A Global Revolution: Changing the Face of Politics

Written by  //  December 12, 2011  //  Economic & Social Policy  //  7 Comments

Our current creaky model of democracy seems to be in urgent need of oiling, as it threatens to fall apart. It’s fairly easy to reach this conclusion by simply looking at the news-flow over the past year. But this representative form of governance may simply be nearing its natural ending; we’re in the midst of a political revolution, as social media catalyses the evolution to a more networked form of governance.

Representative democracy seems to have reached its tipping point in countries that have long been lauded for their democratic models. The Congress is dead-locked in the US, as political ideologies reach a bipartisanship that is seemingly irreconcilable. When even the so-called ‘super’ committee comprised of only 12 individuals can’t seem to agree, the Senate’s failure to pass legislation on anything from climate change to rising the debt-ceiling doesn’t seem to be too outrageous in comparison. The only thing that seems to unite Congress is worrying about China’s growing power and currency manipulation.

The EU, on the other hand, has almost stopped trying to sell the idea of democracy to its voters, as five of its governments have been felled over the current debt crisis. Brussels has openly installed technocrats in Italy and Greece that have been received fairly warmly by the public, who seem to think that any form of decision-making is better than the political dithering seen over the past few years. Further treaty changes will force countries to compromise their sovereignty and agree to budgetary control and supervision by external independent bodies.

In the East, the winter session of the Indian Parliament has literally grinded to a stand-still as both the opposition and members of Singh’s (ironically a technocrat himself in the world’s largest democracy) own party cause an uproar over Singh’s weak attempt to open up the Indian retail sector to FDI. India is seized by political stalemate even as mass protests against corruption rock the country as shocking government scams come to light. The strong opposition to the usual farce of Russian elections has taken Kremlin by surprise. Pro-democracy protests in Moscow have led to the first real political crisis Putin has had to face. If the next election is open to real competition, he may be the first Russian President to ever have to take part in a televised debate.

The world continues to deal with the fall-out of two unprecedented crises in 2008 and 2011 as the repercussions continue to ripple through the global economy.  On the other hand, international climate change talks continue to be a massive disappointment as the Kyoto protocol is in danger of dying without any legally binding agreements in place. As an impending global recession beckons, unemployment numbers rise ever higher even as anger at increasing inequality reaches climax. Mass uprisings extending from the U.S. to the Middle East have sprung up in the past year as the public fights for parity and more transparent governance at a pivotal time. How longer do we have before these global movements turn violent?

China seems to be the linchpin of the global economy, as it continues to invest heavily in infrastructure and clean energy and grow at a phenomenal rate It is one of the few places in the world where the government seems to actually be able to take decisions- in an undemocratic way, of course. No matter how much the West moans worries about its rapid progress and impending threat, it is the one bright spot in the market. This unexpected economic success of undemocratic policy-making calls our own models of governance into question.

However, it isn’t that democracy has failed; it is simply that it has de-evolved; our systems of governance have grown bloated, corrupt and decidedly undemocratic. Crony capitalism and the revolving door between the banks and government have never been highlighted so boldly as by the 2008 crisis and the OWS protests. If we are forced to pay for others mistakes, and accept losses for risks we didn’t take as others reap the returns, can we claim to follow a democratic model of governance?

The OWS movement has been heavily criticized for failing to politicize in a more traditional form, but it has the right idea. We cannot change the heavily inefficient political system from within; there are too many well set-up barriers to entry that include resources and time.  But we don’t need to work within the system. Whether the politicians like it or not, the internet is a democratizing force. Social networking and media has revolutionized the way we function, and the realm of possibilities of our actions. People are easier to connect; protests and actions are easier to organize. For instance, in Russia, the government has traditionally relied on state-controlled TV to set the political agenda; but independent news sources have penetrated Russia through the internet and encouraged political awareness. A video of a youth slapping one of India’s most famously corrupt Ministers went viral in a day with thousands of Indians lauding his actions on Facebook and Twitter. The Egyptian government made the mistake of attempting to cut off the internet when the rising against Mubarak first erupted- where is Mubarak now? For an example closer to home, look no further than this site- it would have impossible for our generation to voice our political opinions and be taken seriously just ten years ago.

We’re in the midst of a dramatic revolution, as the world grows flatter. The 1% is powerful because we choose them to be. It is time we recognized the clout of the 99%. The Move Your Money project is a great illustration of this as it encourages the public to shift their funds from Wall Street’s major banks to local ones, taking the power away from the bankers. Additionally, an increasing number of people are organizing to take urgent climate change action into their own hands, as politicians continue to drag their feet. As funding from banks dries up, renewable energy companies have begun to raise money through groupfunding using social networks.

The two crises have highlighted that our economic and political systems are broken; we must adapt to survive. We can and are creating new models of governance.

About the Author

Natasha holds Masters degrees from Oxford and Cambridge where she specialised in immunology and sustainable development. She is currently applying her background in public health and environment science to Asian markets

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