When I started writing on this blog, my first post was on how it really becomes important in a democracy for people to be aware of what all they can do in order to elect the right leader. I am not just talking about us realising that we have a right to vote, and we exercising that right. I am talking about all the other things that we as people need to do for a healthy running democracy. Why are we talking about this today ? In the last 2 years or so, a lot of statements like “Democracy around the world is in danger” have been trending. Ever wondered why ?
Institutions have maintained their places. They haven’t let us down. Processes have only gotten better, they too haven’t let us down. We, the people are slowly letting ourselves slip over a slippery slope by not upholding the principles of the rule we gave ourselves, back in Nov 1949.
I’ll point out some stark symbols of changing philosophies which are affecting “democratic systems” worldwide.
Democracy is built on the principle of shared identity. In case of a state, the shared identity is that of a nation, and all the people it includes. The sad part about today’s shared identity is that people and societies want to make themselves as exclusive as possible, shunning their responsibilities towards the bigger groups they are part of.
..rich and the educated regions trying to exit obligations to the rest of the country…In effect, the educated are saying that they no longer identify with less educated citizens. They make no distinction between their less-educated fellow citizens and foreigners; The implication is that they have no greater obligation to the non-elite fellow-citizens than to foreigners living anywhere.Paul Collier’s book the future of Capitalism
Nationalism, the word itself, is now starting to have negative connotations. It is being used by populists to build support base by inciting fear and hatred of the better who have shunned this feeling. Shunned it because they are too good for it. The sense of obligation is shifting towards similarly employed professionals around the world and diminishing for the less fortunate in our own land. Hence, the people in the field, doing odd jobs, in the informal market have lost faith in the more educated and placed a lot of faith in the idea of ultra Nationalism. This faith is exploited and then everyone gets worried about democracy not representing “the sane” voices.
We need to start building bigger narratives that everyone can be part of. We need to build narratives that makes everyone feel they are contributing towards its rise. We need to start being responsible for a shared narrative locally and then go global.
Long form Discussions
When the constituent assembly was formulated, it did not represent the entire nation(it was not directly elected). Yet the deliberations happened for over 2 years and 8 months to get to a point where any section of the people both regionally or socially was not adequately discussed and debated about.
Issues of matter take time to develop and even more time to deliberate on. Even if you look at this case class from the Harvard Business School https://youtu.be/p7iwXvBnbIE you’ll see when people from different backgrounds deliberate on a topic or decision, there is a lot of baggage you need to understand before giving them a solution. We have lost this ability to have long from discussions as a society.
Most of our discussions have started to happen in echo chambers of Social media. Be it Twitter or Instagram or FaceBook, long form discussions are a dud. A meme or a troll however gets the max attention as well as popularity. US 2016 brought that to reality, with an internet troll becoming leader of the most powerful army of the world. These are dangerous grounds we are treading in. Anything written in 5 points is easily comprehensible, a 15 character length tweet is relatable and a meme is viral material. But does it help ?
“Our use of technology disconnects us from the local realities in which we live”Douglas Rushkoff
Memetics is amply employed by political-social marketers to get points across which are factually not correct. Memetics describes how an idea can propagate successfully, but doesn’t necessarily imply a concept is factual. Analogous to a gene, the meme was conceived as a “unit of culture” (an idea, belief, pattern of behaviour, etc.) which is “hosted” in the minds of one or more individuals, and which can reproduce itself in the sense of jumping from the mind of one person to the mind of another. -Wikipedia
In order to “protect” democracy its important to stop being meme material, and go back to long form civilised discussion and explanation forums for all.
Democracy requires serious rethinking to stand firm in the times of technology, misrepresentation, misinformation and the divided state.
We as people living in democracies need to go back and start talking about things that matter. Now more than ever there is a need to speak our minds, question the basics, understand the pain points of the left behind and seek to find rainbows that everyone perceives as joyous and colorful. The only societal and state structures which stand the test of time are the ones whose people recognise why and how they were built in the first place.
A graduate from BITS Pilani, class of 2019, I am currently working as a Product Manager at Flipkart. I like to write about things that get stuck in my head. By writing I make sure everyone knows what absurd thoughts I have :P Thanks for visiting.