I have written some articles recently about democracy. Yet, I will again write about it today and even next week and the week thereafter, discussing both philosophical and practical issues. And still, I will only have touched upon the myriad of aspects of democracy, and how to get more of it. Your thoughts and wishes are as important as mine, and I would like to hear from you. But even if you don’t tell me what you think, it is your actions where you are that are important; what to say and do in your neighbourhood, in local organizations, at work-places, schools and colleges and so on.

Again, democracy is about people having influence over their own lives here and now, and it is about having a say about future development of the land they live in and the country’s links with the wider world in concrete terms and in values. Democracy is about seeking a common foundation and finding ways ahead that are good for all, indeed for hose at the bottom of the ladder. True, also those higher up must be included, and they must be helpful to the less fortunate.

What about the rich and famous, the elite and the winners in the ‘games’ of life? Well, they too are our fellow citizens and they must also have opportunities to participate and do well, and they must be expected to share with the rest. A rich man or woman is a prisoner, a ‘luxury prisoner’ perhaps, if he or she is not given the opportunity to share with the poor; a rich man cannot be happy if those around him are poor. If he (or she) doesn’t see that, is not thought to see that, the society at large has failed. Most of the time democracy is about taking from the rich through taxation and other systems; it is about the rich sharing with the poor, the majority who did not inherit wealth, land, money and opportunities – within a land or across borders. People from wealthy countries have a duty to work for systems that can make people in poorer countries do better; and certainly, rich people within countries, especially in poor countries, must always share with the rest, not out of their good will, but because systems are put in place to make this happen. That is a democracy.

So far, so good, these basics are easy to agree upon – at least in theory. Beyond that, the debate begins, yes, even before we go into detail; but many things are universal wisdoms. But in our struggle for a better world for all, we realize that democracy is about many things, and it has many facets and levels. Democracy is indeed about debating and talking, and then finding the best possible solutions in the given situations. What should we do, how should we go about it, and when should we do the various things? We quickly realize that democratic change can only be implemented step-by-step, with priorities and time-lines. Even in the rare cases when there is a revolution and a regime change, when a new dawn breaks, a time with new leaders, new ideologies, new thoughts and plans, and lack of plans, too, we should understand that much is built on what was there earlier. Democracy is not a break with traditions and the past; it is about building on the best in the old, paired with the new.

More concretely: democracy can be about giving peasants and small fishermen first priority; other times, it can be about giving industrial workers better salaries and work conditions. It can be about giving focus on housing for the poor, or it can be about giving everyone good basic education, and opportunities to take further education. Democracy is certainly about giving better health services for those who cannot pay much from own pockets; notably medical services for women and small children, including regular check-ups, vaccinations and more; it includes safety measures and check-ups for labourers, factory workers, peasants and so on; it includes services and advice for old people.

How is Pakistan doing in all of this? Is it becoming more democratic? Yes, it is, at least as for general elections, with universal suffrage and several political parties, which are fundamental in any democracy. But Pakistan is a young democracy, and it will certainly take time, with strengthening of parties, institutions and organizations, to develop the practical aspects of democracy, and the overall democratic mindset. In a country of traders and businessmen, feudal lords and a rigid class structures, the democratic mindset and understanding is not quite there, not yet. Besides, we shouldn’t expect that the millionaires in parliament and others at the top of society will fight for ordinary people, not really and not always. The democratic and class struggle is from below, yes, sometimes with support from above, including leaders who see the justice and equality as essential. In Europe, the social democratic states, which were the establishment after WWII, were certainly supporters of democracy, including the class struggle.

I have written about that before, yet, allow me to repeat it today: it is only the analysis and actions of ordinary people that can realize the dream of change and development for all; that is the only hope and chance for real democratic change in a country like Pakistan. We know this from Europe and other countries, which have gone through democratic change, even reaching solid welfare states, like in Scandinavia, well, in spite of the opposite wind blowing nowadays, with populists and conservatives arguing for less welfare and more competition. Sadly, that would lead to more people again falling below a standard of dignity and inclusion. In a developing country like Pakistan, we must watch out for ‘false prophets’; we must not believe that free capitalism has its own trickle down mechanisms. We must work for more regulation and solidarity with the poor. It is only through the political fight from below, through political parties, and eventually fair state’s institutions, that deeper democracy for all can be established. Therefore, we do indeed live in an exciting time in Pakistan, in ‘Naya Pakistan’. I know the Pakistani people will succeed – not through sitting back, but through hard political work through democratic institutions and organizations. But Pakistan is now on the right course.

Tomorrow is the International Women’s Day. Congratulations on the day! I say that to women and men. Women are key actors in developing democracy for women and men. In the West, in my home country Norway, I am often surprised about how slow and late women really got into power; today, we have a woman PM and half of the cabinet is made up of women. Many things have changed in my life time. Yet, we must not be naive either, realizing that women are not always on the side of ordinary people, no, not even women, and not in all fields. Women, too, can be on the side of power and conservatives, status quo and no change. In any case, it is essential that women’s perspectives are included, to make democracy better.

Last week, the coordinator of the bishops in Norway, the ‘primas’, as they say, Helga Haugland Byfuglien, apologized for the way the church had treated single mothers and women who had taken abortion. She apologized on behalf of all the twelve bishops in the Church of Norway, half of them men. It should be realized that all religions, indeed the Church and Islam, is love. Yet, the institution often forgets and neglects God’s commandments and message to people, to be inclusive and show mercy and love, even if we human beings may go astray, falter and stumble. In Norway, would an all male college of bishops, as it was when I grew up, have been able to say what the current bishops said? I doubt that very much. And it is only through love and inclusion we act the way we should do. In politics, the concepts would be justice, equality, and solidarity. Only through such thinking can we develop our countries into more democratic societies. That is what we all long for, the dream we carry, not that we will quite reach there, but we will come closer; we will be on the right way.