Facebook Essay: Before rejecting our democracies…


Facebook Essay: Before rejecting our democracies…

The original text is in French and the translation was done with Google Translate.

Pour la version française:  https://societascriticus.blogspot.com/2024/02/essai-facebook-avant-de-rejeter-nos.html

Societas Criticus, journal of social and political criticism, Vol. 26-01: www.societascriticus.com

Michel Handfield, M.Sc. Sociology, 2024-02-21 (based on my series of Facebook posts from 2024-02-18)

Before rejecting our democracies and flirting with totalitarianism, we should probably reform them instead of denigrating them and envying the strength of Putin for example. It’s the same for the UN, which should have more powers of intervention in the world to play the role of peacekeeper. But, difficult to do with the veto power of certain major powers that sit on the United Nations Security Council: China, France, United Kingdom, Russia and the United States.

We should also make more room for science and education, but we will clash with values and beliefs in doing so. And, these values and beliefs are often considered fundamental rights. Let’s just think about religious education. So, on social, political and economic issues we often have different points of view. What works in one place, for reasons of culture, beliefs and education, will not necessarily work elsewhere. This is the problem faced by countries that want to export and forcibly reproduce their model elsewhere in the world: it rarely works ! Levels of development and cultural differences between people require different solutions. This seems to be a universal law in the human and social sciences. (1)

Without being aware of it, by neglecting science and democracy too much we give more powers to dictatorships and theocracies who want to govern without sharing. They will not get entangled in the rules of knowledge or international law to act according to their good will or their beliefs. Attacking a region or a country in the name of a belief, a divine right or to fight against the “evil” according to their conception of it will not put them off. A large part of the people may even follow them on this path, beliefs often being stronger than reason. Sataninizing the other is one tactic. We see this in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict where religion plays its part. The same is true in Russia where the Russian Orthodox Church supports Putin in his fight against “the forces of evil” (2). Trumpism will also seek a large share of its votes from fundamentalist Christian groups.

As for me, I think we risk regretting it if we don't come to our senses. But, for this, we would have to go beyond useful education and provide foundations in sciences, humanities and social sciences at school. It would also be necessary to extend secular education across the planet to combat a certain form of ignorance, but this would go down very badly in certain countries; even in certain Western religioconservative circles for whom secular knowledge is ideological. We are not out of this slump.

In fact, we are diving deeper and deeper into it, with societies and the world becoming more and more divided between opposing camps who talk to each other less and less. Some even have an interest in silencing the other side. Dialogue and bridges are therefore increasingly weakened among a large part of the population, or even broken.

Since the rise of social networks and echo chambers (3), we have noticed that everyone increasingly chooses their side according to their beliefs and isolates themselves there. Even in families, some no longer speak to each other and are blocked by family members on their social networks. The social bond is dangerously thinning and common spaces are shrinking.

Polarizing and dangerous for democracies, but also for dictatorships !

The risk of state violence or civil conflict then increases considerably, because Power and social groups accept pluralism less and less and increasingly seek monolithic membership and to silence opponents. The risks of conflicts between these groups are therefore great, especially in non-democratic regimes, because they do not offer a framework for security debates between opposing groups as do democratic elections, parliamentarism and a whole series of public institutions and private spaces favoring debates. Conflicts can therefore be found more easily in the streets and degenerate rather than in the editorial and opinion pages of newspapers, for example.

It is not said, however, that this cannot happen in a democratic regime as we saw on January 6, 2020 with the assault on the Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump (4), but there are still democratic safeguards. Naturally, if one or more social movements no longer follow the rules, slippage is possible.

In fact, the stronger the Power, the more it will use its strength to silence this opposition. We also see this in Russia where opponents of the regime are arrested and imprisoned (5), or even eliminated in certain cases. The journalist Anna Politkovskaïa also tasted this medicine in Moscow on October 7, 2006, apparently. (6, 7)

The new divide

This elective dictatorship of Putin is supported by the less educated circles and the regions as opposed to the cities. But this new divide is not just Russian.

We increasingly see a divide emerging between liberals and conservatives; between globalism and nationalism; between cities and regions around the world; between the real world against intellectuals and academics; between religion and knowledge, science and the environment - climate change does not exist, because it is God who sends messages according to the most conservative
 ! We are returning to obscurantism in the name of freedom of belief, for example.

