Mary Joyce is a Fulbright scholar who keeps track of weblogs focussing on issues related to democracy.
Based in Rabat, Morocco, we find out more about her, and about her site.
What's your background?
I graduated from Vassar College, a Liberal Arts College in New York state, with a degree in History.
I've pursued my interest in international relations and development mostly though internships and volunteer
work. During my internship at the United Nations Association in New York City and got to visit the UN Secretariat where I watched General Assembly and Security Council meetings at the beginning of America's occupation of Iraq (2003).
Needless to say, that was an eye-opening experience: we all are familiar with the grand-standing and speech making that Foreign Ministers make for the press when they attend Security Council meetings. However, by attending meetings when the press and high officials were absent, I noticed that diplomats took a much more conciliatory tone with one another, and were extremely polite. It made me realize that the foreign policy we see in the media is not necessarily the same foreign policy-making behind closed doors.
Last year I received a Fulbright scholarship from the American State Department to study democratization in Morocco. I spent last year working at the National Democratic Institute in Rabat, an American NGO. After interviewing a lot of
Moroccan democracy supporters for my final report. I concluded that they are the real force of change in their country and I decided to assist them.
So how did you get involved in monitoring democracy?
The idea of creating a democracy website, Demologue.com, arose last spring because I wanted to post information about the attendance records of Moroccan MP's online but none of the American organizations I went to were willing to put it on their sites because they considered the information to be too sensitive. I decided that I would need to start my own site. I began building Demologue.com this past summer and DemoBlog grew out of that project. Demologue.com is an international network that uses the internet and digital resources to empower democracy activists. DemoBlog is a reblog of global democracy struggles.
How do you define 'democracy'?
I don't define democracy. It's really not my position to make those kind of pronouncements, but rather the responsibility of the world's citizens. Our definition is very basic: the form and actions of governments should be determined by the will of citizens. However, beyond that basic principle, we do not support or assert a
particular model for democracy. I believe that my job is to inform people about differen ways of defining democracy and then let them interpret, criticize, or reject as they see fit.
What countries do you think are good examples of democracy
A friend of mine said that there are no democracies in the world. I believe that's true. In no country are the actions of the government fully guided by the interests of citizens. In America for example, money has distorted many of our institutions. Hurricane Katrina showed the world that many poor African-Americans are functionally disenfranchised and to some extent abandoned by their government. Also, although I am not a conspiracy theorist, I would say that the
commercial interests of small groups exert too much influence in determining America's foreign policy. I am not only talking about Iraq and American oil interests. I mean, we overthrew the government of Guatemala because of the interests of the United Fruit Company. That's crazy! As you can see, I think it is much more useful to criticize and debate democracies than to congratulate them. No one's in the winners' circle yet.
Can democracy exist? Or is it utopia?
Another good question. I believe that true democracy can exist, but only in very specific settings, at the level of a town or village, for example, where all citizens can participate actively in the governing of the polity
A nation that is truly democratic is much harder to find. Some of the most democratic nations in the world are in Scandinavia. But this is partially because the homogeneity of these societies. Heterogeneity - or the perception of an "other" within a society - is a serious strain on democracy. I again refer to the disenfranchisement of African-Americans. However, I do believe that nations can and are becoming more democratic. If I didn't have this hope, I wouldn't be able to do my work. However, I do agree with the words of activist Saul Alinsky, who said that the struggle for democracy and human rights is like climbing a mountain without a top. As soon as you reach your goal, you realize that there is more work to be done, so you just keep climbing. I'm comfortable living my life that way.
Are democracy and human rights two facets of the same issue?
Hmm... I believe that democracy is a human right. If democracy is, in one sense, having control over the government that is controlling you, then I believe that every person has the right to democracy because every person has the right to control his or her own life.
What impact do you expect your online activities to have?
Oh, I don't want to jinx myself. I guess I would say that my hope is > that the blog and the website will connect democracy supporters from > different parts of the world with one another and that subsequent collaboration and skill-sharing will quicken the pace of citizen-led democracy around the world.
What developments are you planning for the blog?
Well, I am currently looking for people in touch with the international blogosphere to direct me to interesting democracy blogs. I am also looking for contributors willing to translate from other languages into English to bring a broader range of voices to DemoBlog. I am currently working with a Persian speaker and a Kiswhahili speaker who are going to help translate democracy posts from Iran and central Africa. That's quite exciting for me.
I am also working with a local activist in Morocco on a guide on how to build a grassroots NGO network. and I am in contact with a > Chilean blogger about writing a guide for creating election blogs.
When these resources are created, they will be posted for free download on the site
The motto of both of my websites is Innovation>Evolution>Collaboration>Revolution: the idea that by creating new forms and working across nations and cultures we can speed the pace of democratic revolution around the world.
Are you affiliated to any pro democracy organisation?
I am willing to partner with any organization with whom I share common goals. However, I do not take money from and am not affiliated with any government institutions. I believE that my organization needs to be independent if it is to be both credible and effective.
You Can contact Mary Joyce mail AT demologue.com
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