Together, We Now Have the Power to Create A Better Future for Us and Our Children: Democracy, Prosperity, Diversity for the Twenty-First Century
“We must not be afraid of dreaming the seemingly impossible if we want the seemingly impossible to become a reality.” Vaclav Havel’s words must guide us as we rethink what it means to be an active citizen in the Twenty-First Century and develop new institutional structures of governance capable of addressing both the foreseeable and unforeseeable risks we all face today. This is the seemingly impossible dream we must strive today to transform into reality in order to create tomorrow’s sustainable, resilient global society.
“The Future is never written.” At critical points along the way, and for short periods of time, it can move in radically different directions, as a result of the actions – or inactions – of ordinary individuals. Today, the technological, communications, and transportation revolutions that have re-shaped our lives over the past three decades have empowered citizens throughout the world to have a determining impact upon world events. The fall of the Soviet Bloc, the end of Apartheid in South Africa, and the Arab Spring are clear proof that the power of global civil society to affect world events has increased exponentially. And yet, without careful planning and organization, such revolutions are easily derailed by regressive and well-established power networks. In time, these can reverse civil society’s hard-fought achievements and restore the same authoritarian and corrupt régimes, dressed only in different robes. In both 1989 and 2011, we should have actively supported the progressive forces of civil society in Eastern Europe and the wider Middle East. Instead, we stood by and watched how the blood and toil of their heroes were wasted in vain. Today, from Ukraine and Georgia to Iraq and Yemen, we live with the consequences of our previous inactions.
Even we, citizens of the European Union and of North America, are facing a particularly difficult moment: a global financial meltdown and economic recession unprecedented since 1929; a rise in narrow nationalisms and anti-‘foreigner’ feelings; continuing conflict and instability on our borders. All of us have experienced a marked decline in the trust we put in our political institutions and in our elected officials. This is the inevitable result of their chronic inability to seriously address some of the most urgent issues we face today: quality healthcare and education; a clean environment and global warming; hyper-urbanization and mass migrations, global epidemics, man-made and natural humanitarian disasters. Memories of having fought together against dictatorship and genocide can just still bring our politicians together for ceremonial functions. But they are at a total loss to creatively imagine how to bring about in a sustainable manner democracy, prosperity and diversity for the Twenty-First Century.
In the United States, old institutions of government are gridlocked by unaccountable national political parties and out of control electoral spending. In the EU, new central institutions are delegitimised by the lack of accountable, effective, and democratic pan-European political structures. How do we prevent the current crisis of our present political institutions on both sides of the Atlantic from degenerating into a terrible social cancer whose symptoms – right-wing populism, isolationism, narrow nationalism, xenophobia and racism – have afflicted our societies before and are on the verge of doing so again? .From different directions, both Europe and North America are fast approaching the same existential crisis: the de facto shutdown of their democratic political structures of government.
We still have the power to bring about radical and permanent change. However, time is short because of the global and urgent nature of the challenges we now face. Yet this crisis also gives us the greatest opportunity to bring about the change we all want, towards peace, prosperity, participation – if only we join together across borders, set a clear heading, and hold the course. If we act now, the future may yet turn out as we all wish it to be. If we do not, we will descend into a protracted conflict for resources and livable space where might is right and the rule of law and fairness are all but dead. The choice is ours – and our actions over the next decade will set the course for what awaits us in the not too distant future. For once the critical moment when numerous headings are possible passes, once we start steering in a specific direction, reversing course becomes extremely difficult, if not impossible. In Martin Luther King, Jr.'s stirring words, “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there "is" such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. We still have a choice today: non-violent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter – but beautiful – struggle for a new world ”.
Coalition for the Re-formation of the Euro-American Democratic Order