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Posted on August 31st, 2012, by

Political participation of citizens in the political life of a country is an essential condition of the public control over the authorities. In this respect, the US is one of the country where the political participation is particularly significant and historically essential. According to Ginsberg and other researchers, the “political participation makes the ideals of liberty and equality come alive”¯ (Ginsberg et al., 270). At the same time, citizens need to keep struggle for their rights and liberties as well as opportunities to participate in the political life, whereas the authorities and political and economic elites attempt to maintain their control over the political life of the country. In fact, the control over the political life opens the way to the control over the socioeconomic life of the society. Therefore, the involvement of ordinary citizens in the political life is essential but to succeed in their political participation people often need to take steps which may be interpreted as civil disobedience. In this regard, the book “An Unreasonable Woman”¯ by Diane Wilson is particularly noteworthy because it conveys the story of the struggle of the author for her rights and her struggle for the protection of her environment using not only formal procedures but also elements of civil disobedience. At the same time, the example of the author of the book reveals the significance and importance of the participation of citizens in the political life because it is through political participation the narrator has managed to meet her goals and raise the public opinion to support her position and force those in power to meet the demands of the public.

In fact, Diane Wilson focuses on the story of her struggle against the pollution of the environment, especially seawaters. Diane Wilson was one of the major opponents of the pollution of the environment and she focused on the struggle with Formosa as one of the major companies that polluted the environment of the community in which the author lived. At the same time, the author attempted to undertake the legal action to stop the pollution of the environment by such companies as Formosa. In this regard, it is possible to interpret her actions as an attempt to implement the concept of the political participation defined by Ginsberg (Ginsberg et al., 270).

However, the practical implementation of the concept of political participation faced substantial obstacles Diane Wilson had to overcome.

First of all, she confronted the problem of the backwardness of the existing legislation, especially environmental legislation, compared to the policies conducted by such companies as Formosa. As the matter of fact, the legislation failed to catch up with the development of technologies and the legislative changes introduced to protect the environment could not fully protect the environment from the pollution with dangerous elements such as PVC and others. Moreover, legislators were not concerned with the problem of the local community and they would ignore the problem of the community of Diane Wilson, if she did not start the large scale resistance to environmental policies conducted by companies and the authorities.

In such a way, Diane Wilson attempted to implement the principle of her political participation. What is meant here is the fact that, unlike many other community members, she was not indifferent to environmental problems which affected the life of her community and threatened to future generations of Americans. In stark contrast, she started the social counteraction to dangerous practices leading to pollution of the sea and environment at large.

Through her opposition and lawsuits aiming at the ban of dangerous production and pollution of the environment, Diane Wilson attracted the public attention to the problem of the environment pollution. In other words, she took an active social position and transformed this problem into an important political issue. At this point, it is possible to speak about her success in terms of the raising the public opinion against the environment pollution by Formosa and other companies. In this respect, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that Diane Wilson took the initiative and it was she who started to generate politically important issues, such as the environmental protection. In such a way, she started to participate in the political life of her community and such political participation was the manifestation of liberty and equality of citizens living in the US. To put it more precisely, Diane Wilson was an ordinary woman, who did not take any responsible position in the political hierarchy of the state or the entire country. She was an ordinary citizen, who proved to be able to raise the public opinion and influence decisions being taken by policy-makers through her political participation. Her active social and political position gained a large support of her community members that forced the authorities and legislators to introduce changes in the environmental legislation to protect the environment from the ongoing pollution.

On the other hand, the methods she used were not always traditional methods, but these methods were the manifestation of the liberty of her political participation. To put it more precisely, she eventually started the nonviolent civil disobedience and direct action leading her to a daring and likely fatal showdown on Lavaca Bay (Wilson, 10). In such a way, she used civil disobedience as the means of her political participation.

Obviously, Diane Wilson used an aggressive model to reach her goals but this model proved to be the only efficient model in the political and socioeconomic context in which she acted. She could hardly achieve any significant success if she used any other model, such as the deliberative model. By the way, the latter could hardly be applied at all in the context depicted in the book “An Unreasonable Woman”¯ by D. Wilson because the deliberative model implies the action from both those with power and those on the margins, like Diane Wilson.

However, the situation described by Diane Wilson in her book made the application of the deliberative model impossible because she was practically alone in her struggle against the pollution of the environment, whereas the authorities, who were with power, paid little attention to tackle the problem of the environment pollution by Formosa and other companies. As a result, Diane Wilson was simply forced to take the aggressive model to reach her ends. The aggressive model allowed Diane Wilson to shape a public opinion against dangerous environmental policies and united the community population against environmentally unfriendly practices. Moreover, the aggressive model allowed Diane Wilson to gain the public approval and to raise the public opinion in her support. Consequently, she forced the authorities and business to change their policies and practices. The authorities were just forced to introduce legislative changes and undertake active steps to minimize the negative impact of such companies as Formosa on the environment but they would unlikely do it without the aggressive civil disobedience from the part of Diane Wilson. At this point, it is again possible to refer to the concept of political participation and its relation to liberty and equality, which arise from the political participation (Ginsberg, 270). In fact, Diane Wilson took the responsibility for her actions and used her rights to participate in the political life and she proved to be equal to other subjects of the political struggle she was involved in. To put it more precisely, through her actions and political participation she proved to be equal to the authorities as well as companies polluting the environment. From the economic standpoint, Diane Wilson was absolutely insignificant but she proved to be politically significant to the extent that she had managed to influence the environmental policies and forced the authorities and local companies to change their environmental policies.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the political participation is a crucial concept the determines the observation of basic human rights and liberties. In fact, it is through the political participation citizens can influence policies conducted by political and business elite and it is the political participation that actually makes people equal and free. However, often they have to struggle to participate in the political life as Diane Wilson did, even if they have to take a civil disobedience action.

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