Tag Archives: obama

Internet and the Leadership Deficit

20 Feb

The rise of social media seems to have mirrored a steady fall in the quality of leadership throughout the world’s great Western democracies. Whether it’s Brazil, Canada, the United States, or somewhere in Europe, there appears to be a decline in the quality and level of competition for political responsibility. This leadership deficit is a cause for alarm, since it comes at a time when the free market Western democracy model finds itself once again faced with a number of formidable challenges.

The current economic crisis has persisted across the world, and while America seems to be in recovery, most of the rest of the global economy remains fragile, vulnerable, and highly unstable. China’s Communist Party, long dependent on high economic growth to justify single party rule, faces a demographic time bomb and insufficient economic growth to sustain itself. This will require more rhetoric and bellicose posturing on the part of Communist China towards its smaller more dynamic neighbours. A more militaristic China will inevitably mean a rise of Japanese nationalism and ultimately Japan abandoning its commitment to disarmament. The Korean Peninsula remains a frozen proxy war, which could reignite should Japan, Korea, and China clash over territorial waters. This too is mirrored in the south:Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and the Philippines are all potential hot points for conflict.

In Europe, Stefan Zweig’s dream of a continent united through peace, is once more under a belligerent threat. Borders realigned through conflict, commercial airliners shot down, near misses, challenges to Western European airspace, the rise of extremist left and right wing parties throughout the continent, deflation, austerity, refugees, and violent Islam. Russia’s use of rhetoric juxtaposed over silent warfare is shaking the NATO alliance, and all what was good from economic integration has now frozen Germany and France into inaction – they trade so much with Russia that punitive sanctions would hammer their economies so hard that the European electorate would simply revolt. Thus through dirty war, propaganda, subversion, and ethnic cleansing, the map of Europe is once again set to be redrawn.

Bordering India, Europe and Russia, Sunni and Chiite Islam are once more at each others throats, with a dwindling number of Christians and an isolated Israel caught in the middle. A tragic result of Ottoman mismanagement, European imposed borders, and Cold War proxy states, the Arab world has fallen into darkness. Women have limited rights – in many of these places they are forced to cover their entire bodies in vast amounts of cloth so as not to incite the carnal desire said to be innate to man. In the worst of these countries, places such as Yemen, Somalia, and ISIL, these societies have become failed states, engines of terrorism, operating under primitive and violent tribal laws infatuated with a prophet and a one god. Institutions are non existent, corruption is endemic, and modern science is scorned. The region has become so regressive that not only has it become a black hole for civilization, but it has also turned to exporting its interpretation of religion and its violent behaviour to the rest of the world. The tragedy of the Arab world will not be easy to solve, I believe that baring a few exceptions, the entire region will remain economically and socially impoverished for many more generations, a source of great challenges for Western democracy.

In Latin America the Obama administration has been making a concerted effort to ensure the entire region remains firmly entrenched within America’s sphere of influence. Engagement with Cuba, the sharp decline of Venezuela, the end of Kichnerism, all fit with a general theme that has seen the US and its Latin American neighbours slowly but surely converge towards an entente of sorts. Yet the threat of corruption and weak leadership is also to present across the Western Hemisphere. Apart from the Obama administration, there have been few bright lights in Washington, and the picture is no better in Canada, Mexico, or Brazil.

And so one asks, “Why in an age of hyper connectivity and information saturation, is Western democracy at such an impasse?”

“How can it be that just when the Western world has the technology to leap into the future, it is strangled by impossible levels of inequality, corruption, and belligerence on the part of our political and business leaders?”

“Why are young people so turned off from politics, and why are so many of our leaders so rotten?”

Social media has an incredible power to mobilize vast numbers of people very quickly, for good or for bad. One need just think of the Arab Spring, the Maidan Revolt, or Alibaba. It has an intoxicating power to hypnotize and to distract. In an age where most of us no longer can sit in silence and just think, where every moment we are bombarded with images and lights, it becomes quasi impossible for the majority of people to hold their politicians and their business leaders accountable. For example, here in Canada we rarely pay attention to the activities of our parliaments, yet these very institutions, founded on the Magna Carta, are the places where the laws and the leaders of our time are supposed to be held accountable to us, their citizens.

Social media has another ill. Humans have an insatiable desire for instant gratification – give a person the choice of ten bucks now, or fifteen tomorrow, and most will take the ten now. Smartphones, texting, sexting, facebooking, chatting, and yes even blogging, not only consume our silence, they expose our deep dark secrets to everyone. One need just think of the long list of congressmen and political leaders who have had their careers cut short because a bit too much of them had been shared a bit too far on the world wide web. The great tech barons of our age unleashed the end of privacy, and we are but the first generation of humans whose every inner thought, desire, and naked passion is shared to all – how Orwellian it is. The ramifications of this border on the incomprehensible – I do not doubt there are whole schools of research devoted the field.

With the picture painted as it is, is Western democracy and the free market doomed? Are we destined to be enslaved by incompetency, hypnotized by social media rhetoric, terrorized by radical Islam, and bombed by Russian nukes? While I may give off that impression, contrary to my musings, I do believe humans have an innate ability to learn from the follies of their forefathers. We do repeat mistakes, often at the cost of countless lives, but in general the life we lead today is orders of magnitude better than what our ancestors had to put up with. Just imagine how jealous Marie Antoinette would be of modern plumbing, Oscar Wilde of gay rights, and Diogenese of Tinder.

I am hopeful that if we survive this critical period of democracy deficit, those who come after us will be more mature and accepting of the realities of a world without privacy, and in so doing bring a new raison d’etre to the West. Should this happen, Western democracy will once again spread enlightenment to the world.

Advertisements