Silent Majority: "unspecified large majority of people in a country or group who do not express their opinions publicly" .
I got to think of this phrase quite a bit during the crisis in Madagascar (reminded by a fellow blogger's post) and again as I ponder the main reason why you should support and nominate bloggers for the "best Malagasy blogs contest".
Please forgive the oncoming tangent about promoting citizen journalism and the riff on the democratic process. The complete immersion into the academic debate of how to establish democratic institutions and whether it is the best avenue to help development in LDCs is probably clouding my thinking right now.
That the question of democracy being the best for developing countries is even on the table is saddening me. I understand where it comes from, the word democracy and "vahoaka" has been overused and abused during the Malagasy crisis, by politicians who surely never bother to look up its true meaning in the constitution.
So let me give it my own interpretation, a democracy, in very simplistic terms, is a system in which all constituents select representatives to grant them the authority to govern a state. It also means in theory that elections are the only avenue you can truly participate on how things will go. (This might be a flaw in the system when democracy fails but that is another story). That is why elections are sacred, why they have to be done right and why people get rightfully angry when the process is murky(Gabon for instance). This is also why it is probably a good idea to go overboard about having a transparent voting process (unless of course, you'd rather not. By the way, A few elections are up soon in 2010 for Africa : guys, we are looking at you).
However a ballot will never truly represent an individual's total preferences. We are more complex than the check marks that is proposed in front of us. That range of complexity is worth knowing and sharing. That is why a blog is relevant in understanding a sum of individuals better. The Malagasy blogging community including those at Foko, showed a wide range of opinions and points of view during the crisis. Kudos to all of them for showing such diversity of ideas and still coming together as a community. The majority had an understanding that politics in the country, like anywhere else, is a dirty game. Anyone who observes the maneuvering feels somehow tainted but the..well, "politicking". Still bloggers understood that the gravity of the situation demanded that they contribute in their own way in reporting the events.
See, they know politics are messed up but this is their country getting dragged into a crisis. Ultimately a democratic state can only work if the constituents participate actively in its making and feel committed to its future.
Make no mistake about it, the vast majority of Malagasy bloggers (incl. foko) do not write about politics nor do they want to. But they care about Madagascar, that is why they take the time out of their heavy school/day work to write, post photos and videos for us to view. When coming up with categories for the contest, we debated how to best avoid useless political controversy and still acknowledge the incredible work of citizen journalists during the political crisis.
So let them know their hard work was appreciated, whether they decide to go the extra-mile in reporting the crisis or voluntarily display a side of Madagascar totally unrelated to politics.
Nominate your favorite secret photoblog, Vote for them and tell them that you value the fact that even when the crisis gave them all the excuses to shut down, they chose to give a voice to the "silent majority".
Nominate blogs at bestofmalagasyblogs