The world is in a crisis. And many of our leaders are failing us. People are despondent, angry and sad, many unable to see their loved ones, many more not knowing how to cope. There is no end in sight, unless we look beyond the concreted corridors of power.
Despondency leads to confusion, we don’t know where to turn for solutions and instead we turn on each other.
And when our leaders fail us, we turn on them. While they are faced with an unprecedented challenge – at least in our cocooned post war “western” world of prosperity and relative freedom. We forget that our leaders, too, are desperate, scratching for answers in an unforgiving environment that has no patience, and little room for vulnerability or candour.
Those old enough to remember times of war and hardship have the wisdom and perspective, but no longer the power and energy to change a world gone mad, yet again.
The younger generations despair at what they see as a betrayal by leaders unable to act beyond economic measures and the next election. They see a system that is short sighted, benefits the haves and care less about the have nots. They see a natural world falling apart at our collective hands of unbridled consumerism that is heating up the planet.
The trust that we once had in the concept of nationhood and those we elected has been eroding over a long time, but the last 18 months has seen it evaporate further – close to a point of no return.
As we all seek answers, some seek refuge in conspiracy theories and resist for the sake of resistance; as fake news abound and the mainstream media seek headlines at the expense of truth.
We all hope for a return to normal, but that, too, is a fallacy, as normal is what got us here in the first place.
What we also tend to forget is that the pandemic is largely an urban phenomenon. Less populated areas are coping much better everywhere.
The regional areas of Australia are coping better not just because the virus is less likely to spread as fast, but because people in smaller communities look after each other in very different ways.
I see it first hand where I currently live in Ubud, Bali. Despite the economic hardship of the Balinese, they look after each other in their villages and the village leaders look after them. Indonesian democracy is imperfect with many layers. Corruption is rife in some areas, but local power often trumps Presidential and parliamentary might.
And therein lies not just hope, but the core of the solution for a new normal.
We have to learn to live with this virus, and when it is gone, be prepared for the next one. Vaccinations are important, testing is important, good health care is important, but social distancing and restrictions to our movement grates with our humanity.
A new normal has to be based on the spirit of community. We cannot dismantle our urban jungles, but we have to learn to live with people around us as neighbours, not as strangers. As people we care about even if we don’t agree with them, if their skin colour is different, if they just arrived or have been there forever.
And we have to start dismantling the power structures that dominate us. We cannot continue to support a democracy that no longer works for anyone but the wealthy, the well connected and the self interest of those we elect. We cannot continue to support a system that works mainly from the top down, far removed from those it purports to govern.
Democracy started as a community movement in ancient Greece, it was forged by revolutions in North America, France and elsewhere, evolved through two hundred years of unsurpassed prosperity for some, while others were left in the wake of its illusory image of salvation.
The democratic model as we know it leads to inequality, concentration of power and an obvious inability to deal with a crisis like this in the best interest of the people.
We need to return to a new normal where we govern from the ground up, where people connect and get together to make decisions for the common good. We need to return to the first principle of a democracy that is above all, of the people.
People revolt at how the pandemic is being handled, and if that has sown more seeds of a democratic revolution, maybe that’s just what we need. It has to start somewhere, it better start soon.
First published by Pearls & Irritations - Public Policy Journal by John Menadue.