets. The boundaries of democracy are defined by laws and regulations that govern the political system. While these boundaries are necessary to maintain the integrity of the democratic process, their present-day relevance must be questioned.
Challenging the boundaries of democracy means questioning the status quo and pushing for change. It involves challenging the traditional power structures and advocating for new ideas and approaches. This process can be uncomfortable and even controversial, but it is necessary for progress.
Many historic gains were only achieved through massive protest movements in the streets.
One example of challenging the boundaries of democracy is the fight for voting rights. Historically, many groups have been disenfranchised and excluded from the democratic process. It was not until the 1960s that African Americans were granted the right to vote in the United States. Women had to fight for their right to vote, and some countries still do not allow women to participate fully in the political process. By challenging the boundaries of democracy, these groups were able to gain their rightful place in the political system. But these historic gains were only achieved through massive protest movements in the streets.
We need those who disrupt and challenge us.
Challenging the boundaries of democracy does not mean undermining the democratic process. Going back to the “Last Generation” climate activists, they are anything but enemies of democracy. They do not question the democratic system, nor do they want to overthrow it. They are a small group of activists choosing to use more drastic means of protest – nothing a strong democracy couldn’t handle. On the contrary, we need those who disrupt and challenge us. More than a million people on the streets of Germany with the “Fridays for Future” movement have only slowly pushed the ponderous political establishment towards climate goals. It can only be beneficial if, in addition to the good, moderate civil society and its protests, there are also more radical actors. The “Last Generation” at least shows impressively how to make headlines with very little effort.