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borisraonicI am coming from the only country – member of the COE, which did not experience the change of the Government through an election process. My generation, which remembers three Wars, finds itself in the situation that we have to explain again, to people focused on survival, that the accession to the EU does not bring by itself the control of the Government, stability, economic progress and that democratic values are the precondition for all those shiny ideals.

When I discussed with my friends about the topic that we are talking today, most answers I got were about the correlation between the democracy and solidarity – society does not exist with solidarity. Meaning solidarity is main precondition for democracy. After the discussion with my friends, I checked some EU statistics: Recent survey by the EC found that almost 90% of population thinks that the gap between them and the policy makers is growing every day and that development of democracy will bring an increase of inequality. Almost the same percent of people told that they can change the Government, but they cannot make change in policy. And which is a refrain of any Government in Europe? Economic crisis. Let's stay on that field for a moment.


We have lived for so many years – believing that democracy and its institutional and legal infrastructure, its economic setup and along with existing cultural references – provided ideal framework for liberal, tolerant, functioning and efficient societies, trans-ponding those values on the global level. However, current crisis revealed severe systematic problems in functioning of that ideological system. I think that it is really inappropriate to label this crisis only as economic or financial. Inter-linkage of numerous factors must be addressed – before starting to talk about potential solutions, as we are now going through the deep crisis of very foundations that shaped the democratic concept and economic setup developed and practiced under that framework.

Crises are immanent attachments to the human social developments. Once people started abandoning their homogeneous environments and engaged in creating the political, social, legal, economic and/or cultural frameworks that should encompass all the local differences – crises started to appear as a clear signs that valid systems are no longer efficient. Namely, every great ideological system has been designed in order to provide answers to the problems of related context. As long as these ideologies, i.e. set of their values and/or political measures allow for proper addressing of problems and issues that people are facing in their lives and/or provide platform for mobilizing the creative potentials of societies – you could easily trace the trends of progress.


But, it is completely normal that, in moments of crisis, people seek for scapegoats. It is the easiest ventilation of accumulated problems and discontent. Especially in the "Western Democracy" - countries, where people have been living, for considerable period, under the before-mentioned persuasion that their systems were pretty much ideal (in comparison to others) and could only go forward. Patterns in Third World and Post-Communist countries are different, but eventually come down to same. If we turn back now, we can easily see the situation in which many of Europeans perceive migrants and other vulnerable groups come as an ideal explanation for this purpose. "They steal our jobs", "We pay our own tax money for their subsidies"... But that is what you get when you try to present current crisis as economic/financial one.

I have read somewhere that during the Cold War, the rich and powerful elite needed people, because they feared them. Do they need them today, when they are very mobile with their possessions?

If we lived enough time in the systems that placed economic and financial benefits – as the most (or extremely) important social features of current systems – most people would immediately seek to resolve those problems with counter economic/financial measures. This is very dangerous, as than more important problems, of political setup and/or cultural ambient would remain not tackled. And these problems must be properly addressed first. Do we really have systems that promote political participation of all social groups and citizens? Do we have systems that really care for the needs of concerned citizens? Do our political systems produce solutions for real problems of citizens? Once we answer to those questions, in sincere and open debates, engaging all stakeholders – we would hopefully realize whether current political systems require severe renovation or just proper implementation. However, factors that caused problems, that invoked the design of ideological responses – change. And if ideology does not change accordingly and adapt – these ideologies eventually deteriorate into the conservative obstacles. And that is the big question of the day.


Hence, the first step would be to go beyond this media imposed portray and address the core problems. Which are not just economic and financial. We have to look into the political and social schemes that sustained such economic problems. And finally – we have to refer to socio-cultural references that are inter-linked with them.

I have no doubt that human civilization has the potentials to provide vivid and sustainable responses to those questions. But problem is – there are no such debates going on. On one side, we have simulations of public dialogue, where most people speak things others want to hear, whereas most of the key social "deals" are being forged behind the closed doors. And despite what decision makers might think of their electorate and common citizens – these things are obvious for most of the people. And that leads to the apathy and growing concern of the people those systems and their governments (not to mention international organizations) take them for granted. Moreover, people's faith in existing democratic systems and their abilities to address and resolve current problems – decreases. And you know what increases – that problems get solved outside of the existing systems. And that is why you have quest for scapegoats. And that is why you have streets protests and open and constant unfavorable perception of politicians and political parties and political processes and national institutions that resulted from those processes...

Henceforth, solution would be: more open dialogue with stakeholders. Get people express their concern even in politically incorrect manner and that involve key stakeholders in formulating the responses to those concerns. Get people feel that their opinion matters!

Finally, on revolutions. I find myself asking often the same question: What Democracy brought to Iraq? Or would I prefer to go on Holiday with kids in Egypt now in Democracy or three years ago? Once asked, one great 1789 French revolutionary said "Nobody likes armed missionaries". I read this as – you can't impose agendas on people if you expect them to embrace them sincerely and incorporate them into the cultural practices. And for too long time the governments and international organizations treated their citizens as not worthy of consulting them when formulating and/or implementing important social policies. Not caring about their feedbacks on how those policies affect their lives and what and how they should be adjusted. If you propel this attitude for long enough – for citizens to lose faith in their systems and their ability/willingness to address their problems – impossibility to facilitate conflicting attitudes, interests and opinions – would lead to the situation that social problems would be dealt with outside of the systems (which are created for those purposes!). And that is the point where revolutions take place.

But revolutions are always more focused on deconstruction of systems that were impediments to the actualization of social interests. They rarely produce viable and sustainable solutions. That is something I think – that citizens of Libya, Tunisia and Egypt are facing these days. But revolutions open pathways to social potentials and groups that were hampered under previous political setups. And that is the primary point – as revolutions open space for evolutions, which are always slow and troublesome processes, as it is the case when you are constructing complicated new systems that should learn from the mistakes of former.

Honestly, I have a small problem with how the new media influence ability of the people to interact in traditional social ways. Too much facebooks, twitters and online chat rooms might prove to be misleading, as people do not act in real life in same way as online. Being a person whose early days of political activism were much pursued on the streets, facing armed police and paramilitary forces – I do have a problem to embrace the fact that facebooking and twitting can compensate that. Furthermore, I do believe that recent "revolutions" were much more excellent PR campaigns of e-commerce companies than real life changes that revolution entail. It is only a small fraction of it, so to say.

But then again, these are the changed circumstances and we can't ignore the obvious presence of those media in everyday life nor its potentials to share and propel certain agendas more quickly and efficiently. And that is the core issue. Mobilization factor of new media remains unseen potential of this era and main challenge is how to sustain that very content of those communication channels should be aligned with necessity of bringing people more closer to the social problems and institutions in charge of their solutions, expanding the information that should fuel the social actions and allow for exchange of opinions and bringing potential solutions to the table.

In addition, there is one fine feature of this tool – it remains decentralized and creative platform. In my opinion, new media and internet remain – not a solution itself, but excellent mechanism for getting to the solutions. Potential of those media might prove to be a key step in re-inventing the "power of the people", to use that corny phrase – as getting so much people together on one agenda and so quickly and easy. Every democratic standard was the result of pressure from above – and that is where new media might play their role – in bringing this pressure more strongly, more quickly and more often as well as ensure two-way communication from the top to below.

One wise man once said that short speeches move hearts and long ones move chairs. Before I notice some chairs moving, let me send my final message: Engage people talking about their problems and concerns and fears. Talk more with people you disagree with and you will very soon see them becoming your partner.

Boris Raonic

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