21st Century Democracy – The changing face of democracy

By Gustavo Destro

It started in Tunisia late in 2010, it spread to Egypt and the rest of the Middle East, soon it made its way west, into the streets of New York City and across the globe, and by the end of 2011 it had reached the frozen streets of Moscow.

2011 could be named the Year of the Protests. From the Arab Spring to the Occupy movement and the anti-Putin demonstrations in Russia, people took to the streets for what they believed in, call- ing for change, the end of dictatorships, and the end of corruption.

This year of protests fol- lowed a significant growth in the number of social media applications, such as Twitter and Facebook, which allowed for a large group of people to organize themselves and share their experiences with thousands of others. This is a significant development, not simply because it changes the way people communicate, it may change the way democ- racy itself works.

The concept of democ- racy is not a new one, having been fashioned by the an- cient Greeks 5,000 years ago. From then on it has evolved, at times slowly, and at times has been completely ignored. The Magna Carta, the Decla- ration of Independence, and the Declaration of the Rights of Man all influenced the cur- rent form of democracy we hold dear as it became the post World War II standard for liberal democracies.

But this standard may not stand for long. The changes we are currently experiencing may turn 21st century democracy into something different than what was in the past hundred years. This is not to say that the changes will be drastic,

that a sort of post-democracy system will emerge. In fact, most people may not even feel these events as they unfold so naturally. Evolution, after all, is not a sudden change, but a slow gradual process, natu- rally making its way until it be- comes the norm.

The reality is that the sys- tem we currently have in place is not self-sustainable in the long run, not with the society that we currently live in. An increasing number of people have more access to more in- formation than ever before, and that leads to a sense, and at times, a reality, of empower- ment. Like the events of the Arab Spring showed, once the reality is plain for all to see, it can no longer be contained.

For hundreds of years, rul- ers and politicians have had the assurance that, if they were careful enough, they could hide what they did not wish people to see. Not so in an age of 24/7 news, social media, and Wikileaks. People have understood that they have the power to hold those in charge accountable, and they are wil- ingandabletodoso.Aswe move forward, politics may be- come increasingly more trans- parent, with people making an impact not simply by voting, but also by fact-checking and calling out what they believe is wrong.

As stated before, this will not be a revolution as much as it will be an evolution. The younger generations are in- creasingly accustomed to a cer- tain degree of information and this will slowly make its way into our democratic system, creating greater transparency, accountability, and in the end, better representation