European Democracies Get To Live Another Day Because Crazy Had Particular Skin Color, Invisible Friend

Diverse group of people sitting around table, looking serious

European democracies are under assault, both from the outside and from within. Those on the outside of government would have us hate. Those on the inside would have us fear.

Democracy is not primarily a concept where 51% of the people get to tell the other 49% what to do. In that shape, it is nothing more than three wolves and a lamb voting about what to have for dinner.

Democracy has a tradition of rights for the individual that dates back to the Enlightenment and the separation between church and crown. It is not first and foremost about 51% of the people having their way with the other 49%; it is about a nation’s leaders being held responsible to its people. This concept requires that the people have the ability to hold their leaders accountable for their actions.

And exactly that ability is being eroded at an alarming rate.

Representatives of governments everywhere miss no chance in instilling fear in the population; fear that will cause the people to come to government for “protection”. More wiretapping, more surveillance cameras, more location tracking. “For your protection.” That protection all too frequently means that the direction of accountability is reversed.

Now, society has always had the ability and right to track down criminals and suspend some rights of citizens under suspicion of a crime, depending on the severity. The change underway lies in the order of how investigations happen.

It used to be that society would observe a crime that had been committed, post facto, and started searching for a perpetrator. Today, that is shifting into a world where Law Enforcement continuously pulls a comb through the entire population just to see what sticks. It is but a hair’s breadth from precrime.

And this is driven by cries of protection. But it is we, all of us, who lose the right to keep secrets. And as we keep losing the right to keep secrets from our government, we keep losing the ability to hold our leaders accountable.

Last week saw a massacre and a cold-bloodedness beyond any proportion we have seen in Europe. It took mere minutes before some people — Members of Parliament, even — tried to use it as justification for more fear.

“Here! Look! This is what we warned you about! You need PROTECTION!”

Paradoxically, it is a battle between two sides where the battleground always means that the public loses more of their rights. On one side stand European xenophobes who say we need “protection” from Islam and people who associate with that particular invisible friend. On the other side, we have Law Enforcement, Security Pundits and Baton Liberals who say we need “protection” from the very people who say we need “protection” from Islam.

Currently, the former have some head wind in Europe. Xenophobic parties are gaining ground in several countries. A party called True Finns reached almost 20% in the last Finnish elections.

Now, the Norwegian terrorist was and is insane by most definitions of the word. But he also claimed to be Christian, and he was fair skinned and blonde. Not that it matters, rationally. Crazy is crazy and can live in any skin color with any invisible friend; once you go that insane, everything else is irrelevant.

But that’s only rationally. For the people who know to exploit it politically, the ballgame is completely different. If this particular Crazy had been dressed in a different skin color, with a different invisible friend, then we would see grassroots incitement all over Europe now, spreading fear and hatred, and unfortunately, getting violent activism — and votes! — as a result.

If something had fueled that fear and hatred to this extent, we would risk seeing a rapid dismantlement of democracy across Europe in xenophobic colors. At the same time, we would see Law Enforcement rapidly step up surveillance to counter that xenophobic growth and violence.

We are now at a point where European democracies are so brittle, that they stand and fall with the invisible friend and the skin color of crazy.

Fortunately, the Norwegian people are standing up to the challenge like no other at this point, and truly set an example to the world.

In the mean time, me and my colleagues keep reiterating what democracy really is about, and pointing out that it is being eroded at an alarming rate. Three wolves and a lamb voting about what to have for dinner may be democracy in letter, but it was never in spirit.

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. He works as Head of Privacy at the no-log VPN provider Private Internet Access; with his other 40 hours, he's developing an enterprise grade bitcoin wallet and HR system for activism.

Discussion

  1. Morten

    Why confuse the terms democracy and civil liberty? They are not necessary for one another. This is about civil liberties being eroded, and it is being done in a democratic way. A democratic system will at best reflect it’s people, while at the same time it has an incentive for individuals to forget morals, and buy votes with other peoples lives in in both economic and liberty restricting ways. This can clearly be seen in the slow but steady growing of government budgets and control of our lives.

    And I think that to say that democracy is about holding leaders responsible is a bit wrong. It is just as much about absolving any leaders of responsibility for their acts, since they were “democratically” elected anyway. Once a leader is there, it seems to be about looting as much as possible(often through taking loans that will hit people centuries later anyway), so that you can buy more friends before next election. Democracy has at least become a way to justify whatever is done by leaders.

