Lolita Maria Aufmuth
July 23, 2018 / 8 Comments
The pace at which evolution is currently developing, and the fact that this development is taking place in all areas, is staggering. In fact it is not only technology that is developing at an exponential speed, but also human consciousness. This is not an easy situation for anyone, since we are all conscious of the effects of these developments, both in our private lives and in a professional context, and we must find a way to deal with them.
These developments include rapid political, social and technological changes, permanent restructuring in companies, floods of information from all sides and challenges which may occur increasingly at a physical, psychological, interpersonal and spiritual level. Here, the challenge is to accept change as a constant and not regard it as a threat. Life has always involved an element of change, but now we are seeing this change occur at an unprecedented rate. Welcome to the 21st century.
These extremely rapid changes are also causing citizens to question old systems more consciously and critically than before. Increasing numbers of people no longer believe without question the information they receive from governments, parties, the press, the church, businesses and organisations. Their sense of justice is growing stronger. Increasingly, illegal activities have been and continue to be uncovered, such as the Facebook scandal associated with Cambridge Analytica, which resulted in the closure of Cambridge Analytica, or the Harvey Weinstein scandal that led to the MeToo movement and reignited the debate on the relationship of men and women in power structures.
Furthermore, following the revelations by Edward Snowden, citizens have largely lost confidence in the intelligence services and would now not put anything past them. What is still disconcerting for many people all over the world is the fact that out of all the democratic countries, only Russia agreed to grant Snowden asylum, even though Snowden’s revelations were made in the name of human rights worldwide and in doing so he put his personal freedom and his life on the line.
His story is a further example illustrating the huge gap between perceptions of governments and citizens’ perceptions. Whilst he is regarded by the American government as a public enemy and most states have not dared grant him asylum, for many people worldwide he is seen as a hero because he took freedom of expression seriously in the form that it is laid down in democratic constitutions.
“Speak not because it is safe, but because it is right”, Snowden reminds us in his pinned statement on his Twitter account. But the main question which arises here is, why is it not safe to speak the truth which is backed-up with evidence in a democratic state where freedom of expression is one of the main pillars of democracy?
In times where we are undergoing such huge evolutionary change, revelations can cause the floodgates to open. Governments, intelligence agencies and corporations worldwide can therefore expect that there will be further revelations still to come from unlikely sources. “You cannot hold back the water and the people”, according to a Tuscan proverb.
Through social media, a medium which facilitates a pretty immediate flow of information, and also through press coverage which has turned out to be biased or false, the press has lost a huge amount of credibility. If before the press enjoyed the public’s complete confidence, the words “fake news” now hang like a sword of Damocles over every news story. This has definitely resulted in a loss of media power. But reporting should not be about power, but depicting the truth as far as possible.
What is positive about the media crisis is the fact that citizens are now being encouraged to think more independently. As a result we are assuming more responsibility to research for ourselves, to reflect, to reach our own conclusions and not simply accept the opinions offered by the media.
But in a world where artificial intelligence is already capable and will increasingly be encouraged to write fake news stories and to manipulate people through social media, those media whose ultimate goal is to tell the truth will be of enormous significance.
Moreover, increasing numbers of companies are becoming aware that their image is significantly determining and will continue to determine whether or not they will be attractive for young potential employees in the future. For Millenials in particular, the top priority when it comes to choosing a workplace is not power and money. For them, what is much more important is the meaning of their work – if and what positive influence they contribute with their time and energy to this world.
At one international leaders’ conference, an executive asked the participants in the function room: “Who here wants to work for an irresponsible company?” To clarify, there was nobody who had shouted “me”. Several companies also reported that they must justify themselves regularly in public and to students as to what extent they work sustainably and whether their enterprise harms the environment or whether and how it mitigates environmental damage.
Certainly on the topics of war and terrorism is where citizens are least tolerant. People are longing most for peace and for governments that are capable of establishing peace and maintaining protection and peace without fuelling and triggering new wars. Wars are no longer regarded as a suitable means to resolve conflicts and so-called wars on terror like in Afghanistan and in Iraq are no longer accepted by the people. This is because in general, years and decades of wars have shown that these simply fuel terrorism like wildfire rather than put an end to it.
In addition, it is evident and obvious to the people that there are companies and groups that are making money, and great quantities of money, through war and by instrumenting chaos. These include armaments companies, gunrunners, drug dealers, people traffickers etc.
For citizens it is no longer justifiable that their tax money is spent on wars that cause or sustain suffering and misery simply because there are industries and lobbyists pushing for it.
It’s one thing to finance military spending for national protection and defense. But it is quite another that some NATO countries are being pressured into increasing military spending using tax revenues.
Looking at the figures provided by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (a British research institute in the field of international relations and strategic studies), we can see that the United States’ military spending amounts to $700 billion annually. In Germany, defense spending also rose in 2017 by 3.5 percent to $44.3 billion US dollars (36.7 billion euros). Globally, Germany has the ninth-highest arms expenditure according to Sipri data.
The entire NATO defense budget is around $1 trillion.
By way of comparison, with annual spending of € 239 billion, we could end global famine by 2030. “Personally, I think this is a relatively small price to pay for an end to hunger,” said Graziano da Silva, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization FOA, the International Fund for Agricultural Development. But if, proportionally, it is such a small price to pay to end world hunger, why are our governments not investing the existing money in efforts to eliminate world hunger? Shouldn’t the needs of the people be the top priority?
This basic idea is the foundation of every democracy. Why does all power comes from the people? Without the people, there is no state, no economy, no workers, no taxes, no infrastructure and there is also nobody to be governed. Governments that do not recognise this and deprive the people of their power hold the power of others in their hands, power that they are not entitled to.
Even the Greeks were aware of this 2,500 years ago, since democracy began in Athens. Translated from the Greek, the word democracy means (demos) “people” and (kratía) “rule” = “popular rule”. The term expresses the idea that in a developed society, all “power” should emanate from the people. This fact is so obvious. Yet, astonishingly, over thousands of years all power has laid solely in the hands of Kings, aristocrats and priests.
Accordingly, democracy also ended in Athens after 200 years, when Alexander the Great of Macedonia 338 BC conquered the city and Athens became part of the Macedonian Kingdom.
Eventually, in the 17th century, democracy was addressed again by the English physician and philosopher John Locke, who wrote: “Power cannot emanate from a ruler, but only from the people.”
John Locke’s political philosophy influenced the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of revolutionary France and most constitutions of liberal states. Locke argued that a government is only legitimate if it has the consent of the governed and protects the natural rights to life, freedom, and property. If these conditions are not met, the people have the right to resist their rulers.
Thus, every democratic government has by law committed to protecting the lives, freedoms, and property of its citizens, including guaranteeing freedom of expression, protection of human dignity and equality before the law. This requires democratic governments to regularly self-reflect and think about to what extent they meet these commitments. And the non-democratic states should be aware that they can only deprive their people of their power for a limited amount of time.
Today, 87 out of 194 countries are recognised worldwide as being democratic, that makes up 45 percent, not even half of all states. Thus, not everywhere do the people have the power and the freedom of choice. The road to democracy has by no means already come to an end.
But as people are becoming ever more attentive and sensitive to injustice, it is only a matter of time before systems based on oppression and corruption are replaced.
After all, all power emanates from the people!!