Side thoughts and muttering about our crumbling democratic life in the fresh air can become a very wide scouring thing while Clyde sniffs out his "news". Clyde can perceive 1000 times more with his senses than I ever could: Which dog peed his message here, where did another dog dig here and why? Except for his occasional look or when he presses himself against my leg to show me something he cares about, he doesn't care about me at all when he performs his news consumption.
Our sometimes stunning intelligence seems to have outstripped our instinct for survival. Our inability to live entirely in the present (like my buddy Clyde is doing), combined with our inability to see very far into the future, makes us strange in-between creatures, neither beast nor prophet.
While we're still arguing about whether there's life after death, can we add another question to the cart? Is there life after democracy? What sort of life will it be? By "democracy" I don't mean democracy as an ideal or an aspiration. I mean the working model: Western liberal democracy, and its variants, such as they are.
The question here, really, is what have we done to democracy? What have we turned it into? What happens once democracy has been used up? When it has been hollowed out and emptied of meaning? What happens when each of its institutions has metastasised into something dangerous? What happens now that democracy and the free market have fused into a single predatory organism with a thin, constricted imagination that revolves almost entirely around the idea of maximising profit?
We plunder the earth hoping that accumulating material surplus will make up for the profound, unfathomable thing that we have lost. It would be conceit to pretend I have the answers to any of these questions. But it does look as if the beacon could be failing and democracy can perhaps no longer be relied upon to deliver the justice and stability we once dreamed it would.
After many years of living in socially unstable countries, talking to political leaders I’m becoming now in our democracies increasingly speechless about ideologists and "vox populi popes” who have already succeeded in stealing our language by making the world fit for our script.
This theft of language, this technique of usurping words and deploying them like weapons, of using them to mask intent and to mean exactly the opposite of what they have traditionally meant, has been one of the most brilliant strategic victories of those "vox populi popes” and their followers in mainstream media. It has allowed them to marginalise their detractors, deprive them of a language to voice their critique and dismiss them as being "anti-progress," "anti-development," "anti-reform," “anti-sozial” and of course "anti-national" -- negativists of the worst sort.
Unlike the flow of capital, this virus seeks proliferation, not profit, and has, therefore, inadvertently, to some extent, reversed the direction of the flow. It has mocked immigration controls, biometrics, digital surveillance and every other kind of data analytics, and struck hardest thus far in the richest, most powerful nations of the world, bringing the engine of capitalism to a juddering halt. Temporarily perhaps, but not long enough for us to examine its parts, make an assessment and decide whether we want to help fix it, or look for a better engine.
Are we too obsessed with "vox populi popes”, these populists pulling us back into older, discredited models of totalitarian or authoritarian governance with a new environmentalist facade? This then meant to suggest that the system of representative democracy -- too much representation, too little democracy -- needs some structural adjustment. Till then, I'll walk with my Rottweiler always ready for a change.