Despite common wisdom being that democracy is the best state of affairs for countries and their people, democracy is often confused with the current model of democratic republics, which is what many nation founders envisioned.
What history shows us is that, nations that call themselves democracies or that are in some state of nearly pure democracy, have less advantageous governance conditions to find solid ground and to achieve what leaders supposedly want: equality, equity, social justice, and utopias.
The failures of the liberal order in governing a seemingly chaotic world, whose people distrust open society, the failures of socialism, hidden behind the curtains of ‘equality’, and the result of neoliberal policies driven by globalist entities with no national identity at all, have opened the eyes of millions of people who realize that democracy is not as positive as it was believed to be.
Every transition to a new world is anticipated with a fall, although the pillars that maintain the preceding order have already become a fetish.
It happened with the flaming collapse of the Twin Towers, the moment that marks our exposed vulnerability, the arrival of liberalism. It happened again with the stones of Notre Dame, an icon of the universal vocation and the civilizational impudence of the West.
But before those falls there was the Berlin Wall, the symbol with which, we decided to stop thinking that the maps told stories. It was there, according to Bulgarian political scientist Ivan Krastev, when liberalism “abandoned pluralism in favor of hegemony.”
The effect, today, is the reactionary panic that naturally arises when we intend to cling to something without formulating alternatives or when there are no true alternatives to implement change.
Such an effect is linked to the loss of confidence in progress –after many years of decline– and to the triumph of a new empty worldview: extreme Left policies with a mighty global government at the top of it, that look back in search of better times, pushed forward by the green agenda, that looks towards a dubious future.
The decline of the liberal order is linked to this and is something that has been there for a long time – in columns, analysis and political speeches – like a spooky shadow mimicked with the deep feeling of disorientation in all of the western world.
Those who want to destroy western civilization erroneously highlight nationalism as a form of fear or hesitation. Those liberals that promoted the balkanization of Europe, North America and Latin America, to bring about false necessities, such as the need to protect refugees that they themselves attacked in their homelands, identify initiatives to protect what is wholesome and good at national levels as backward, vulgar populism.
After 30 years full of political irony, in 2019 these liberals still believe that borders are irrelevant, even though drug and people trafficking are patently visible across unchecked entry points in Europe and North America. They still promote the loss of national identity, the disrespect for the rule of law and demand that we all embrace unilateral policies pushed by unelected officials.
Reality provides us with a different tune, however. Entrenchment is not a result of hatred or racism. Walls to protect nations are not erected to separate the good from the bad, but to avoid the collapse of the seriously weakened the one single core value that still manages to hold on western societies together: national identity. These liberals, despite having mountains of evidence to the contrary, still see globalization and the acceptance of a global, interrelated and transnational society.
Europe is a special case because the continent was swindled into believing that the 2015 refugee crisis was an example of how a virtuous society embraced freedom and progress. The invasion of Europe by Africans and Middle Eastern migrants, whose countries were destroyed by liberal policies, helped transformed that imaginary world into reality: the struggle for individual emancipation.
Left and right, the parties enthusiastically assume an ideology that dramatically changes the enlightened principles of Europe. While the continent follows North America’s decline in births and population replacement, political leaders were willing to convince people that such replacement was not necessary, because after all, democracy allowed for the importation of cheap labor and foreign populations to take over the handles of western society.
The 2016-2020 period has also meant the triumph of some battles in favor of national interests as great political and military powers fight for hegemony. Donald Trump embodies the desire of many millions in Europe and America to protect what makes them what they are, as supposed to losing their heritage. Critics call that desire an “outlandish way, the wounded ego of the West”.
In the brave new world we live in, critics of western nationalism idolize China, despite its abuses of human rights, which they are not willing to criticize. “Because China has fully awakened and, while showing the crudest face of its cyber authoritarianism, it stands as the most resilient and strategic thinking actor on the planet,” says Marian Martinez in EL PAIS.
In the current madhouse we live in, Trump is crazy for not launching wars and China is virtuous for abusing human rights.
With Europe irresponsibly undermining NATO by not paying their fair share, and America slowly and responsibly withdrawing from the world police role, the Euro-Atlantic axis also sees how Britain turns its back on them with Brexit. New alliances have been forged between the United States, Mexico and Canada, and others will be forged; between Britain and the US as well.
The profound significance of Brexit is that it is the first decoupling of the old globalization. The United Kingdom is now looking for a new place in a very different state of affairs that is gradually being brought about and that will result in healthy bilateral and trilateral relationships.
The People against Democracy
The adoption and warm reception of the America First policies led by Donald Trump and the recent vote of support for Boris Johnson in Britain simply mean that people are sick and tired of powerful governments meddling in everyone else’s business while neglecting their own homelands.
Johnson’s triumph in the last elections confirmed that the British may have a clearer role to play in the new global order, and that just means that people are drifting away from democracy.
More than 50% of Britons said they would support a strong leader who was willing to break democratic norms to implement Brexit.
With America First and Brexit perhaps the new world that is coming in the second decade of the 21st century will be more nation-state-oriented. Perhaps, the cowardice of leftist regressive programs, linked to the scent of the old left communitarianism, is dying a well-deserved slow and painful dead.
While the nation-states are resuscitating, populism is going global. It is the response to the new awakening of globalized disenchantment in the face of the impotence and failure of democracies. It happens in the France of the yellow vests, where Macron gradually loses the battle against populist Le Pen, but also in Latin America where people live their particular state of discontent.
Inequality, institutional fragility and the role of the military are, again, the characteristics common to all the recent outbreaks in the region, with an addition: what happens in the streets of Bolivia, Chile or Colombia draws the same background traces as what happened in those of Iran, Iraq or Hong Kong.
Can there be connections between the popular upheavals of countries in regions as diverse as Africa, the Middle East, Latin America or Europe?
Some Catalan protesters have been seen carrying the flag of Hong Kong and adopting similar tactics, such as occupying an airport. There is a phenomenon of imitation and contagion of the form, of the pure expressive elements of the protest, although the motives and contexts are distant and disparate.
Sometimes we find mechanisms of popular revolt in consolidated monarchies, such as Spain. Others are expressions of democratic tics in authoritarian contexts, such as in Hong Kong, Turkey or Russia.
They have in common being cross-border mobilizations with a different expressiveness that affirms their authenticity only through violence. They remind us of those movements of the network society that so far away today show hopeless indignation as it was seen in the Arab Springs and Occupy Wall Street movements.
Those were co-opted movements of rupture, although not so much as in political as cultural sense, and when repeated again and again in such disparate contexts, their only element of union was the form of spread: the domain of networks, the search for viralization through new technologies, the virtual as an expression of the real, as hope or encouragement for change.
Even if the movements were not caused by the new communicative channels, without the Internet, they would have been very different, and who knows if the fire, destructive or regenerative, would have spread as much or as quickly.