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Why Democracy’s Side’s is Losing So Badly That We’re About to Lose Democracy, Why it Matters, And What to do About It

Why Democracy’s Side’s is Losing So Badly That We’re About to Lose Democracy, Why it Matters, And What to do About It
Visual Capitalist

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Hi! How’s everyone? Welcome, new readers, and a big Thank You to everyone for joining, and for all the fascinating discussions we’ve been having.

Today…do you want to know why the side of democracy loses?

Look. There’s going to be that guy—you know the one, he reads the New York Times, and he’s about to scream, “democracy’s not losing!”—and yet he doesn’t know that in fact, it’s plummeted to just around 20% of the world in the last two decades, and is about to go much, much lower than that…don’t be that guy. He’s…Dunning Krueger guy. He doesn’t even know that he doesn’t know.

Why Democracy’s Side is Losing (So Badly That We’re About to Lose Democracy)

Why is the side of democracy losing? I’m going to break it down for you, and it’s not going to be pretty, because I’m not that guy, and none of us should be. 

Let’s begin with a quote, that I think is going to make it eminently clear. 

It’s about British politics, but ignore that part. It’s the message I want you to focus on.

Look at the frantic writings of their press. Here’s Allister Heath, the Sunday Telegraph’s editor: “Britain is already too far down the road to serfdom to turn back now”; “For the first time in my life, I’m now beginning to think Britain is finished”; “Middle England has been betrayed by Britain’s feckless new establishment.” His columnist Janet Daley echoed: “Betrayed voters are finally exacting revenge on our arrogant elites.” Another colleague, Sherelle Jacobs, wrote: “Britain has become a lawless country where good people have to live in fear” and “Endemic misery is pushing Britain towards a civilisational catastrophe.” That doomery reverberates among those Tory backbenchers who can’t tell the difference between their personal imminent loss of power, status and seats and “civilisational catastrophe”. The reason they are losing is because they have lost their reason.

Now. That’s from Polly Toynbee, who’s a dear friend of a friend, and I’m not here to disparage her. Let’s think about the quote above. What do you notice about it? Her contempt for all those messages is palpable. Later, she calls it “doomery.”

This is why the democratic side is losing.

We are in a civilizational catastrophe. Not just one, but a series of them. So much so that scholars and elder statesmen—all of whom are assuredly on the center and left—call it “permacrisis” and “polycrisis.” But the level of figures beneath them, the columnists, the Blinkens and Bidens, the party functionaries…they refuse to engage with this truth at all. Instead, they have something like this weird, sort of maddening, withering, total contempt for it.

What does that make the democratic side? Increasingly irrelevant.

(How I Know) We All Know We’re in a Civilizational Emergency

Why? You see, we all know that we’re in a civilizational catastrophe right about now. All of us. I’ll show you how in just a second, but first I want to make the point: the only people that won’t admit are the moribund leaders of the centre and establishment. They’re pretending we’re not, and they’re becoming irrelevant, and thus, democracy’s dying swiftly.

Now. How—why do I say—we all know it, that we’re in a “civilizational catastrophe”? 

Because the message works. Far too well for us not to know it. I’ll discuss statistics in a second, but those lie beneath even the obvious level….of…reality.

We might not even “know” it on a conscious level. But it hits us with the feeling that we’re trying to bury, which is that things are going badly wrong for us, as individuals, as societies, as a world. We all know it, so intensely, that really, it’s the thing we think about—or try not to think about—most.

How do I know that? Am I just making it up? How do we really know the message works? Because it’s the entire reason the far right has risen to power. Who is it that speaks incessantly about “civilizational” whatever, catastrophe, calamity, decline, etcetera? The far right. It’s Trump who’ll say things like “we’ve become a Third World country” and so forth, and it’s European far right leaders who’ll speak of civilizational crisis. 

And it works. It works so well they’ve all catapulted to power. That’s because the average person might be dumb, but they’re not stupid. We can all see that the world around us is buckling, breaking, and falling apart. And so this foolish, foolish approach of denying it, and pretending everything’s just fine and dandy—it’s destroying democracy even more than the far right, because it’s what creates the opening for it.

The Power Vacuum Left When Institutions Won’t Acknowledge Civilizational Emergency

Now. The far right, when it speaks of “civilizational catastrophe” and so forth—it doesn’t mean what, say, scholars of polycrisis do. It means: the immigrants are here to steal our land, wives, children, jobs. When Trump speaks of America becoming a “third world” country—and plenty of those are pretty nice places—he doesn’t mean crumbling infrastructure and a lack of social systems and a destroyed social contract, he means scapegoats.

So. What’s happening here? Are these just Wittgensteinian “language games”?

Emphatically, no.

What’s happening is that the average person is genuinely in profound anxiety, fear, and despair. We know that from the panoply of statistics I recite for you, and plenty more besides—the one I use often is how negative feelings, depression, anxiety, anger, have skyrocketed off the charts in the last decade and more.

