It’s hard to remember a time in recent history when democracy wasn’t supposedly in danger. If it wasn’t a distant tyrant with imaginary WMDs, it was some extreme organization at home that was apparently out to destroy democracy. And yet, magically, without fail, democracy has survived and thrived in all those parts of the world that accepted democracy as a system of governance willingly.
Of course, “crying wolf” didn’t mean that the wolf actually came. However, today, when one looks around the world, one cannot imagine a more appropriate time to cry wolf. The question is, who’ll believe it? Who’ll believe that democracies around the world are in real danger, when the leaders and the media both have lost much credibility and now stand exposed?
You see, while politics and propaganda always point to some external threat to democracy, the real threat to it are the people themselves. Take Egypt for example. After much fan fare and the Arab spring, a democratically elected government came to power and within a year, the people handed the same power over to military leaders, who immediately destroyed the fragile democracy in that country. Go eastwards, and you will find that the people of the Philippines elected a leader who’s basically destroyed democracy, ruined international relations, and massacred thousands.
Of course, these are not western democracies, and so we may think that all’s well in the west. But, is it? If you study Theresa May’s itinerary, you’ll realize that she’s tried and failed at getting trade deals for her country. While it was great to have blamed globalization for the lack of jobs while campaigning, Brexit has actually hurt Britain’s economy more and accelerated the job loss. Finance, the final remaining vertical in London is leaving it’s shores to move to the continent and to other parts of the world.
As Prime Minister, she has a tough job ahead, and we must remember that she did not do this to Britain. The people chose a socialistic leadership but voted towards the extreme right with the referendum. It’s not that different in Europe either. Entire nations are electing either extreme left or extreme right political parties. Spain is now a socialist nation, where as Germany and France will more than likely chose far-right governments (if local elections provide any indication). And most recently, the United States has given a referendum against the entire political class and in doing so has chosen a right-leaning government.
We were here before! A little more than eighty years ago, a similar theme played all over the world. Britain, Germany, and a host of other countries turned socialists when their economies began to crumble. No one mentioned to the people that it was all a result of economics saturation. Soon, nationalism was mixed in, with slight hints of racism, and a violent concoction of hatred was brewed that engulfed the entire world and changed the world order destroying both those powers in the process. Even when it comes to discussions about the electoral college, we were here before! Not even two decades have passed to the day when Al Gore had won the popular vote and lost the election.
It’s said that “History repeats itself for those who do not learn from it.” The thing is that while the general public has a short-term memory, democracy survives because of the pen. It survives because of the ideas and values that are propagated via various sources of the media. However, tv ratings, biases, and “business” seem to have changed the purpose of the media. From being a source of information and ideas, to becoming a source of ratings, prejudiced opinions, and wealth(for some).
The people are smart enough to judge and form opinions, what they need are facts. Cold, hard facts. Honest and balanced debates. It’s not true that the Internet has hurt conventional media. The Internet has only hurt those media sources who try to spin news according to their agendas. However, democracy is at a cross-roads and so is the media. Both are inter-dependent and if one goes, so will the other. The pen is mightier than the sword, but only when people value what the pen writes!
It’s not going to work- to show people what some distant tyrant says or how poor some third world country is! Those kinds of distractions are what created this mistrust. As a former close up magician, I know that you can only show the same magic trick once. The second time, everyone will know where to look. In fact, if you’re unlucky enough, some kid will Google how you do it and tell everyone about it. The same goes for propaganda and biased journalism.
I think now, more than ever, the Pen needs to fix itself. The world’s democracies are choosing extreme ideologies (left and right leaning) and no good ever came from extreme ideologies. I can only appeal to the media, rise up! Rise up and fix yourself before the pitchforks break the pen and with it the source of all ideas and ideologies. If the pen doesn’t fix itself, every historian knows the horrors that will come next.