Documentary project: The many voices of democracy

This was a project that I undertook in my 3rd year of journalism school, I am just transferring it onto this blog post. The assignment was to document a social event, or events. I got to record in one day about three to four different protests, each one very different to the other. I wanted to record democracy in action and use that opportunity to write about how there are so many different voices in a democratic country that it causes “progress” to slow down. This essay didn’t do a good job of conveying the difficulties of the democratic process, it was a fun one to shoot and document nonetheless.

Liberal democracy, since the end of the Cold War has been almost unchallenged as the hegemonic political idea of our age. Even the most dictatorial regimes pretend to be democratic and make noises about citizens’ equality and the rule of law. Bob Black wrote in debunking democracy “The only thing special about majorities is that they are not minorities…There is no strength in numbers, or rather, there is nothing but strength in numbers”, Bob Black is considered an anarchist writer, and in his work he examines the frailties that is the current democratic society.

When I began this photo essay I wanted to look at what I saw as the solitude in solidarity.  I began to notice when I went different protests (some by mistake) how people within these movements only concern was for their own individual interests.  

I wanted to capture what then prime minister Margaret Thatcher was quoted as saying in women’s own magazine:

“I think we’ve been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it’s the government’s job to cope with it. ‘I have a problem, I’ll get a grant.’ ‘I’m homeless, the government must house me.’ They’re casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first”.

However, as I began to pursue what I considered to be solitude within solidarity I began to notice myself questioning the fractious nature of being in a democratic society.   Bob Black argues that “The idea of democracy has never been justified, merely glorified. None of the older criticisms of democracy has been refuted, and neither has any of the newer ones”.  

Of course one of the many things democracy is hailed for is allowing a certain freedom of expression, I came across a protest in defense of a banned movement in China called Falun Dafa.

The practice initially enjoyed support from Chinese officialdom, but by the mid to late 1990s, the Communist Party and public security organizations increasingly viewed Falun Dafa as a potential threat due to its size, independence from the state, and spiritual teachings. By 1999, government estimates placed the number of Falun Dafa practitioners at 70 million.  The parallels of control on a group that descents from the “norms” of society is not that uncommon in China as it is in Ireland today.  


The practice initially enjoyed support from Chinese officialdom, but by the mid to late 1990s, the Communist Party and public security organizations increasingly viewed Falun Dafa as a potential threat due to its size, independence from the state, and spiritual teachings. By 1999, government estimates placed the number of Falun Dafa practitioners at 70 million.  The parallels of control on a group that descents from the “norms” of society is not that uncommon in China as it is in Ireland today.  

In Ireland it would be difficult to ignore the role that the church plays and still plays in democracy. Catholics (around 80% of the population) were banned from holding public office  (from the House of Commons in 1691 and from the Lords in 1716) and banned from voting altogether in 1728. This began to change in 1793, when Catholics and all male property holders of over 40 shillings were allowed to vote for the Irish Parliament.

With every election and political movement in Ireland still being challenged by the catholic church. And as time goes on, as with democracy, many more voices spring up and societies move forward.

There are many voices to progress.


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