Democracy by design

migrants and the future of democracy

Posted on April 3, 2016

Democracy by design

Media are like central heating for a hyperactive society – they warm us up, but offer little political flavor. They turn our emotions up, and urge us to do something to limit human, animal or plant suffering. However, they do not claim any responsibility if citizens try to act upon their advice.

Here is a simple case in point. Media do cry not only for whales or dolphins, but also for Amazonian forests. Trees in the Amazonian forest suffer, because of carbon dioxide? Let’s reduce carbon dioxide emissions by mixing oil with palm oil. Fine. Demand for palm oil goes up. Amazonian Indians clear forest to plant palm trees and sell palm oil. On balance, was this good for the trees? And who is to speak on behalf of the trees if the indigenous population fells them?  

Likewise, it has been easy for most of the most serious European dailies and weeklies to embrace multicultural solidarity with sociocultural diversity. Let thousand different ethnic, religious, age and gender flowers bloom! Meanwhile unknown unknowns intervened. Diverse communities and different individuals heard the praise of multicultural diversity and saw the consumer paradise immortalized in TV series and in the earnings of their relatives who migrated to the USA and to the EU. Convinced, converted, encouraged, here they came.

What do the best and the brightest European media tell them and us to do now, after the global underdogs had actually arrived? They tell us that the boat is full, that terrorists get smuggled in. Turkey out, Ukraine waiting. Safety first.

What does it all mean? Politically, we are all licking the hidden wounds of the Cold War. The left lost because communism was a bloody failure. The right lost because of inequalities and 2008. Political process turned citizens to consumers of yet another media show.

Workers of the western world did become a middle class. Now Asian and African workers do the same. Capitalists of the western world praised individual entrepreneurship as the road to heaven.  Now Africa grows faster than media allow most of us to notice. The end of history remained a popular smokescreen for a decade or two. History has restarted, though. What next? Let us reinvent parliamentary democracy: more deliberative, more performative, more democratic by design.