One would have to be the last of the blind not to see that the very structure of democratic institutions is cracking in many countries, and in particular in the richest ones: in the United States, the previous president, after having stuffed the highest judicial institutions of the country with judges clearly determined to reverse the main democratic gains of the last sixty years, attempted a coup d’etat to stay in power, before becoming the favourite of the next presidential election, in a climate of very brutal confrontation. In Britain, Boris Johnson’s reign, which began as a comedy-fest, is ending as a sad farce, from which democracy will emerge very weakened, to the applause of the tabloid press and the anger of the victims of Brexit. In Germany, a beleaguered coalition is trying to keep alive a government under attack from both the advocates of a Russian alliance and those of greater submission to the United States. Even in the wise Netherlands, the clumsy handling of an agricultural reform aimed at speeding up the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions has put all the farmers on the streets, leading to countless strikes, and provoking huge violence that seems to be beyond the initiators of the movement. Finally, in France, a relative majority, attacked on its left and right by extremes unable to produce a realistic plan of government, sees anger and strikes announced, without even waiting for the traditional social re-entry.
Faced with this, the Russian and Chinese dictatorships, ironically, think that time is working for them, that the West will soon capitulate, too busy finding its gas and oil, and preventing the revolution from spreading; and they are preparing to swallow the Ukraine and Taiwan as their first war prizes.
In fact, events are not proving them wrong. If we continue like this, history is more or less written: the democracies are heading towards chaos, in six stages.
- Exasperation: people no longer understand how, after being lulled by promises of well-being, growth and social progress, they suddenly find themselves faced with scarcity, natural disasters, and breakdowns in the social lift, which translate into inflation and pessimism, without the political authorities seeming capable of remedying them.
- Demonstrations: in the face of this, those most affected react. Very often this starts with the peasants, who are soon joined by all those excluded from modernity, and in particular the inhabitants of neglected territories.
- Delegitimisation: faced with the inability of the elites who run them to organise a fair economy capable of reconciling these apparently contradictory objectives, the people no longer believe in their institutions and set out to overthrow their leaders and trample on their most sacred symbols.
- Disorganisation: in such a situation, public services break down, security rules are no longer respected, hospitals are deserted, schools are abandoned, police forces are overwhelmed; the functioning of complex societies becomes impossible.
- Revolution: when a democratic power feels attacked in this way, it becomes tense, frightened, makes mistakes, and quickly loses control of the situation. Countless attempts at revolutions that had previously failed eventually succeed and the most established regimes eventually fall.
- Counter-Revolution: frightened by their audacity, the bourgeoisies, once allied with the people to get rid of the elites they themselves had created, got their act together and set up authoritarian regimes.
If we add that now more than one person in ten in the world suffers from hunger, that half of the world’s children have not had access to a decent school for two years, we will understand that anger and revolution will not only be a matter of frustrated rich people, but that the meeting of two types of anger, those of the rich and those of the poor, can lead the world towards chaos.
The solution exists. It is always the same: to explain, to tell the truth, to be fair, to outline perspectives, to show that there is a global, national and local democratic project that would make it possible to satisfy both the demands of frugality and those of abundance: that of the economy of life, whose growth does not imply a growing waste of natural resources.
It would be exciting to understand it, to explain it, to implement it and to unite people around this one project that can save humanity.
Painting: Giulio Romano “The Fall of the Giants”, 1534