John Keane | Humility and Democracy: a History of the Invention of Democratic Institutions
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Humility and Democracy: a History of the Invention of Democratic Institutions

  |   Democracy in the 21st Century, Media and Democracy, Topics of Interest   |   No comment

Professor John Keane visited UIN Jakarta and gave a lecture on Humility and Democracy at two places, CSIS and UIN Jakarta, 29 June 2006.

Keane’s lecture in CSIS was attended by Dr. AS. Hikam, who read Keane’s books when Hikam studied as a Ph.D student at Hawai’i University, the U.S. Kean’s lecture at UIN Jakarta was attended by Rector, lecturers, students of UIN Jakarta and democracy activists. Here are some notes of Keane’s speech.

Ruang Sidang Utama, UIN News – Professor John Keane visited UIN Jakarta and gave lecture on Humility and Democracy in two places, CSIS and UIN Jakarta on June 29.

Keane uses the term “humility” to refer to his effort in his redefinition of democracy as civil society that he has championed for long time. To understand this point of civil society, Keane begun identifying democracy from its history, an attempt that he calls as a wisdom in the study of democracy.

Keane defines democracy literally and historically. The root of the term democracy is d?mos meaning ‘the people’, and ‘kratem’ to rule. The word damos itself refers to people excluded from political power. In Sumerian language, Keane found a similar term with d?mos, ‘dumu’ meaning a group of people who inhabit a certain area.

Keane assumed that the Sumerian term dumu is much older than the classical Greece, damos. He supported his idea with an archaeological invention of ‘assembly’ that already existed in 1500 BCA. Kean clarified that ‘assembly’ refers to people where damos could get together to discuss on how they should live together, and they believed that God and Goddess watch them when they voted. Keane said that this democracy continued in 1000 when Islam was born, and the function of the public sphere, waqf, was there. “Waqf is genuinely institution controlled by Islamic state in that period,” added Keane.

In relation to the state and public, Keane saw that the core of democracy is civil society. He said that in any authority there should be place for civil society. Both within society and government there should be civil society that investigates the policy of power and stimulates human rights. Keane clarified that the owner of democracy is neither president nor private group of people but civil society who would have to do human rights. He took an example of British Broadcasting Service (BBC); it is an institution that does not belong both to government and nor to private. It is only a public service institution.

Keane did not say in his speech that democracy becomes a tool to do everything. He said that democracy is non violent monitoring of power, and it must give good outcome. But, “we never invent a better mechanism,” said he. What is happening in Irak and Iran is the example of democracy that justifies war,” “that’s why we have to thank to the media that criticize this,” said Keane. The basic mistake of the U.S. in democracy is a power sharing mechanism; the U.S. has attacked Irak by using a representative body of its government in the election although the aim of this attack is destroying the practice of dictatorship by the ex-President Saddam Husain. Keane’s further question would be: how should democracy survive in the West and especially in Indonesia?

To this knotty question, Keane said that to cultivate democracy depends on context;” yes democracy has every case in every local context and that would not be the same between one country and another. To understand better about democracy in the largest Muslim population country, Indonesia, Keane said that he intended to cooperate with UIN Jakarta in MA and Ph.D. programs in the study of Democracy and Islam at Westminster University. But, the problem is the cost, regretted Keane.