The political socialization of individuals influences their political culture, which in turn affect their political behavior. Political participation is one aspect of political behavior that is of great importance to politicians because of its potential impact on overall voter turnout, societal satisfaction and ultimately the win or loss of an election. For centuries, citizens of democratic societies have participated in the political affairs of their country. This participation has in more recent years however varied from conventional to more unconventional methods. Political socialization as defined by Dr. Trevor Munroe is "the ways and means through which our views about politics, and our values in relation to politics are formed." Although not consciously obvious, there are agents that are identified as actively involved during political socialization.
The primary agents, the family and peer groups, are characterized by their direct influence and unstructured or informal nature. The family is considered primary because at this level, individuals are first exposed to and taught the basic norms, values and ideas that are similar to their parents / guardians . During political discussions at home, the political identity of parents would possibly be transferred from the adults to the children. Peer groups are also thought to be primary despite not being the first agent to create an impression. Children form alliances from an early age and information is exchanged constantly.
Evidence of the power of peer groups are apparent within many societies and may arguably be a direct result of economic constrains or the growth of idealism's such as feminism that have changed the roles of women. Where the family falls short, peer groups pick up the slack. The secondary agents of political socialization are very structured and formal. Examples of these are the mass media, the educational system, political parties and religious institutions. These agents indirectly impact the behavior of individuals and their attitudes towards authority; nevertheless, their effectiveness cannot be overlooked.
In Jamaica for example, during designated election campaign periods, the two major parties have traditionally been associated with specific colors and symbols for identifying support for either. Party supporters loyally endorsed their support by wearing the chosen colors (red for socialists, green for the laborites) and by public display of hand symbols (fist for socialists, two finger 'V's ign for laborites). During political socialization, the political culture of a country, society or community is transferred and developed within individuals. For example, the child in Cuba who is nurtured with pro Fidel Castro teachings and positive attitudes toward their country will, if all things remain equal, be patriotic to his country and its development. Cubans who have tried and been trying to 'escape by boats' have most likely been influenced by western propaganda.
Most Cubans who still live in Cuba under the Castro regime, are very happy and satisfied with their way of life. There are three distinct types of political culture that may exist within any given society. The participatory -very active citizens, subjective - more passive persons, or parochial - citizens more concerned with their personal and immediate surrounds. Most countries are indicative of a combination of parochial and participatory.
The four major factors that influence changes in political culture are firstly, information accessibility and availability. With the advancements in technology within the last century, computers have become more affordable, Internet access has increased globalization possibilities and the media now have larger volumes of readers and listeners. Secondly, a change in the government's performance will influence the level of importance that the public attaches to politics. The correlation between public confidence and government's ability to provide satisfactorily for their people is undeniable.
Thirdly a change in the political regime or the definition of the state also affects citizens' political culture. When Jamaica became independent in 1962, the country's political culture changed. Lastly, and possibly most powerful is, a change in the economic structure of a society can strongly affect the political culture. During the existence of the USSR, their economy was extremely strong and prices remained constant for 40 years.
The changes in the economy after reformation greatly changed their political culture. Political participation can take the form of conventional methods, for example voting or signing petitions, the more unconventional avenues of boycotts, street demonstrations. Voting as an avenue of political participation appears to be declining as a choice for Jamaicans. Voter turnout has fallen from a high of 86% in 1976 to a record low of 67% in 1997.
More increasingly citizens appear to be losing confidence in the political system, which has failed to solve problems of unemployment, crime and a stagnant economy. Another reason for the decline of voting, as an option is that general elections are held every 4 years, citizens are therefore not left with many other ways of having policies affected or their voices heard. After citizens have tried to more passive approaches of demonstrating and gotten no results, experience has shown that after blocking the roads, results have been more forthcoming. It is logical to deduce that people demonstrate because they are so motivated by various frustrations.
Jamaica In Jamaica, between 1986 and 1991, the number of roadblock increased form 23 to 42. By 1997, there was an increase of 165 more roadblocks, approximately 394% Renewing Democracy into the Millennium, Dr. Trevor Munroe. Demonstrating in the street is not altogether illegal or necessarily discouraged.
According to the constitution, citizens have the right to demonstrate as an extension of democratic process, provided the activities remain within the limits of the law... Interest groups such as Amnesty International and Jamaicans for Justice have had demonstrations that increased public awareness and caused effective changes. In April 1999, in response to an increase in gas prices Jamaica was rocked by island wide demonstrations that left the nations commerce, educational system, tourism sector, public transportation and average citizens virtually crippled for three days. The domino effect of which, is loss in overall revenue and economic growth for Jamaica. It is arguable that a favorable response was received from blocking the roads and locking down the country. The initial price hikes were removed immediately; violent street demonstrations had resulted in a policy change.
