By definition the word “citizen” is related to a person who has rights and responsibilities alike in the framework of a specific community as well as outside of it. To be real citizens people ought to promote their personal, social and political rights and pay respect to the rights of others within the borders of their social and ethnic communities as well as in the international community, which is created by globalization and ecumenical culture.
At the same time one can perceive that modern world is not unified. It presents a number of social and cultural contradictions that are set by people and can simultaneously affect them. Modern World is divided between democratically governed states and authoritative regimes. Even within democratic regimes, however, people are divided into certain categories due to fallacies that are developed within the borders of democratic governance. Given the above limitations, I will try to present my views on the power that the voice of citizens in the Modern Western World as well as in countries of the so-called developing world holds in the international community.
Why is it important for citizens to voice their opinion? This is because it is a way for isolated or less powerful individuals to be able to participate and contribute to political decision making. Sometimes the upper social class is ignorant of the ailments that the low social class has. So by voicing their opinion, members of these groups are in a position to cast light to the problems that exist in those kind of communities. Furthermore, less powerful individuals gain greater power by expressing needs through coalition, formation and organization of action. These groups express their needs in such way that alters power relationship and thus be harder to be ignored. If an individual is not organized and does not act within the framework of a team or of an organization, his/her effort is not always recognized and sometimes there is a danger to be ignored. For an individual to be heard, he has to reach extremes and be physically harassed. We have the living example of the ‘’Lady in the Red Dress in Turkey’’ where the authorities are hosing her down with tear-gas and pepper spray. Another example is the environmental groups in the US have formed coalitions to gain political voice and influence policy making. Different unions have used collective bargaining to gain leverage in labor policies and contracts.
Sometimes individuals cannot find a way to express their views and their voices may not be heard from the rest of the society. They should speak louder, have patience and be more persistent to their goals. There is always a good way to reach our purposes and achieve social equality and political improvement not by using violence but through constant stamina and perseverance. Characteristic is Gandhi’s peace-building process. Although he was not an anonymous citizen, his example teaches that patience is the best ally in helping people to attain their goals. The theory of non-violence that he promoted led India to development and educational flourishing and taught the rest of the world that change can be achieved only with the awareness of problems, the notification to the international community through fruitful dialogue and through different opinions which lead to the solution of problems.
It becomes obvious that dialogue is the remedy and the answer to violence. People can participate in discussions and in personal, social, political, ethnic and international levels. There is no knowledge without dialogue. Only through constant discussions and participation in international organizations such as UN, UNESCO, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, we are aware of global issues and we can strengthen our voice and our protest against maltreatment of citizens and political corruption. People can give power to their own voice, if they reveal that no politician or mass media can manipulate them and exercise propaganda in order to prevent them from free speech and act. Citizens can avoid misleading only if they are active and place obstacles to those who have interest against social and political developments. Characteristic is the example of the year’s Nobel Prize winners Malala Yousafzai, a 17-year-old Pakistani girl of Pashtun origin who was shot by the Taliban for advocating women rights and education in Pakistan, and the Indian child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi who both fought with their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.
Kailash Satyarthi, maintaining Mahatma Gandhi’s tradition, has headed various forms of protests and demonstrations, all peaceful, focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain. He has also contributed to the development of important international conventions on children’s rights. 60-year-old Satyarthi runs an NGO in India, the Bachpan Bachao Andolan, which has been in the forefront of rescuing children from forced labor and trafficking.
Despite her youth, Malala Yousafzai has already fought for several years for the right of girls to education, and has shown by example that children and young people, too, can contribute to improving their own situations. She has done this under the most dangerous circumstances. Through her heroic struggle she has become a leading spokesperson for girls’ rights to education.
She has since then become a worldwide symbol for the fight against oppression of women and the right to education. Malala is a symbol of hope and inspiration for many girls worldwide because of her staunch support of women’s rights and education. So, once again this demonstrates and emphasizes the huge need for citizens to voice their opinions. Therefore, education is the cornerstone for the freedom of thought and speech. Citizens can voice their opinion freely through education. In the past, aristocrats manipulated lower classes because the latter could not protect their rights because of the lack of education. Consequently, they were exploited because without education they were ignorant of humanitarian issues. As a result they were unable to voice their opinion and instead they were led in aggressiveness and in riots. However, the aristocrats were the power holders so the results were devastating for the weak.
Another example of the positive results of education in the strengthening of people’s voice is the Greek Revolution, which is deeply rooted to the principles of Enlightenment. In addition, lets focus on an example from Modern History: The Siege of Leningrad. And eventually all these struggles through time show us that the best way to deal with conflicts is to educate people and teach them how to present their problems and suggest solutions either with coalition groups, organizations and NGO bodies and this is a way to eliminate conflict between nations.
One more way to enable people to express their views is through freedom of press and this can and will be achieved only when the mass media is deprived of economic interests. We have the example of Turkey where the government banned Twitter. Twitter is considered to be one of the most popular means of communication that offers the opportunity to its users to voice their views, to stay informed about international news to different developments that take place around the world. With this movement, what the government is actually doing is creating citizens who are unable to exercise freedom of expression to understand principles of open governance and the universal rights of persons.