When Parliament is a Theater… Theaters must become Parliaments

Democracy is not in its finest hour. The EIU average global score for democracy in 2019 is the worst since the index was first introduced in 2006: It fell from 5.48 in 2018 to 5.44 (on a scale of 0-10). The 2019 result is even worse than that recorded in 2010, in the wake of the global economic and financial crisis, when the average global score fell to 5.46.

The Economist Intelligence Unit, Democracy Index 2019

the main manifestations of this democracy recession include: an increasing emphasis on elite/expert governance rather than popular participatory democracy; a growing influence of unelected, unaccountable institutions and expert bodies; the removal of substantive issues of national importance from the political arena to be decided by politicians, experts or supranational bodies behind closed doors; a widening gap between political elites and parties on the one hand and national electorates on the other; and a decline in civil liberties, including media freedom and freedom of speech.

In a report by the Centre for the Future of Democracy launched in January 2020 with the objective to understand the prospects for democracy in broad historical and international perspective, we can read that “across the globe, democracy is in a state of malaise.”

Centre for the Future of Democracy, Global Satisfaction with Democracy 2020

The share of individuals who are “dissatisfied” with democracy has risen by around +10% points, from 47.9 to 57.5% since 1995. reaching the highest level of global dissatisfaction since the start of the series. The rise in democratic dissatisfaction has been especially sharp since 2005, with many of the world’s most populous democracies – including the United States, Brazil, Nigeria, and Mexico – leading the downward trend.

This is happening at the same time that media freedom and freedom of speech are declining. Of the 65 countries assessed by Freedom House in 2019, 33 have been on an overall decline since June 2018, compared with 16 that registered net improvements.

Freedom House, Freedom on the Net 2019

In 2018, Freedom in the World recorded the 13th consecutive year of decline in global freedom. The reversal has spanned a variety of countries in every region, from long-standing democracies like the United States to consolidated authoritarian regimes like China and Russia. The overall losses are still shallow compared with the gains of the late 20th century, but the pattern is consistent and ominous. Democracy is in retreat.

EIU and The Center for the Future of Democracy reports also higlight the other side of the coin:

However, the picture is not entirely negative. Many small, high-income democracies have moved in the direction of greater civic confidence in their institutions

The global march of democracy stalled in the 2000s and retreated in the second decade of the 21st century. But the recent wave of protest in the developing world and the populist insurgency in the mature democracies show the potential for democratic renewal.”

The question is how. How are we going to renew democracies when the people we “democratically” elect to represent us are the ones driving democracy toward the abyss? And here is the key.

The best article I have read in the last year about the current “trasformation” of democracies is likely this one by Stephen Marche: Is Anyone Entertaining Enough to Beat Trump?

There are new rules. It doesn’t matter if you want to play by them. It doesn’t matter if you believe there should be other rules. In the world of images we have entered, a world of screens, the sudden acceleration of the scope of mass media in all forms has generated, on the right, a conservative buffoonery that has taken over the major parties, and, on the left, a tendency toward political suicide by the refinement of image.

Marche argues that anyone who does not accept the rise of politics as entertainment quickly becomes irrelevant, The capacity to gather attention is the main source of power now.

If you want progressive policies in government, elect a celebrity who will listen to experts. That’s what Justin Trudeau is. (That’s what Ronald Reagan was.)

With the selection of Boris Johnson as prime minister, the two most important conservative movements in the world — those in the United States and the United Kingdom — are led by clowns.

The conservative movement selected these figures as their leaders because of their buffoonery — not despite it. The essence of 21st century conservatism is turning the future of humanity into a big joke. The right has become show business. The left has become fashion.

He concludes that the first rule of show business is that the show must go on. Nobody ever said what kind of show it had to be. And that’s exactaly what we have to do.

The message is literally written in a wall in Madrid’s Teatro Sala Mirador (Thanks to Isabel F. Peñuelas for the pointer, and a tip of the hat to Sala Mirador’s creatives)

Sala Mirador

WHEN PARLIAMENT IS A THEATER … THEATERS MUST BECOME PARLIAMENTS

Fiction is the only possibility at hand to get us out of the mess. That’s my plan, and I am not alone. Stay tunned.

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