    Democracy might be the best system we tried so far, but it is not moral or something to cling very hard to because of that. What needs to be defended is civil liberties, not democracy. Democracy is valueless. There might be other, better ways of securing civil liberties.

    1. Jean-Pierre Rupp

      Excellent post Morten. Could not agree more. Democracy is not what it is in spirit, but the way it’s implemented in practice. How many peace loving hippies fell in love with communism for what it was in spirit?

    2. Peter Andersson

      Civil Liberties are an abstract term to most people in Scandinavia whereas Democracy is THE household term for discussing the same thing. Sure, there is a difference, it might even be said to be big, but from a general argumentative point of view (over here) it makes more sense to use the latter and maybe also add something about Human Rights. I’d say it depends on the desired audience.

  2. kosmoplovci

    great post, right to the point!

  3. Ninja

    Sad times we are living Rick. I’d rather live with the (minor) possibility of a psycho exploding himself near me than without freedom.

    But what we are seeing and you pointed out is driven by very humane traits: fear and intolerance towards what’s different on one side and plain greed on the other.

    Fortunately, there are good things inherent to the human being. Except that they seem to be old fashioned and forgotten nowadays.

  4. Daniel

    One thing I never see anybody discuss, with respect to xenophobia, is the notion of “responsible reproduction”. When will we openly start discussing the potential negative effects of allowing people to reproduce without limit? Especially those who are poor, uneducated, and aligned with religious belief systems (which they will subsequently indoctrinate their children with), which only encourage more unrestricted reproduction? When will people discuss the very critical balance between one’s own civil liberties (ie, the right to reproduce without government interference) and the rights of others NOT to live in a world that is numerically dominated by the poor / ignorant / religious?

    I think if this subject could be discussed openly, in a non-hysterical way, we could make some headway and the basic undercurrents of xenophobic political parties could be addressed. Clearly those parties are appealing to people for a reason, and I don’t think it’s entirely simple-minded fear. Reproduction in a way is akin to voting — voting with one’s own genes, populating the environment with them. (The more cynical might even call it “pollution”, with respect to the substantial environmental costs of each new human being) So why should “representation” be so disproportional? Why are we not addressing the very real problems which stem from educated, intelligent, financially responsible individuals choosing not to reproduce, while others are given carte blanche to do so?

    Are human beings en masse intelligent enough to perceive (and rationally discuss) a distinction between mere xenophobia, and the (currently unrecognized) civil right of having a fair “vote” in the gene pool without having to reproduce carelessly, just to keep up with others? And if they are not intelligent enough, en masse … isn’t that argument enough that this is increasingly going to be a real problem, with even more extreme political parties resulting? Nazi Germany: The Sequel, anyone?

    1. Morten

      I do think intelligent people are choosing not to reproduce as much as the others, and I agree that this might pose a problem in the world. The problem however stems from the fact that in the current political environment, everybody is everybody’s problem.

      If we take a thought experiment. Imagine two neighboring valleys. In one of the valleys, people have a smart culture and reproduce at a sustainable rate, and are in general are prosperous. In the next valley people are not so smart, and are causing themselves problems by having too many kids. There would be a tendency for the not-so-smart valley to imitate the smarter ones and for the “smart” culture to spread, because people would realize it is in their best interest, or they might simply die out from their own idiocy. This sounds harsh, but it is probably why people are as reasonably civilized as they are today, because similar situations have played out in the past. In today’s political environment, such competition between smart and not-so-smart cultures is all but vanishing. It does you no good to have just the right amount of kids, because you have to take care of all the other peoples kids as well, and yours will be taken care of anyway. So the advantage of making right decisions disappears.

      The big problem is that we are actually giving everyone a political vote, just for existing. In this way, it is not just a matter of a “vote” in the gene pool, those are in nature a good thing. But we are actually giving all those votes a political vote as well, thereby short-circuiting the rationality of individuals making right choices in their lives. Now, this does not mean that a good culture dies the moment democracy is introduced of course. But it should not really be a surprise that a lot of the values that people in the west used to have are starting ever so slightly to disappear. Why should anyone make good choices when the consequences of bad choices of others are distributed to everyone?

