In order for a political system to work, people need to have confidence, not only in an election process, but in the very words politicians are uttering, at least what they present as facts.
Keith A. Darden, an associate professor at American University, writes interestingly in the New York Times about facts and legitimacy. Both seem to be lacking in Ukraine: There is a huge chasm opening up where the solid ground of facts should have been.
Thomas Hobbes wrote eloquently about life in the absence of political authority, but he couldn’t foresee the modern fracturing of facts and narratives that accompanies its collapse.
Today, as authority in all its forms is degraded, life becomes not only “nasty, brutish and short”; it becomes so riddled with disinformation and lies that there is no clear path to settlement. And the void in trust invites armed action.
Healthy political systems have facts to turn to, because they have trusted sources of authority. A president’s birth records can be requested; news media, individuals and experts can validate them. Conflicts get resolved peacefully.
That is what is missing in Ukraine. The fragmentation of consensus about critical events and the degradation of legitimate political authority are like two apocalyptic horsemen riding together.
If there is a hope of escaping this condition, Ukraine must restore legitimacy to its leadership and its facts.
The uncanny thing is that professor Darden’s words fit Europe as well as Ukraine. The same disease erodes trust in Europe, trust between people, between people and authorities, not to mention trust in Brussels which hardly exist at all.
Ukraine represented an infusion of optimism and enthusiasm; the young peaceful demonstrators in Donetsk the other day, still does. Today’s Europe sorely lacks this spirit, the spirit of Maidan. It was an echo of the days of Solidarnosc in Poland. When a people is fighting for its freedom their best emotions are mobilized.
Many Ukrainians know what they are fighting for. They know what is right. Many Europeans don’t. The reason is simple:
Healthy political systems have facts to turn to, because they have trusted sources of authority.
But European governments and establishment have been deluding their own populations for so long that authority has dwindled. In a sense one could be more worried about Europe than Ukraine.
The political, academic, cultural establishment have refused to debate the demographic changes that are taking place in Western Europe, instead imposing a multiculturalism by decree. Rights abound, at the same time, sanctions are imposed on the indigenous population for uttering the wrong opinion. In Norway «objective guilt» has become a judicial term. It is something taken from a Leninist textbook. The accused in Stalin’s show trials confessed to «objective guilt».
It is now part of government policy how to raise and educate the native population into the new reality.
Professor Darden is quite right: where facts fracture, legitimacy fractures too. It is what any decent journalist or academician should understand. It is the core ethos of their profession.
Still, over the course of the last two decades, media have become the main promoters of a social model that does not allow any opposition.
Under a facade of normalcy, Europe fractures. Through the cracks creep real extremism.
That not only Jobbik and Golden Dawn, but also Front National, Liga Nord and Vlaams Belang sympathise with Putin, is deeply disturbing. It is indicative of a situation where one no longer has any trust in official truths. But going from there to embracing a system of lies and violence, is a sign that something is deeply wrong in Europe. It is the birth of a new extremism in Europe of a most virulent kind. They are no longer part of any solution, but have taken the disease to a new level.