What’s Going On?

Poland, Hungary, Turkey, Russia, Israel, India, Italy, Brazil, …, and even the USA; around the world, we are seeing democracies lurching toward autocracy and/or theocracy. A hundred years from now, history will tell us what it was all about. It would help to know now.

Though no common denominator stands out; one of the more common is religion. More specifically, it is right-wing religious groups either leading the charge toward theocracy or being used by would-be autocrats.

In Israel, we see a coalition of right-wing/ultra-orthodox Jewish groups being used to facilitate the clinging to power by the corrupt Netanyahu whom they would use to facilitate the installation of a theocracy. In order for this to all happen; put the judiciary under the executive. Good-by democracy.

In the US, a coalition of right-wing religious groups have successfully loaded the US Supreme Court with a majority of right-wing justices; have gerrymandered electoral districts to the extent democratic elections are impossible in several states, to the extent the states don’t even bother to pretend that they are democracies anymore. These groups gained power by way of the Republican Party’s desperation to remain relevant at any price. Now, they are the Party. Much as in Israel, they made a deal with a would-be autocrat. In the US, a coalition of right-wing religious groups facilitated the election of the corrupt Trump to the presidency in exchange for right-wing justices. Neither they nor Trump ever cared much for democracy. Nor does today’s Republican Party.

In Hungary, Orbán, a right-wing kleptocrat cites ‘Illiberal Christian Democracy’ as policy, and rewrites the constitution to weaken the Judiciary. How does it feel to be illiberal, Hungary?

Poland’s nascent democracy didn’t last long. It lost out to the right-wing Law and Justice party which promptly acted to weaken judicial checks and balances, and partner with the Catholic church. Today, Poland is better described as being illiberal or authoritarian. Change is hard, we know.

Modi ran on anti-corruption, Hindu Nationalism, and cognitive dissonance. All of which go hand-in-glove in India. Elected Prime Minister, Modi set about to weaken the judiciary and make Hinduism the religion of the land.

Erdoğan’s salary is small, but the benefits more than make up for it. Erdoğan is a kleptocrat who has prospered in office. Beyond taking care of himself and his, the faulty construction exposed during the recent earthquake was the direct result of his taking care of those who put him in power. Under Erdoğan, Turkey has reverted to sectarian. Some say transactional. Some say corrupt.

Italy’s relationship with democracy has long been problematic. Long, too, Italy’s working relationship with cognitive dissonance. Recent political movement to the right makes Italy well worth another look. Especially so because of her role in the lead-up to WWII.

Thus far, the partnering of religion and autocracy in its various forms have dominated the obvious correlates. But, when we look at Brazil, religion doesn’t seem to play a significant role. Kleptocracy and autocracy, endemic the region, do. Being a dictator is a dangerous profession that pays well. Bolsonaro knows this well. Being right-wing is usually part of the job description. So, the capture of the judicial system.

There may be other factors that underlie these attacks on democracy; that the above listed correlates are more symptoms than causes.

Over time, history has arced toward the assessment that economics, especially in the form of the Great Depression, played a significant role in the emergence of Nazism and Fascism. After the crash, it was apparent to all that the existent capitalist economic model had failed. After the crash, people everywhere were looking about for alternatives.

By 1929, modern capitalism had held sway for 80 years. For most of those 80 years, people had, to some extent or another, bought in through thick and thin, through low wages and poor working conditions. Maybe capitalism ‘best by’ date expired in 1929. Communism lasted about 70 years. Maybe lies have plausibility lifespans. The big lie about the magic of Free Markets recently recently turned 50. Magic is illusion. Has the illusion expired for Free Markets.

Seems there are limits. Consumerism is foundational to capitalism. Marketing is all about making people want something. How the hell are people to know what they want if no one tells them? In a time of disparity unparalleled in modern times, making people want things that they can’t afford is hurtful. Are we again seeing a search for alternatives because the current economic model isn’t working? Is it probable that now, as in 1929, we do not know what is wrong? That we do know that something is very wrong? That we have been lied to again?

Another plausibility worthy consideration is that in reality oligarchs now control the world; the very wealthy decide who gets to the top in Russia, and elsewhere. That the world has become a plutocracy. That some or all of these things and maybe more are at play.

100 years is too long. We desperately need to know now.