"Can a person walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm? If he can, then that person is living in a free society. If not, it's a fear society. Some people who live in free societies may consider this test too expansive since, in addition to the liberal democracies, it includes many countries not always considered free. According to the town square test, societies where women are not allowed to vote, where discrimination is rampant, or where the economy is rigidly controlled can still be free. This valid criticism demonstrates that every society that meets the definition of "free" is not necessarily just. Rather, this test shows only that every society that passes it has crossed the threshold of freedom. In contrast, fear societies never cross this threshold and are always unjust." -Natan Sharansky in The Case for Democracy
Mr. Sharansky was imprisoned in Soviet Russia as a political prisoner for nine years, so he's a pretty big fan of democracy and human rights. Haven't finished the book yet, but I like it so far. Definitely some food for thought. U.S. foreign policy tends to favor other nations based on their diplomatic behavior in the international world, rather than the treatment of their own citizens, but the book points out the moral and strategic flaws in that mindset. It was written in 2004, so some of the middle eastern "current events" are dated, but the ideas are still timely.
This quote really stuck with me:
"A country that does not respect the rights of its own people will not respect the rights of its neighbors." - Andrei Sakharov
"Democrazia, Democracia, Democracy, Démocratie, Demokratie" - Emilio Chapela Perez (2010)
These series of paintings re`present the total number of searches for different "keywords" in Google. The painting above represents the total volume of searches for the word "democracy" in Italian, Spanish, English, French and German respectively. In this case, Spanish speakers search for "democracia" the most, while English speaking users search for "democracy" the least.