It makes me think of the right which talks to me about the real world. Cheap ideology to pander to naive voters. Indeed, if the false world does not exist, the real world does not exist either. It's just a figment of the mind.

In fact, even if many want to pit Russia and China against the West, this conflict is deeper than that and even crosses the Western world. It is enough to see Trump and Putin feeding themselves with their religious right and Xi Jinping with communist orthodoxy to understand that Russia, China and the Western right are joining together in anti-globalism, withdrawal into oneself and a return of (religious) conservatism and politics). If journalists don't see it, I think it looks a lot like a neoconservative and nationalist revolution. Some would like to return to two blocs or close in on their country, which is what Trumpism proposes, which they would not do otherwise. (8)

A new utopianism

This seems to me a new utopianism, because it is difficult to live in a national withdrawal or in an over-assumed globalization which would erase all national character. In fact, we live on a continuum on which the balance point moves all the time to keep us in balance somewhere between the world and the nation, because we cannot be part of one without being part of the other. . Moreover, nations are part of the world and the world is made up of nations. This is the reality, we cannot get out of it.

Even if humans believe that things must be stable and unchanging, this is false. For example, if we have less honey one year, we import it. If we have more one year, we export it. The problem is that capitalism demands a continuous increase in yields, which becomes unsustainable for people and the planet. It can only create tension. Scientists and intellectuals understand this, but are not listened to enough.

To ease our conscience, we could also believe that capitalism is a Western evil. But, capitalism has no borders “
and is currently the economic system of most countries on the planet.“ (9)

The global world

Capitalism, whether financial or state (China), as well as politics, ideologies and international relations, all of this is part of the global world. China taking up more space in Africa, or with Russia and Brazil in the BRICS+ (9), is not disinterested.

Do you think that there are no objectives of domination, exploitation and control of markets and natural resources behind these alliances? We must not be naive: we live in the world even if we isolate ourselves !

In conclusion

If we do not want to be crushed in this world, we must promote democracy, because it is still the least worst of systems. This does not mean that we should not improve it even if it is not easy to do, the people in Power always prefer the inaction which leaves them in place. It is not for nothing that opposition parties which demand proportional representation are much less eager to do so once in power, because the system in place has served them by giving them a majority.

Notes (References are in the language of the original text)

1. But be careful here. At the same time, this means that it is difficult to find universal laws in the human and social sciences. Conversely, the pure sciences can do it more easily, because their object of study is different. Their methods are too. This explains why if discussions are possible in the human sciences, they are much less so in health or physics which works on experimental protocols. It is not enough to say that a medication works for it to be possible. You must first experiment with it, following pre-established protocols, see its limits and whether the results are reproducible. Many do not understand this method due to lack of science training for everyone at school. When I say that we need to improve education, here is an example.

2. Émilie Dubreuil, Un patriarche va-t-en-guerre divise l’Église orthodoxe, ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelle, 18 mars 2022 :


3. https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chambre_d%27écho_(médias)

4. https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assaut_du_Capitole_par_des_partisans_de_Donald_Trump

5. Agence France-Presse, Hommage à Alexeï Navalny. Plus de 150 personnes condamnées à la prison, La Presse, 18 février 2024 :


6. Vincent Larin, Mort d’Alexeï Navalny. Une longue liste d’opposants pris pour cible, La Presse, 17 février 2024 :


7. Putin silenced independent newspapers in Russia and took most Western media out of the country at the start of the conflict with Ukraine, creating an information vacuum. So he can't blame the Western media for not reporting his views now. Let us note that it is perhaps better this way for him, if he did not want to answer for his actions. At least that's my point of view.

8. In the past we spoke of the communist or Eastern bloc and the capitalist or Western bloc, led by the USSR and the United States. It would now be BRICS+ (10) versus the bloc of democratic countries or NATO. But, given the rise of the nationalist right in some of these countries, this last bloc is threatened, with certain countries wanting to retreat into nationalism. We saw it with England's exit from the European Union, for example, and we see it emerging with Trump, who threatens to take the United States out of NATO if he is elected. He would even like to build walls in the north (Canada) and south (Mexico) of the country.

9. https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitalisme

10. https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/BRICS%2B

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