Can democracy survive the coming extinction event?
The Western world has always been a steadfast champion of democracy. Nothing speaks to us more than this seemingly innate concept that the power belongs to the people. Not to a single dictator or to a monarch, but instead in the hands of the ordinary, average individual upon whose effort and diligence the country is built.
Whether our democracies today in the world of capitalism and multi-national, sometimes trillion-dollar corporations actually function this way will be discussed further below.
In the consideration of the prospect of autocracy as an outcome for what is to be our not so distant future, George Orwell’s 1984 comes to mind. Are you at all surprised that I’ve brought this book up? Perhaps not. We as a people have been daunted by the very idea of government surveillance and the cessation of our freedoms and rights perhaps for longer than the book itself has been around.
Though even so, one may ask, why now? If democracy has endured for so long in our midst, why would it yield now to autocracy? My answer to this, is the situation that we are gradually but immediately finding ourselves in.
Let us consider the reality that most of our Western governments have yet to mobilize against the affects and further progression of climate change in a manner that is at all material or effective.
John Kenneth Galbraith wrote just a few pages into his book The Affluent Society:
Ideas are inherently conservative. They yield not to the attack of other ideas but to the massive onslaught of circumstance with which they cannot contend.
I do not believe democracy will quietly step aside because it has become dysfunctional, especially when our unhindered belief and championing of the system still seems to be unshaken. Rather more so because it has become ineffective in tackling the primary and only problem that the entire species is currently facing.
Take a look at Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was initially seen seemingly to be a champion of clean energy and reduction in carbon emissions. Him and his Liberals are uncompromising in the construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline which would triple the oil output out of the Alberta oil sands. Just considering solely the environmental impact of this, one must acknowledge the devastating impact this would have for all countries trying to lower their carbon emissions.
Can politicians, who are temporary employees, be relied on to try and save us from this extinction event? Is a new government really the answer we need? Perhaps. But there is no assurance, especially since many in and outside of politics continue to doubt the very existence of climate change.
Can a government that changes every 4 or 5 years, with limits to terms or without them, impose the necessary restrictions on us the people if we ourselves do not change our consumption and lifestyle habits? Seeing that they are usually most driven solely for their reelection and will side-step anything that is unpopular no matter the dire necessity.
Even if all the disbelievers were converted to believers, I am unconvinced that democracy would continue onwards, as if it were business as usual.
We live in a world of extreme wealth disparity, where a handful of individuals have accrued and hoarded most of the worlds money and resources. When scarcity ensues, will the billionaires of the world accept that they should also refrain from indulgences and excess?
It seems uncharacteristic of our wealthy elites that they would compromise, especially if they continue forward with the ability to lobby governments. Especially when they continue to be able to afford whatever they please, in whatever quantities. Most of us do not rally around our fellow humans, to causes that we individually are unaffected by.
We live in a world where the individual must fend for her or himself. One can only imagine how much worse this will get when food and clean water become luxuries. You must have heard, perhaps as often as I have in relation to climate change, that the poor will suffer the most.
How long before we become the poor? How long before the one percent are the only ones that are left outside of the tag of poverty?
To what extent will humans go just to survive?
You may have come across a story, just a few months back, which was an exposé on the horrendous actions of the UN Peacekeepers while they were stationed in Haiti. Peacekeepers were found to be exploiting children, trading food or very little money for sex and sexual acts. Girls were found to be as young as between the ages of 12 and 15.
My point is: abuse.
Abuse occurs where all of the power is in the hands of some and those that are suffering have no alternative nor any recourse.
The billionaires of our world are self-preserving individuals. Governments would much rather rally behind such wealthy elites. They would rather secure their own fates rather than alleviate the suffering of the majorities. The majorities that are in such a condition in the first place because of the inaction and complacency of the very forces that are to escape the devastation of a warmer Earth unscathed.
When Vladimir Putin first took office in Russia he brought to heel the billionaires that were primarily oligarchs. This man is in no way, shape or form an idol or someone to look up to. He is a horrendous individual.
Though using his example along with the example of any past dictator, one can see that in fear and unrest the people are willing to transfer their powers to someone they believe will take them out of their suffering.
What this apparent or perceived saviour does with their power is secondary to the fact that the conditions will in the next few years become ripe for such an individual to come to power. Despite the West’s blind and endless faith in democracy and democratic institutions. Fear is a great motivator for us humans. It is what allowed us to survive in our earlier days as Homo sapiens, and it is something that rules us even today, once initiated.
The onset of autocracy can be prevented. It can be prevented today. It can be prevented by our governments and by our activism and protests. It can be prevented by humanity, regardless of countries and nationalities and money, rallying together behind a cause that is for once common to the entire species. We are in such straits that may bind us together as a united whole or just as easily obliterate us completely as a civilization.
It is innate at this point, for us to foresee an autocratic ruler as evil. Men that have occupied such mantles have gone on to be amongst the most evil individuals our species has ever produced.
In the all too familiar words of Lord Acton:
Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
I am not of the opinion that the decentralization of power has prevented corruption. Nor am I of the opinion that such decentralization has benefited the people of democratic regimes.
All that has happened is that the illusion has been maintained. The illusion that since there is no one clear ruler, the people must still have the power that they can exercise through their votes.
This is incorrect, in my view, as we are constantly undermined by corporations and wealthy elites. Our wishes, and our needs are not being taken care of. And more so, the prospect of our very survival which is now at stake is being met with indifference. Our politicians do not act on our behalf; billionaires do not and neither do corporations. Will we not be looking for saving from elsewhere? From someone that we feel(correctly or incorrectly) is finally in our corner?
Our prospective autocratic ruler may as well be just as awful as those that govern us today, or far worse.
Such has been the fate of the people, that they always seem to find themselves and their needs being neglected, their trust being manipulated and their hope left to flicker out with the last light.
Will the meek ever inherit the Earth?