      Now, I know there are some people who are forced to face the consequences of others decisions anyway, and they are usually called children. For me, that is why this is a difficult question. But I am not sure it is a good solution to lump those consequences on everyone. It is kind of like a hostage situation. You really want to pay the ransom to help the victims, but you also know it might set things up for 10 more hostage situations in the future.

      1. steelneck

        Reproduction do not have that much to do with xenophobia. Yes, poor people with a low standard of living do have a tendency to have more kids, a lot more in fact. This is actually something that has been discussed for a long time regarding overpopulation of the world, and Scandinavia has actually proved a good recipe on that problem, a medicine the poor are more than willing to swallow. The medicine is spelled high standard of living and education. If Scandinavia did not have immigration the last 40 years, our population growth would have been negative, actually quite severe negative, and would have hurt our ability to compete. This is the recipe those who cry about overpopulation needs to understand.

        But look how the western world have acted the last 150 years. Ever since the industrial revolution we have used every kind of protectionism there is in the name of greed, with the patent and copyright systems as the crown of it all. We are constantly denying less developed countries to develop in the same way as we did. But do also remember that most conflicts since before the first world war has been geopolitical, all that crap about religion is only there to make thing politically feasible, to herd people. Already before the first WW when Winston Churchill was the first lord of the admirality and the Germans was industrially manufacturing the living hell out of old England and fueled their merchant marine fleet with oil insread of coal, he said: “We must become the owners or at any rate the controllers at the source of at least a proportion of the oil which we require.“, and that oil was located around the Caspian sea and the middle east. Ever since that oil and energy has been part of the national security of any industrial nation, and Afganistan has been a place of turmoil ever since, because it lies strategically in between the energy routes and the powers in the world.

        And later years, at least since 1991, we have seen an ongoing crusade about imperial and geopolitical control over eurasia _masked_ as the good guy on his white stallion doing good deeds, but actually is about the same geopolitical agenda as the british empire under the industrial revolution. We have been fed war rethoric and hate since at least 1991 when the soviet union collapsed, and it became very intense after september 2001. Of course this has been a mental poison for us all, in varying degree. Most of us did think about muslim extremists that sad Friday in Oslo, less than a week ago, initially. This says a lot about how our minds have been altered by the american neoconservatives and the Bush-doctrine, and we can only speculate how much this cognitive-altering propaganda has affected Anders Behring Breivik. I think it is a lot, that propaganda with the Bush-doctrine has been touted in mass-media for all his adult life. Actually it is not strange that he finally snapped.

    2. Mumfi.

      Weeellll…

      If reproduction were set to fixed rates, according to any kind of fairness, we lose.
      If you look at how much resources we consume in the west, the development countries have a right to be more numerous as they are spending far less per unit. If they where given a fair share of the available resources they have room for expansion as long as they do not increase their per unit consumption.

      Fortunately statistics show that as wealth increases natality rates decrease. And the wealth is increasing slowly. If you want to blame anyone for the poor having to many children, blame the one keeping them poor. For if they were not poor, they would not have too many children. And it is us keeping them poor.

      Let’s not go there.

    3. Peter Andersson

      In the words of Stephen Hawking (from memory): It has not yet been proven that intelligence has any long terme survival benefits.

      I.e; from a perspective of evolution our race in its whole might have been doomed from the second we invented the wheel, calculus, IOU notes (i.e money) and/or any of all the other things that separate us from day-to-day living animals.

      Breeding rights is a stupid idea, human brain functions doesn’t leap down generations like milk production and human groups aren’t cows. Chris Langan, the smartest man alive would probably not have been allowed to be born under such laws:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Langan

  5. Elmo

    As far as I know none of the psychologists involved in the case has claimed that the gunman is insane or in any terms mentally ill beyond what we would call evil. Calling evil bevahior and persons ill by definition is an idea very close to certain socialist/totalitarian systems. I do not wish to deny the atrocious character of the deeds involved, but I doubt that a proclamation of insanity (against the medical assessment of the case, no less) helps anyone deal with this event in a constructive fashion. Calling him insane is merely a very easy and simply way of emotionally shielding oneself against any repercussions this event could have on one’s world view.

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