Within a month however, the price of gasoline returned to the original increased amount. In the long run, many Jamaicans who partook in the demonstrations were unaware of the price change until it was too late. The country then had to work even harder to regain its economic footing. The damage to the streets, buildings, vehicles and other assets are now born by the taxpayer. A positive result of the street demonstration was that their voices were heard. President of the Private Sector Association of Jamaica (PSO J) Peter Moses was named chairman of the broad-based committee constituted by Prime Minister P.
J Patterson to examine the gas price hike and recommend adjustments. Although the desired effect of a reduction in the price hike was not authorized, it should be noted that an alternative avenue of participation was created, the committee heard from and responded to suggestions made by concerned citizens. Guyana In Guyana, ethical politics has traditionally overpowered ideological politics. Recent street demonstrations by the minority party People's National Congress (PNC), aimed at forcing President Bharrat Jagdeo to step down have become destructive. In January 2001, hundreds of Indo Guyanese were robbed and beaten, some 400 protesters chanting PNC slogans took part in an illegal demonstration over election issues and police used tear gas to disperse them. The hostile demonstrations continued and the ruling party People's Progressive Party has remained in power.
Even more recently, during the launch of 23 rd Summit of Caricom, an anti-government demonstration of approximately 1000 persons resulted in the shooting death of two by police. While not turning a blind eye to the demonstrations or the root of the problem, the PNC representatives have been urged to take up their seats in Parliament in a bid amicable restore peace to the country. Then President, Janet Jagan was quoted "We as citizens have to help in every way, and I hope we can get back to a normal society where people can talk to one another; where people can raise their issues in parliament, where people can go to the courts for justice, but not on the streets," Trinidad In November 1998, media reporters from Trinidad march to protest the physical abuse they sustained form a crowd that was allegedly incited to abuse them by then Prime Minister Bas deo Panday. He publicly declared war on journalists and accused them of being anti United National Congress (UNC). Titled 'March for Democracy', the protest was not only in the form of street demonstration, but included a proposed boycott from the reporting of government matters, an open letter to Prime Minister Panday, a joint lawsuit and the picketing of Parliament. As a result of their protest, journalist were given police protection at the next UNC meeting three weeks later and offered empathy by other UNC members for the attacks on them.
East Timor The United Nations General Assembly placed East Timor on the international agenda in 1960 when it added the territory to its list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. In 1974 while still under the rule of Portugal, what started as street demonstrations led to the out break of a civil war between those who favored independence and those who advocated integration with Indonesia; An example of the citizen's political culture changing due to changes in political regime. Unable to control the situation, Portugal withdrew from East Timor. Indonesia intervened militarily and later integrated East Timor as its 27 th province. The United Nations disapproved of this integration and called for Indonesia's withdrawal.
After several attempt at pacifying the situation, war once again broke out and many East Timorese were killed with as many as 500, 000 displaced from their homes. In October 1999, the Security Council by resolution 1272 established the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNT AET), as an integrated, multi-dimensional peacekeeping operation fully responsible for the administration of East Timor during its transition to independence. East Timor is now on the road to rebuilding an even stronger economy with the assistance of the United Nations but many lives were lost and families torn apart before a change was made. CONCLUSION In popular political arenas, it is distinctly obvious that an increasing number of potentially active citizens have little faith in the effectiveness of employing conventional means of participating in the running and leadership of their country. It is difficult to truly ascertain a correlation between voter turnout and street demonstrations, due to the limitations of enumerating each citizen or conducting a census. It an be construed that street demonstrations appear to be replacing voting as an avenue of political participation, because of the high frequency with which they occur.
Virtually every modern society has been the victim of street demonstrations. The differences however, lie in the degrees of volatility, the political socialization of the people and their existing political culture. The justification of these demonstrations is dependent on the effective changes they stimulate and the quality of the communal environment left in their aftermath. BIBLIOGRAPHY Munroe, Trevor Dr, (1999), Renewing Democracy into the Millennium Munroe, Trevor Dr, (1999), An Introduction to Politics Chomsky, Noam, (2001), A New Generation Draws the Line The Gleaner Trinidad Express Tutorial notes.