THIS WAS THE YEAR that democracy failed. The year that, in the English-speaking world at least, citizens stopped being citizens. Exactly what we are turning into is not yet clear, but it’s unlikely to be anything good.
This is a harsh judgement, and hopefully, in our own case, a premature one. In the case of the United Kingdom and the United States, however, it is more than fair. The Brexit decision and the Trump triumph, on their own, constitute more than sufficient evidence to warrant the indictment of both the British and the American electorates.
If it is to work at all, democracy requires a citizenry who both understand and value the principles of representative government. An interested citizenry, who take care to inform themselves about what is happening in their country – and why. A well-educated citizenry, who seek after the truth and cannot be swayed by the cheap falsehoods and even cheaper promises of demagogues and charlatans. A proud citizenry, who prize the scientific, technological and cultural achievements of their nation’s history. A decent citizenry, unwilling, on principle, to use the franchise as a means of inflicting shame and injury upon individuals, groups and organisations which a fraction (maybe even a majority) of them distrust.