Democracies in crisis from US to Africa to Asia

A protester takes part in a march and rally against separation of immigrant families on June 30, 2018 outside the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in Los Angeles, California.

On the one hand, it is said that humanity has never had it so good. I want to believe, because of the wonders of science and especially modern medicine and the magic of the Internet, which I love but do not understand at all.

Then, on the other hand, you turn on the news and Donald Trump is President of the United States and they are stealing children at the border with Mexico. Oh, and then the president of the deeply religious Philippines called God stupid. You couldn’t make any of this up if you tried.

Things are not quite right

We are in a crisis of followership. More and more literature is emerging to question our current state of affairs. While it is not chaotic, there is a definite sense that things are not quite right.

Being a good lefty I want to boil it down to capitalism and how we all ended up with such massive inequality around the globe and it is driving every evil… but even that argument doesn’t extend far enough.

I am beginning to wonder if we have organised ourselves right with our modern nation-state projects. It can’t be accidental that so many democracies are experiencing similar problems.

We are in a crisis of followership.

Sure and the convention is to look to the leadership. This article started with Trump and Duterte, thus masking the millions of folks who allowed them to happen in the first place and the systems that enable them. Maybe it is time to admit that it’s not the leaders who are the problem so much as the fact that we follow them.

Experimenting with authoritarianism

Tanzania is experimenting with authoritarianism again. I say again because while romanticising my country is my job, I do remember the days when owning a TV could get you ratted out by your neighbours. Just a little bit of Ujamaa goes a long way.

We have a crisis of followership.

That said, I am pretty sure that a fine argument with a Nyerereist government would have been salutary. And being spoiled by this notion, I, like many of my age mates, am struggling with this post-rational situation. Few things make sense inside my country.

Few things make sense outside my country. What philosophical framework to turn to for solace?

We have a crisis of followership.

There is a philosophical void here we need to talk about. Back in my day, people believed in something and knew why they did so. It wasn’t just about blame or fame.

Power had some basis in legitimacy. And indeed, look what happened over the week: Two assassination attempts. One in Zimbabwe and one in Ethiopia. Strongholds of our continent.

We have a crisis of followership.

In the one coup situation, the prime minister went back to his people to talk about the power of love to heal. In the other? Not so much. And I realised that this is what my generation’s challenge is going to be.

We can be proud of planes and trains and football teams. But Duterte called God stupid and Trump is stealing children and we are blaming reporters for it.

We are in a crisis of followership.

And I think maybe, just maybe, there are a few thought remedies for that. See you next week.