Dissent refers to any opinion or statement expressed in opposition to an existing authority, be it a government or an organization. Dissent can either be through individuals, mass media or by opposition parties amongst others. People who express disagreeing views from the existing policies are seen as dissidents. In today’s progressive society, an ideal government is that which tolerates criticism and encourages dialogue with the opposing groups. Contrary to that, any government that quells dissenting voices is seen as being anti democratic.
The question of whether a government should tolerate or suppress dissent groups brings up an important topic that examines one of the core ideals of political governance. There are two raging opinions this issue. Those that are in support of tolerance maintain that it allow democracy to thrive and allows people to exercise their fundamental right of speech. The differences between an authoritarian and a democratic regime lie on the amount of opposition and criticism tolerated.
Forcefully quelling and suppressing dissent groups is a characteristic of totalitarianism. Allowing people to check on their governments and to criticize it is a basic element of a democracy. The second reason lies in providing solutions and alternative approaches facing the country. Dissent groups mostly purport to represent the grievances of the minority. They fight for the rights of those that are not in the mainstream and offer solutions on how the problems facing them are to be addressed.
There are also a number of arguments in support of suppressing dissent groups. Dissent groups act as political impediments and distract the government from the process of implementing important public policies. All the bickering and opposition can divide the government and prevent it from functioning optimally. Dissent groups create divisions in the populace and may lead to the crumbling of the government especially where extreme views are held.
Although dissent groups may bring distractions in governance, they do not derail the smooth running of the government rather they ensures that the government formulates policies that are thoroughly examined and ultimately beneficial to the country. Dissent groups if handled carefully in an environment of negotiations and compromise can be a source of unity in a country for they bring into the mainstream a section of the population that may be holding divergent views from those in authority.
As has been observed, dissent groups should be tolerated for they are an exercise of fundamental freedoms and provide alternative solutions to the existing problems. April (1973, 120) has categorically observed this by saying that “personal freedom to dissent is logically a prerequisite of public freedom to protest. ” The 1950- 1960s in America were characterized by protests and demonstrations from the rights groups pressing for the enactment of the civil rights act to eradicate systemic discrimination. The achievements of these dissent groups are well chronicled.
During the Iraq war, the American government failed to pay attention to the dissenting sentiments against the war with catastrophic effects to the economy and the public morale. A government hence should learn to tolerate dissent groups and give them space to air their views as long as they are motivated by the well being of the nation. It is a citizen’s basic right to protest and ensure the government is accountable. Dissent groups form an important component of democratic ideals.
April C. (1973). Direct Action and Liberal Democracy. Routledge,