Democracy dies in broad daylight
Picture two magnets of the same charge floating in a fluid. The magnets are mutually repellent, but the fluid keeps them locked in an uneasy and unimitable wriggle. One magnet stands for Freedom, the other for Equality, while the fluid represents Fraternity. Freedom and Equality have a complicated, if not troubled, relationship. For, if individual Freedom is carried to the extreme, it infringes on Equality and one (wo)man’s absolute freedom becomes the yoke of the other. If a billionaire entrepreneur is at liberty to legally evade taxes, while normal citizens are not, then that cancels out Equality, as well as the common good, and one (wo)man ends up being more equal than others. Sadly, this is the case already in our neoliberal world-order that amounts to socialism for multinationals. With respect to Equality: if all citizens are required to be the same, Freedom is cancelled out by an army of mindless replicants that live in permafear.
Fraternity is the core value that balances and binds together Freedom and Equality; it is the base fluid of democracy; the immaterial goodwill that is required to peacefully harbor a plurality of worldviews within one functioning society.
Without Fraternity, Freedom and Equality cannot co-exist and decay into either far-right or far-left dictatorships, system designed to distribute mistrust with calculated efficiency.
Unfortunately, in the West we are now witnessing the puncturing of Fraternity by populist identity politics; by movements that have zero respect for identities and worldviews other than their own. The base fluid of democracy is seeping away under our very eyes.
Only a politics of the middle can heal the division caused by the tragic auto-immune disease from which Western democracies are now suffering. Only a politics of the middle can restore balance and civilty to the system. The good news is that there is actually a sound strategic base to establish such a political proposition, but stunningly enough the movements that have traditionally cemented society and occupied that space in Western Europe – the Social and Christian Democrats – seem to have transformed into career vehicles for a managerial caste of highly-educated professional politicians, driven not by convictions but by externalities like focus groups, privileged lifestyles and political expediency.
Only a credible politics of the middle can heal our democracies. A politics that brings together workers and intellectuals, people with high and low levels of education from a diversity of backgrounds. Let’s not wait for the career politicians to come to our rescue. They won’t. We need to kick-start this movement ourselves.
Freedom and equality of rights are impossible to balance without the democratic glue of fraternity, togetherness.