At the very time that the societies of the Middle East are crying out for democracy many folks in the the neo-liberal societies of the world are losing faith in the democratic process.
A recent poll in the United States indicates that many Americans are dissatisfied with the way their democratic system is working.
A CNN/ORC International Poll released Wednesday morning indicates that only 15 percent of Americans say they trust the government in Washington to do what’s right just about always or most of the time. Last September that figure was at 25 percent. Seventy-seven percent of people questioned say they trust the federal government only some of the time, and an additional eight percent volunteer that they never trust the government to do what’s right. [from firedoglake.com]
And today’s New York Times says that folks in other “democratic” societies are also dissatisfied.
In India, Israel, Spain, Greece and elsewhere there is a deep frustration with the failures of the democratic system to satisfy public needs, especially the need for adequate employment opportunities.
The Times reports that
complaints range from corruption to lack of affordable housing and joblessness, common grievances the world over. But from South Asia to the heartland of Europe and now even to Wall Street, these protesters share something else: wariness, even contempt, toward traditional politicians and the democratic political process they preside over.
They are taking to the streets, in part, because they have little faith in the ballot box.
“Our parents are grateful because they’re voting,” said Marta Solanas, 27, referring to older Spaniards’ decades spent under the Franco dictatorship. “We’re the first generation to say that voting is worthless.”
We are living in fluid times, when the certainties of the past are ever more questioned, and the familiar conventions of social life being challenged. Such fluidity fosters uncertainty, insecurity, on many levels of society. It is easy — from my position — to see why Americans are frustrated, but the question is “What is to be done”?
Demands for social justice, for better opportunities, for “freedom”, don’t always produce such conditions. In the past there have been many social movements calling for more justice and more freedom. But how many of them have yielded positive transformations? Not many. And those, such as took place in the Americas, developed in fields of opportunity that will never exist again.
The Neo-liberal “democracy” of this country has failed to cope with the demands of our times. Our duly elected representatives have on many crucial issues been unable to act in the best interests of those who elected them, apparently because powerful moneyed interests have found ways to intervene in the process.
Addendum and correction to the earlier draft:
The sources mentioned above stress that the move in both contexts — the Arab Middle East and in the neo-liberal countries — the hope is to develop something that resembles a more open system of the sort enabled by the web.
Increasingly, citizens of all ages, but particularly the young, are rejecting conventional structures like parties and trade unions in favor of a less hierarchical, more participatory system modeled in many ways on the culture of the Web.
In that sense, the protest movements in democracies are not altogether unlike those that have rocked authoritarian governments this year, toppling longtime leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Protesters have created their own political space online that is chilly, sometimes openly hostile, toward traditional institutions of the elite.
My concern is how such a system should be enabled. It would seem that in the American context there might need to be revisions in the constitution as well as the standing laws. What would have to happen for such a change in the system to take place?
The hope is to develop a better “democracy”. Certainly if democracy fails, it is hard to envision a better system. I still wonder: What can be done? In the mean time what will happen to the calls for justice and equality in the Middle East? Will the cry for help by the young Yemeni woman that was featured on the previous post be left unanswered? So far it has not.