I was quite taken by three separate bits of information that came to my attention this past week – one of them was an interesting anti-Brexit movement in Great Britain called Save Democracy that is given voice by English actor and comedian, Stephen Fry.
The second was the Poor People’s Campaign in the U.S., a movement that is gaining traction as poor people come to understand they have power by being informed and exercising their democratic rights.
The third was (is) a series of podcasts created by The New York Times’, The Daily, examining liberal democracy in Europe and the risk that liberal democracy is being eroded, if not destroyed. There is a powerful synergy emerging from these three seemingly disparate sources and I strongly recommend you take a look at them.
If you don’t know what liberal democracy is, look around you – it’s what you have. It’s about your freedom to speak out against the government, to protest, to form a union and to fight for better wages. It’s about protecting your right to your religion, or lack thereof.
It’s about guaranteeing your children the right to an education and your right to vote for whomever you choose. Liberal democracy is about the rule of law and the belief that governments must follow those laws, as well as the maintenance of an independent judiciary.
It’s about your right to the security of your person, about governmental checks and balances that protect the interests of the citizenry, about the rule of the majority and the protection of minorities. It’s also about equality and equity.
Those values and principles have not been common throughout the history of human social exploration and as imperfect as they are in practice, we enjoy them because of the long and painful evolution of modern democracy. It has been a journey that has cost the lives of millions of good men and women.
Yet, I watch a Trump rally and am horrified by the mesmerized audience that listens to the U.S. president’s litany of unrepentant lies and his railing against the very foundations of liberal democracy – I am gobsmacked by the mass insanity on display.
How can these people be so self-destructive as to buy into the brutal vulgarity, the blatant con, of this man? Where is the disconnect?
I was reading a novel the other day and came across this passage: I always thought that if you gave people all the information, they’d do the right thing, you know? Not always, maybe, but usually. More often than when they chose to do the wrong thing anyway.
That’s pretty much me, and, yes, I do like the movie Pollyanna. I know, it’s naïve, ridiculously simplistic and blind to the complexity of the human condition, but it is a delusion that is the polar opposite of a Trump rally, or a Yellow Vest march, or the vitriolic rhetoric of any of the far right movements currently pervading the Western World.
It might seem obvious, but every single nationalistic, neofascist movement has its roots in xenophobia and racism. Of course they add to that a more generalized bigotry, a hatred of anyone who doesn’t fit their narrow definition of acceptability.
So, the LGBTQ+ community form a natural target. Actually, fascists also hate most anyone who has ever had a liberal thought (libtards in their parlance). Yet fascistic movements are nothing without the support of the common not-really-fascists who are sucked in by the typical xenophobic rhetoric and propelled by the same mass hysteria that besets otherwise reasonable people in riots.
The entire BREXIT Campaign in Great Britain, spearheaded by the likes of Boris Johnson (now in running for prime minister) and Nigel Farage is certainly rooted in the migrant crisis spawned by political unrest, famine and war in the Middle East and Africa.
It is a campaign that is founded on bold lies and half-truths while singing the same old song about protecting British values. It is the same story in the U.S. writ much larger due to the unremitting lies of the U.S. president. We certainly have seen the same to a lesser degree in Canada.
But what are the “values” that make Canadians what we are? Well, I don’t think it resides in calling Christmas, Christmas, a point of argument expressed by not a few conservatives. In fact, what we as a nation practice at Christmas or Easter has so little to do with the real meaning of those holidays that those ridiculous sentiments are particularly laughable.
Neither is it about a flag or a song or any other symbol. I would postulate that it is our liberal democracy, that set of fundamental principles that protect us all from extremism of all stripes, that is the essence of who we are as a people.
So, the far-right and, for that matter, the far left voices of fear and authoritarianism are the real threat to who we are. The authoritarian fear mongering that targets skin colour, the donning of a headscarf, sexual preference, or language of birth is the real threat.
If we want to protect what we have, we will have to defend the tenets of our liberal democracy. Only by defending those principles, by being informed and educated, can we be inoculated against the viral disease of extremism.