After I attended the hot debate entitled ‘Brexit. Trump. Should we blame democracy?’ organised by the Times of Malta at the Intercontinental, St Julian’s, last Wednesday, I was inspired to express my reflections on such a current topic.
Though very valid arguments were put forward by the panel in favour of the democratic system, still, I felt that no one seemed to feel the need of changing the status quo.
We have to admit that people out there are raising their voices, and this not through formal, traditional political parties but through populist movements and social media.
These people want to be disengaged from rigid structures and are impatient with the present situation.
There seems to be a gap between those in power – those who have been legitimately elected by the people – and the common people. In fact, Donald Trump’s maiden victory speech was marked by the words: “Those that have been forgotten shall now no longer be forgotten.”
The gap lies between those who set the rules and those who have to abide by these rules, and it is this gap, this vacuum, that the democratic system has to address.
Populists want immediate results and that is why we find masses on the streets protesting for their voices to be heard. They are fed up of being used and abused by a system that, however high and lofty its ideals are, is not being translated into serving the needs of the people.
Was it not, perhaps, this reason why Marlene Farrugia decided to disengage herself from a party she had fully endorsed and adhered to? She must have sensed that her calls for a change of direction were falling on deaf ears and unless she released herself from such an enslaved structure, there was no hope of changing the status quo.
Was it not for this same reason that the majority of the British people decided to leave the European Union? They were convinced that the EU, as an institution, rather than helping them to strengthen their autonomy, was depriving them of their sovereignty.
Democracy, which is not an end in itself, will always remain relevant and effective if it responds to the needs of the people
These are the quest ons that we, who believe in democracy and the democratic system, have to address.
We have to be convinced that certain systems are enslaving the people rather than serving them.
We all agree that in order to be effective, democracy should be “a government of the people, by the people and for the people”. But are all democracies, in fact, for the people?
The democratic system is being tarnished, and therefore questioned, because it is considered as serving the so-called ‘elite’.
There is an urgent need for these institutions and their political leaders to rediscover the founding principles and universal values, as was pointed out by Lawrence Gonzi during the debate. When asked by a member of the audience whether a Christian Democratic party was still relevant today when society has become pluralistic and secular, Dr Gonzi affirmed that the social teachings of the Church appealed to all human beings irrespective of one’s beliefs.
The reason for this is that Catholic social teachings are based on two fundamental principles – the dignity of the human person and the common good.
Unless all leaders endorse these two principles, in whatever policy is being discussed, there is no hope that the current situation will improve. Political jargon alone can have no impact unless words are translated into action.
The media, which unfortunately, in many instances, is being used and manipulated to promote one’s personal agenda, should be a reliable source of factual information serving one and all and not, specifically, those in authority.
This point was forcefully brought up during the debate by Josie Muscat who pointed out that in the run-up to the US presidential election most of the American media were doing their utmost to discredit Trump.
Systems and institutions have to be restructured and focused on the needs of the people.They have to be looked at as instruments seeking to elevate man, whoever he is, irrespective of colour, creed or race.
Democracy, which is not an end in itself, will always remain relevant and effective if it responds to the needs of the people, keeping in mind that as a system it will only be successful if it upholds these two fundamental principles – the dignity of the human person and the common good of the whole human family.
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