The Fluid Society

Democracy is Broken. What Now?

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Democracies are failing. Anyone who has followed the discussion over the last few years on worldwide problems in numerous crucial areas will get the feeling that the world is descending into growing chaos. In many countries, democracies are under pressure and autocratic forms of governance seem to be gaining the upper hand. Democracies are largely failing because the traditional parties, from left to right, are increasingly unable to solve numerous national problems and lack the ability to tackle international issues in unity with other democracies.

Patience is Running Out. The fact that more and more people do not feel that politics can do anything to improve their living environment and personal circumstances contributes to many citizens increasingly voting for extreme options. Patience is running out. Many believe that radical voting is necessary, as ‘something’ needs to happen. Often, the concerns are not so much about daily issues such as having enough food or a job. In Western countries, incomes are relatively high at the moment, and unemployment is minimal. Numerous reports state that Western countries are among the happiest in the world. Economically, they are performing reasonably well. Yet, there is widespread dissatisfaction underlying the radicalization in politics.

The underlying causes seem to be based on two factors. Firstly, active attempts are being made to destabilize Western countries, particularly through numerous forms of misinformation, especially from Russia. The country has ingratiated numerous Western politicians with the aim of destabilization and political influence. It tries to bring populist or Russia-friendly governments to power and seems to be increasingly successful. Moreover, Russia is in cahoots with Iran to enable extreme Islamists to spread their ideology and misdeeds in Western countries. Their common goal: destabilization of the West. The attack by Hamas on Israel was partly orchestrated and supported by Iran. Russia and Iran penetrate Western countries with extreme figures and accomplices who provoke unrest. The Quran burnings in Scandinavia turn out to be a setup by the Russian secret service. Radical Islamists appear in numerous countries to advocate the Palestinian cause through demonstrations and have managed to gain the sympathy of left-wing student groups. Jewish organizations and individuals are threatened. Of course, in addition to foreign sources of misinformation, there are numerous internal forces that, for various reasons, also have an interest in undermining the democratic order. This can range from politicians, whether malevolent or not, to troublemakers who have discovered social media and take pleasure in misleading groups of people. The result is that populists are gaining ground, threatening to marginalize the rule of law, defame opponents, and threaten journalists. All this leads to tensions and unrest in Western countries.

The second factor of unrest concerns the increasing tension between market economy and growth, versus the climate problem, overpopulation, pollution issues, and the destruction of biodiversity. Although thousands of climate scientists, biologists, and ecologists regularly express their great concern about the problems with the current market economy and the economic growth model, which lead to rapid depletion of the Earth, political measures are often lacking, largely due to fear of disturbing the perceived need for economic growth. Meanwhile, renowned institutions like the IMF, the World Bank, the WEF, etc., have come to the conclusion that we are heading towards the destruction of humanity and nature and advocate for rapid and strong measures. Energy transition, stopping the destruction of tropical rainforests, maintaining biodiversity, ceasing the use of plastics and pesticides and slowing down population growth, is the recommended course. From various societal sectors, measures are advocated to address climate and related problems, but too little is happening. Within countries, this increasingly leads to significant political contradictions between, on the one hand, more green parties that develop political programs to take a healthy nature and ecology as a starting point, and on the other hand, conservative parts of the population who deny the problems and fear high costs. Additionally, most companies seem unable to abandon the classic profit model due to short-term shareholder interests. Thus, established interests actively work against necessary changes. However, democracy needs to find a solution for the contradiction between desirable economic growth and necessary ecological stability.

The tensions are increasing. Both factors together largely explain the increasing tensions in Western societies, to which democracy has no answer. In addition, in almost all democracies there are numerous scandals, such as slow and stalled decision-making, unjust treatment of citizens, which undermine public confidence in democracy. Together with what is happening in international politics and in the areas of climate, ecology, and migration, the tensions will undoubtedly increase in the coming years in both Europe and the USA

Is there hope for improvement? Hardly. For decades, democratic parties in Western countries have been at an impasse and have proven incapable of adequately addressing increasing problems. Democracies, systems that represent the average opinion of a people to formulate policies, are designed to bridge contradictions within a country, but are almost incapable of adequately addressing long-term and international issues. Democracy, as a model for political decision-making, has hit a wall in an increasingly complex and international world, leading to a lack of action. The current democratic model needs renovation. An improved model, Democracy 2.0, must be designed that can more adequately handle national issues, better anchor international cooperation, and is capable of addressing long-term issues such as climate and biodiversity more effectively. In particular, the contradiction between market economic growth and ecological limits will need to be resolved in a democracy for the future. As long as this new model does not exist, current democracies are in an impasse, resulting in gains for populism and autocracies.

Bleak times. This outlook for societies is not pleasant. In the coming period, populism will prevail in many places, focusing on short-term issues to satisfy voters and trying to undermine the free press and legal systems. Additionally, sidelined climate and ecological problems will increasingly demand attention. Floods, drought, and hunger will lead to rapidly increasing migrant flows, causing wealthy countries to do everything to close their borders. Many people are losing hope when listening to heated discussions. Few still believe that politics will function adequately in the short term, and many await a period in which extreme parties will claim their position.

The citizen on the way to the future. Democracy may be almost broken and temporarily in the doldrums, but the individual citizen still has many ways to contribute to a better world through behavioral change, actions, and a conscious choice for sustainability. Ultimately, all citizens together can determine the future. The fluid society, a world where borders are less important and people worldwide digitally collaborate on various improvement activities, is developing rapidly due to idealism, necessity, and because technology makes it possible. The more people digitally connect with others around the world to collaborate on projects and actions with their expertise and commitment, the better. People thus learn to understand each other across traditional national borders, cultural, religious barriers, or political systems. The future can be determined by the growing group of ‘fluid’ people who try to keep our earth, as a fragile spaceship, habitable for humanity in symbiosis with a healthy nature. Let’s hope, at the start of the new year, that more and more people participate in this exciting adventure so that we can bid farewell to a world ruled by the madness of power politics, maximum consumption, and destruction of nature.”

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