Using online tools to forge a new democratic order

The recent crisis (note: this is the 2008-2012 crisis) went from being merely a financial one, to quickly spread towards a political one, then to a social crisis, and finally we come to the root of the problem: it’s nothing else but merely a crisis of values. These, of course, are deeply set into our current democratic societies, and, as such, are much harder to eradicate.

How did democracy, a political system that is viewed as “the best among the worst”, allowed such things to happen? Could we — the citizens — somehow prevent this, or was it beyond our control? How could the Internet with its social tools allow citizens to become more engaged and somehow give early signs that things were going wrong, and propose solutions — or is this just wishful thinking?

I’m launching a small mini-series of in-world events to discuss these issues. Discussion, as usual, will be free-flowing after a very short introduction to the topic.

The first event (Free speech in the electronic age) will be held at the amphitheatre in Colonia Nova (sorry about that, it seems I haven’t got many permissions to hold an announced event at the usual place…) on  October 15th, 2012, at 3 PM SLT. This is the blurb for it:

Thanks to social networking tools, people engage in rallies and spontaneously meet together to discuss issues, propose legislation, even forge new constitutions, like in the case of Iceland.

But there is a catch. While everybody has the right to post opinions anywhere on the Internet, the actual impact from so much fragmentation means that our voice is scarcely heard. As information moves from the mass-media to isolated spots on the social media, are citizens having more or less access to free speech and information? Even a “famous” blogger, who might easily reach an audience of 100,000 people, what are his or her chances of affecting the opinion of countries with millions?

On Wednesday, October 17th, 2012, at 4 PM SLT, we’ll focus on the following subject: Democratic Values.

If the current crisis is a crisis of values, what values should democracies uphold?

We are familiar with concepts as the right to vote and be elected, the right to freedom of expression, of access to judicial systems, to provate property, but also with some more abstract concepts like “the right to work” or “privacy” and a sense that, in a democracy, it’s not fair for a government to abuse their citizens, and should work for the common good, however that might be defined.

However, what the recent crisis has shown is that elected politicians do not uphold the same values. State laws protect individuals less and less, while they restrict corporations even less. The “fear” of having a too-oppressive government allowed interest groups to set their own agenda, free from citizen’s interference, and with the agreement of governments.

One might argue that anything else would be hypocrisy or wishful thinking. Is that true? Are citizens’ needs and rights merely words without value?

Finally, on Sunday, October 21st, 2012, at 2 PM SLT, we’ll watch together a one-hour-documentary about Iceland’s overthrowing of their government in a democratic way and their kick-start of a new government model based on democratic values.

When faced with their own financial crisis, Iceland, a tiny European country with 300,000 inhabitants, kicked their government out, put bankers in jail, and came to the streets to create a new constitution to prevent financial crisis to happen ever again, while at the same time they showed how citizens can be empowered to take hold of the situation when the political power is failing to uphold democratic values.
Iceland is tiny. Are they an example to the rest of the democratic world, or just lucky enough to be so small that they are able to do what seems utterly impossible in countries with millions of inhabitants?
We will watch a documentary together and discuss how it applies to the rest of the world. Warning: the documentary is obviously biased. Nevertheless, it should give us a good starting point for our discussion.

I also have in mind to set up a small lecture presenting one possible model for democracy, suggested a few years ago by an immigrant living in… India. He found himself in the middle of a solid and mature democracy, but where corruption abounds. So, by reflecting on its flaws, he proposed a different model to have citizen representation as well as checks and balances. His model has flaws, and it draws inspiration from several sources; it’s not to be taken literally to be applied everywhere, and, since it was never tried out, not even at a small scale, it might just be wishful thinking. Still, it’s worth discussing its basic premises. To do the lecture I need a little more time to prepare the presentation, so I’ll announce it at a later stage — specially depending on the attendance rate of the above discussions.

Come and discuss with us 🙂

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