So the sense that civilization is in crisis is profoundly real. People know it, deep inside, even if they try to bury it, which is what we do with bad feelings.

But they know. Things have gone badly wrong in this world of ours.

What happens next? Only one side talks about it. In those terms. The terms that speak to people’s anxieties, fears, and sense of despair: civilization itself is on the brink. That side has a very different story, though, than the scholars and elder statesmen and women: it blames it on…you know the list…minorities, women, the LGBTQ, liberals, books, art, music, whatever—basically, the rebirth of fascism.

But what else can happen…when only one side…will even speak about what people know, understand, sense, deep inside? As the sort of feeling they wake up to? Acknowledge it? And the other side just has…contempt for it?

So. What unites us, in this day and age, is the feeling of civilizational catastrophe. The intuition of it, the sense of it. And what’s happening is that it’s getting politicized, the far right ginning up moral panics and scapegoating various minorities for it—while the establishment and centre refuses to talk about it all, dismissing it, as if it’s some kind of…

Idiocy. Have you seen all the heat I’ve taken over the years for sort of being at the forefront of this notion? But not from the far right, funnily enough. From my own side! It’s sort of insane when you think about it. I’ve been called everything from a charlatan to a murderer, by people who should know better. Especially when I was right. That’s not point-scoring, it’s just sort of…truth…a plea…total despair, maybe, because our side…

Our side is the one burying any form of critical thinking right now. And that is a lethal mistake to make in an age of very real civilizational emergency.

Why The Establishment Won’t Own Up to Civilizational Emergency

So what do the center and establishment think about it, the notion, prospect, sense, feeling, of civilizational emergency?

They think of it as contemptuous.

You get that idea clearly in what Polly’s written above, but you can see it all over the place. They dismiss anyone that thinks things are bad and getting worse as a “doomer,” they refuse to even grapple with the notion of civilization-scale problems, issues, or thinking at all.

There’s a group you don’t know about, called The Elders. It was set up by Nelson Mandela. It includes a small number of the world’s most serious statesmen and women—they’re sort of the Elders of our civilization, if you like. It was meant to sit even above the UN, and advise and guide it, if you see what I mean.

So what’s its message today? We’re in…a civilizational emergency. They put it bluntly, speaking, weirdly, almost my language, verbatim: “we need world leaders who understand the existential threats we face and the urgent need to address them.”

I love the Elders. Love, love, love. They’re the last group in the world on the side of democracy pulling no punches and really sort of doing their job. But…the side of democracy isn’t listening to them. You won’t hear Joe Biden or any sort of workaday leader of the centrist establishment ever remotely speaking like that. You won’t ever read those phrases in the New York Times or Washington Post. Hear them said on CNN or the BBC. 

Why not? The most intelligent and senior people on the planet are literally saying it out loud. Shouldn’t we hear them? So why is the side of democracy ignoring them?

What that leaves is a vacuum. Don’t you think it’s incredibly strange that the two groups talking about civilizational catastrophe are…the far right…and the elder statesmen and women who Nelson Mandela picked to sort of safeguard the world? But not the establishment in the centre? Who seems to have total, withering contempt for that very idea? What the hell are they thinking?

They’re not. That gaping vacuum leaves this feeling, sense, inituition—civilizational collapse, emergency, etcetera—open to be co-opted. By the far right.

The Taboo of Civilizational Emergency, Or, (Of Course) Democracy’s Irrelevant to the Masses if it Won’t Let Them Tell their Truth

And that’s why we are where we are. The scientists know it, the elders know it, the best thinkers of my generation know it. We are in deep sh*t. But the establishment and the center won’t just not admit it—they’ll go out of their way to shoot down, mock, harass, taunt, anyone who even dares to broach the topic, as an “alarmist” or a “doomer” or what have you.

But in an age where everyone feels the civilizational emergency we’re in, that’s a recipe for disaster. By way of irrelevance. Hence, young people aren’t interested much in democracy anymore, because of course, they see the establishment offering up much little but contempt for a world in crisis. 

It’s become taboo to say that we’re in a civilizational emergency. And breaking that taboo will cost you dear, at least on the establishment, centrist, liberal side. You’ll be shunned, hated, ignored, attacked, and so on—it’s happened to plenty of us, from me to Sarah Kendzior and on and on. 

What purpose does this serve? At this point, it’s not even keeping the establishment in power. It’s just…I suppose in management terms, we might call it “inertia,” if I want to be polite, the grip failed ideas have on organizations. But even that’s too kind. 

At some point, this taboo has to be broken, and then undone. We need leaders on the democratic side who can speak about civilizational catastrophe and emergency, because we all know, like I said, that we’re in one. To make it a taboo only accomplishes one thing: hands the future to the far right. 

I don’t like having to say all that. It’s just going to make things worse for me, the usual figures who hate me hating me all that much more. But it has to be said. Because right about now? Democracy’s side’s approach isn’t working. It’s failing catastrophically. And that’s because it’s completely out of touch with what we all know about the 21st century.

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