Laziness

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It is embarrassing to admit it, but one of the greatest threats to democracy in the 'old' democracies - that is, in the West - is probably the laziness of its own citizens.

A well-functioning democracy requires an engaged population that prioritises democracy and the activities that support it. A population that is mainly taken up with shopping and entertainment cannot sustain a democracy. There is nothing wrong with shopping and entertainment in isolation, but you can’t build a democracy on them.

Political parties have declining membership, newspapers have declining sales figures, and we cultivate the worst dunderheads as celebrities. Knowledge and skills have a lower status than ever before, and a university degree doesn't of itself give respect.

One of the reasons for this laziness is possibly that many of the major political issues are extremely complex. The more knowledge and the more effort it takes to understand the important issues, the more tempting it of course becomes to ignore their existence.

Instead of being about the issues that our society is actually faced with, politics gets reduced to being about the things that are easy to understand. Similarly, the debate is reduced to being about things that are exciting and fun and have a spontaneous appeal to our emotions. This means that the public political debate in the West is very close to becoming a part of the entertainment industry, while the really important issues are mainly being discussed behind closed doors.


Next chapter: Summing Up: Threats Against Democracy