How to Overcome Discontentment with Democracy

The existence of a social discontentment with representative democracy and its supposed failure in selecting legitimate and stable governments is undeniable. This phenomenon is discernible in all continents but one – Oceania.

Because of this, political actors uncompromised with the rule of law take advantage of social breaches, opened by political crisis, and invest against democratic institutions. Thus, they test the level of matureness and consolidation of democracy in their countries. It is not rare that those attacks resort to internet and social networks as their main tool – or rather as weapons –, disseminating lies and inciting hatred.

Since their very beginning, internet and social networks have demonstrated their huge potentiality for democratizing information, undermining hierarchies, and improving both political action and social participation on policies and government supervision. Unfortunately, like many useful tools, they have also their downside, and many autocrats have boosted their anti-democratic projects by means of a distorted use of internet resources.

So here is the challenge imposed to those who see in politics the best instrument to promote social inclusion, inequalities reduction, self-determination in defining priorities and planning the future: the equipment of our technological modernity, in which internet and social media display a prominent role, must be rescued and oriented to a more clean, righteous field in the political arena.

It is unconceivable that, in the dawn of 21st century third decade, we still live with the pessimism prompted by memories of those institutional crisis that happened in global scale in the last century. Sometimes a blitzkrieg against the institutional structures, which were built to preserve democracy, takes many years, even decades. That happened in Hitler’s Germany, Russia and many other countries of East Europe under communist rule and Soviet dominion.

There was resistance in occupied Europe and behind the Iron Curtain. Information dissemination about a free, democratic world nurtured and congregated entire nations, which had not submitted themselves to the authoritarianism and myths forged by authoritarian States. It neutralized evil. An analogous dynamic of insisting on truth and sharing knowledge about how to curb the great Leviathan of those who consider themselves State owners, defeated Latin-American dictatorships in the 1960’s and 1970’s and, most recently, dethroned autocrats and their dictatorial, if not brutal, rule in Africa and Middle East.

Recently, Brazilian Parliament has become the most transparent of our republican institutions and this openness has the purpose of reaffirming a fundamental belief that unify the majority of Brazilian deputies and senators: the attacks against democracy are to be beaten only through intense, renovated strategies of democratic action. Nowadays no one can stand in the way of free movement of ideas, citizens’ legitimate aspiration for economic ascension and overcoming gaps in learning and social development and participating on appropriate forums of planning and decision-making.

We insist on this path by making use of informational technologies and trying to make them antidotes against the fake news poison and dissemination of hatred, intolerance messages. What will cure contemporary diseases of democracy are political culture enhancement and citizens participation on political processes.

In my country, the Parliament and other independent, autonomous institutions, besides groups emerged from civil society, corporations’ and media’s representatives, have resisted to attacks against exercising politics. We have the firmest conviction that there is no viable way outside democracy and rule of law. We are in favor of mediating society’s aspirations through political parties, because they can spread and consolidate the best ideas and offer legitimate solutions for the malaise of our time.

It is never too late to remember to those autocrats, who try to take over institutions in their countries, that turnover of power is the vaccine invented by humanity against barbarism. In order to reassure the requisites for full alternance of political power it is necessary to call to mind that political and parliamentarian minorities established through the regular course of elections (when there are free, legitimate and periodic elections to constitute governments) must have their performance space preserved. After all, the minorities of today will be the majority of tomorrow and regress to a minority position again. That is as it should be and that is the way how democratic world rotates.

The virtual militia and cyber-snipers which insist on targeting representative democracy will not prevail, although they are going to give us immense trouble for years to come. Against them, we should repeat the obvious: there is no way outside politics. We must insist on the legacy of good practices, government openness, dissemination of truth, and reconverting to the democratic creed those who have been drawn by the turmoil of lies, speculations, prejudices fostered by a savage network. Only with a coordinated effort in favor of inequalities reduction, political inclusion, civil rights and truth can we appease the worldwide discontentment with democracy and its institutions.

President of the Chamber of Deputies of Federative Republic of Brazil.