The contempt for the radicals

Also published on Democracy Chronicles

In the New York Times article “What’s Wrong With Radicalism” (December 11) columnist David Brooks generalize about radicals. And actually, if one thoroughly consider his exact conclusions even though it’s nicely put together,  it carries a patronizing tone. Having all radical political voices of today bundled into an unserious package should be met.  

If you have a radical view of societal change today, you belong to a mob of factually misguided, gullible, irresponsible, malicious loudmouths who create unrest.

That is the conclusion of New York Times columnist David Brooks’ analysis in his article "What's Wrong With Radicalism". An easy and ingratiating read for the diminishing host of readers who are still convinced that the cause of increasing populism, the mistrust of the establishment, and a new political landscape across the western world is only an unusual virus; namely this radical, malignant and infectious mob. But it will soon pass; the well-established politicians, economists and opinion leaders are the obvious shepherds and healers.

There is something religious about this. Or at least a strong sense of escapism. Thoughts veer towards the Titanic and the orchestra that played for the 1st class passengers until the end. Well-dressed, cultured and wealthy people, mostly men, who share an illusory culture that just has to remain.

To me - politically engaged in an activist movement consisting of 70000 members with concrete economic, social alternatives to the current order, in pursuit of genuine democracy and transparency - and others who left the sinking ship long ago; columnists such as Brooks seem like a dying race, with neither political argument nor vision. In the United States as well as in Europe, wise and innovative people and activists work to create a different and worthwhile social structure that can put an end to people's increasing distaste for those in power and politics.

The Panama papers, paradise leaks, persuasive and dishonest presidents, surveillance, a small autocratic clique of people in the financial industry who are allowed to own most of the world´s resources, media companies controlling millions of people’s digital lives, increasing numbers of people suffering from mental disorders, and globalization that has removed power so far away from people's everyday lives that no one cares anymore, are some aspects of our reality. Perhaps Brooks considers this fake news and behind the denial is, of course, the insight that this miserable state is not caused by "political fools"; it has been created by all the common democratic and undemocratic forces that have, for so long ruled the western world. Most of the passengers aboard this sinking ship are now trying to protest, knowing that we have crashed into an iceberg - and knowing who steered us into it. But in one of the sloping salons you will find people like Brooks. Clad in evening dress, puffing on a cigar, still in the process of ordering the best available cognac, in conversation with a small clique of opinion leaders who live in the past.

It may be that in this time of doom some of the passengers are screaming, are raging and shoving at each other and that every little pronouncement is not always true, but still, in comparison with Brooks, they stand on firm ground in the understanding that our society no longer primarily serves its citizens.

Liberation or Protectionism

Also published on Dissident Voice and Democracy Chronicles

The Western world has slowly been forced to realize that the old cornerstones of society are no longer a given. Liberal market economy, representative democracy and the shift of influence away from citizens up to a global and unreachable level makes for a drop in confidence.

The new political currents have led the rulers of the West to react with alarm. Finally, there has begun to be an understanding that the left-right-scale no longer applies. It has been replaced by a people-elite scale or a close-large scale. But instead the debate is dominated by the fear of populism. News reporters and political analysts now travel across Europe in droves, from election to election, country to country, in pursuit of a single election result that may indicate a break in the trend and a return to the old ways.

In fear of the new politically radical currents, whether they have traces of right, left, liberal, green or anarchy, what is perhaps the West’s greatest cause for pride, the tolerance of minorities, has been curtailed. Radical political ideas are under constant attack from a middle layer of politicians and the powers that be.
People’s longing for something new remains.

This was already noticeable 5-6 years ago with the North African uprising, the protest movements around the Mediterranean Sea and the Occupy Movement and the “1% of the population ruling over 99%”. The two western political “people’s outrages”, Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as president, are thus a natural consequence of years of a growing fatigue in the political status quo in favor of the more popular and cohesive.

In Spain, a referendum on independence is due in September. In Scotland, a new application for one has been submitted and in California, signatures are being collected to create a referendum on independence. In Europe, there is a growing dissatisfaction with the EU as a sphere of power. In all these examples, calls are made for independence, nationalism and/or regional rule. But the trends are rarely discussed in the same debate. Self-government in the form of a protectionist nation state seems to be something completely different from a struggle for independence, even though there is merely a difference of degree in the aspiration for self-rule and control.

It is a longing for liberation from the big and incomprehensible beyond human contact that is the motivating common denominator. In a smaller context, this can be noticed when social services such as schools, healthcare or different types of service facilities are concentrated into central municipalities in the name of efficiency and economics. Or when jobs disappear or are moved elsewhere and people are forced to break up from their loved ones and their neighborhood culture. A development that few politicians want to touch and which is beyond people’s influence.

The western growth machine creates communities with millions of “non-people”, unemployed youth or senior citizens who lack social significance. At the same time, a clique of financially well-off’s just grows stronger. Solutions seem to be lacking within the current political and social western framework.

The longing for a real society; for justice and community, seems impossible to stop in these times of break-ups, individualization and lack of human dignity.

The new perception of in what direction society is heading, has created new alliances of political movements as, for example, the European DIEM25 which works for a democratized and transparent EU. DIEM25 and the new French President Emmanuel Macron, as well as the radical American Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, reflect rather well the current state of affairs, both in Europe and the US; either new radical political currents beyond the classical political choices, or, as in the case of Macron, a longing to move away from the old at the same time as there is a wish to be anchored in the old. A political three-way-forecast à la 2017. But the biggest political change is not about who is elected but rather about the distrust of the eligible. Both Macron and Donald Trump are both politically skilled businessmen who have perceived a new radical need for change, unlike the classic politicians and their eternal promises of change which are no longer considered credible. The political change from left versus right to small scale versus large scale, regardless of which political icon that represents it, was completely unthinkable just 3-4 years ago.

The direction of regionalization and “the small-scale” causes fears; both among those who are afraid of an increasing intolerance to minorities as well as among liberal market forces and globalists. Those who want to restore participation, proximity and popularity see liberation.

Is it then possible to regionalize our societies without losing a tolerance for others? The answer should be obvious. Intolerance is not created by diversity; it is created by economic injustice and the lack of influence, involvement, belonging, respect plus the absence of a sense of community. People who are satisfied and feel visible do not look for someone to blame.