garden of delights by Bosch

Last week’s summaryIn 2012 EVT, in Everstate (the ideal-type corresponding to our very real countries created to foresee the future of the modern nation-state), the population’s discontent increases – and is bound to continue to do so – as a result of various pressures and threats, most of them inevitable, imperfectly identified, and not understood. Indeed, Everstatans feel both directly and indirectly the impact of those pressures, which affect their sense of security and thus generate discontent.

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Everstatans seek security

Everstatans continue to seek a security that is appearing as increasingly distant and elusive.

They turn to their political authorities, expecting them to deliver this security. Indeed, Everstatans believe that their government, their state (which assists the ruler in its tasks) and their national representatives, being their legitimate political authorities, should ensure their security. This fundamental belief is inscribed in their collective history, not only as a country, but also as part of the human species (Moore, 1978). Furthermore, Everstate is part of the normative order called liberal democracies. Thus, as Everstatans have elected their representatives and their government, they are even surer of their right to be well governed, i.e. to see their security ensured.

However, most of the time, they have forgotten that, as citizens on the one hand and as part of the collective body of the nation on the other, they are also a part of the political authorities. As such, they not only have a role to play but also a duty to assume it. They cannot just sit there and relinquish their power and responsibilities, all the more so that their security is at stake. This forgetfulness is not a specific trait of Everstatans but widely shared with most of their fellow citizens in other representative liberal democracies.

Initially, Everstatans exerted their power in a rather negative and passive way, witness the growing abstention during elections that had been going on for decades and other worrying weak signals of alienation. Now, their grumbling grows louder and is a first still inchoate way to act to make sure their government, their state and their national representatives consider their demands. Furthermore, other actions, more visible, such as strikes and demonstrations – sometimes with some violence – also take place with an increasing frequency while creeping unrest and rising lawlessness settle in some very specific areas.

As all those actions originate from different groups of citizens and take various forms with different purposes, for most observers, including Everstatans, they appear as unrelated, dispersed and thus of no consequence. Worse still for those witnesses, when a protest movement seems to be a bit more constructed – e.g. the Occupy Everstate movement, part of the global Occupy/Indignados movement – it starts with a specific demand, linked to the impacts having generated dissatisfaction, then, when satisfaction is not obtained, the scope of the discontent in terms of content increases, usually giving rise to another supplementary revendication. This leads most to completely discredit the various movements of protest, all the more so that the new very real pressures Everstate has to face are still very imperfectly perceived and measured. Indeed, seen from the surface, the protests are sporadic, actively involve relatively few people, flare up and then recede. However, imperceptibly, overtime, the overall level of tension increases, the number of people likely to be actively involved in protests rises, while the scope of discontent widens.

Wrong answers

As the responses of Everstate’s government, state, and Parliament generate dissatisfaction, it seems that they are increasingly unable to answer the population’s demands, which stem from the real situation, the citizens need for security and the beliefs they hold.

Things are however more complex than a sudden incompetency or, more absurd, malevolence, as some extremist Everstatan conspiracy theorists try to promote.

Everstatan political authorities, indeed, have  to provide a governance that has become progressively more complex and thus difficult Governance implies more tasks, many of them novel. Security must be delivered to citizens  in overall conditions that have changed. The various pressures for survival and military threats as well as their intensity demand attention, resources, policy and successful responses. Meanwhile, the evolution of resources available, as well as their rising complexity, for example all those related to the virtual and mobile world, again ask for fully novel policies and practice.

Logically those new tasks require new staff as well as new resources and income, past ones having become ill-suited, insufficient or even exhausted.

In this framework and because of it, three related phenomena are at work that drive the political authorities’ current incapacity to deliver security and thus  the rising population’s dissatisfaction, while also directly adding to the discontent: a deepening budget deficit and an increasing need for liquidity, a creeping new appropriation of public resources and a weakening of the strength of central public power to the profit of various elite groups, and finally the use of an out-dated normative model leading to misunderstanding and disconnect as long as the demand for new understanding is not satisfied.

To be continued

Reference

Moore, B., Injustice: Social bases of Obedience and Revolt, (London: Macmillan, 1978)