I have always been fascinated by US elections back since the time I used to work for the Fulbright Commission in Egypt. It was kind of a celebration watching democracy in the making and being part of that experience. I continue that tradition of following US presidential elections to this day and continue to enjoy the experience. This year however I am not enjoying it as much and the reason is simple; the divisiveness and bigotry I see in the debates is simply shocking to watch. Yet I believe that what we are witnessing in these US debates reflects to an extent what we are seeing in Europe and many other regions of the world. Similar to the concept of societies experiencing shrinking middle class-this is about shrinking centrist ideology. The game is now more about extremist ideology driven either by socio-economic or religious factors. OK, well how did we get here? Well some pointers that I would suggest are contributing to this mess are the following;
- Lack of Effective Policy on Integration/Social Cohesion; The composition of societies are changing quickly by unprecedented levels of migration. What is lagging however are effective policies/controls that reflect the importance of national values/identity not just emphasis on the security element.
- Freedom of Disinformation: The power of information and the speed at which it flows is amazing. However with this power comes vulnerability of using this power to disseminate false information to gain advantage or control views due to lack of regulation. This is where you get people living in the same country but have widely different views as if living in isolated silos. I believe there needs to be more effective regulation of info flows and criminalizing of intentional/consistent disinformation. We also need to be more astute in utilizing the info echo system in promoting values we all share.
- People Power & Politics of Basic Decency: We should go back to basics as a civil society in applying basic levels of decency/respect in debating policy. We should also hold our politicians accountable not only in representing our views but how they choose to do so. In brief we should lead and not be led by politicians.
Though it sounds too good to be true I honestly believe all elements above can be achieved in short order because they can make economic development more effective/sustainable. As for the US elections-going full circle here-I just wish they could follow the Vatican approach; close shop and signal with white smoke when ready to announce the new US Papa because what we are watching now is not doing much good to the US reputation around the world.