The failed promise of liberal democracy

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The failed promise of liberal democracy

Nanjala Nyabola writes about our unhappy world.


An anti-government rally in Algiers, Algeria December 31, 2019. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina

It feels like the world is always on fire. Every time you switch on the television, radio, or log on to the internet, there is a new protest, another secret revolution, another serious people’s protest. It’s very sad that so many people are unhappy with our situation. But you could say that protest is about democracy in the world, and that we are entering a new time of people participating.

I prefer the second idea perhaps because I am a hopeful person. Also because I think that unites anti-government protests in Chile with big protests in Iraq, in Sudan and in Algeria. The end of the Cold War brought a kind of global governance that made a lot of big promises but has not kept them. There is an idea behind the United Nations and other international organizations, and humanitarian and military intervention that liberal democracy is the best way for governance for the largest group of people.

I believe in the bigger democratic idea. Societies that answer the demands of citizens is a great idea. The idea of human rights to protect lives is so important. The alternative is that we survive depending on how much money and power we can have. And the idea of states with different histories, politics, and cultures allows us to share the planet.

What I think people are now finding difficult is that the promises of the liberal order seem empty and even dangerous as they give wealth and power to a small global class that will do everything to make sure it survives.

I think that the digital age has brought the real situation in the world closer to the majority of the world’s population. Billions of people can now get information through their smartphones – and there is a feeling that most of us do not have a good deal. The promise that participation would lead to a good life for everyone seems to allow the small group controlling us to consume as much as they want.

We know that this system cannot continue especially when we see how quickly we are destroying the natural environment, and we are not afraid to tell the world. The world situation cannot survive as it is or it will destroy us all. The question is whether the so-called liberal democratic order will listen to the protests of an unhappy world.

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