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DEMOCRACY IN DANGER by michael mifsud

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Government,Current Affairs,Relationships

An end to democracy and social life as we know it ?

How can one forget the business of those scruples and the perplexed looks in peoples faces when asked as to what they had done with them ? The same goes with Ethics except that it does not sound as playful as the other word does. The effect is not the same. We talk about an unscrupulous person but not about an unethical one merely subscribing this to activities. Perhaps that is why it is rendered something that is not worth pursuing with respect as to what it has to teach us.

The political speaker, a disillusioned dissident, in one of the Latin European countries, spoke very freely about the need to introduce ethics into daily lives, much to the sanctimonious satisfaction of nodding heads, in this Jesuit organised, public debate.

"It is easy to be a Christian with a fat balance in the bank behind you", said one alarmingly." "A choice between ethics and feeding your ailing child.."said another with equally disapproving gestures.

In fact it renders the whole thing a little beyond social capability as ambition instinctively overrides ethics and the bulk of the much abused public expects and accepts it. I could imagine most of those present fully intended to lever everything to their advantage if ever capable of getting to those corridors of  lucrative licence.

But is it a dead issue even in the modern European Countries - a chimera where too much  is swept underneath the carpet and  ambition becomes entangled in personal interest and the protection at all cost of those astronomical salaries and benefits ?  Who would rock any boat and risk all of that for the sake of all those anonymous others ? Ethics therefore appear to be slightly out of place in this wholly political arena - at least until swatting this carpet becomes a useful, vote catching exercise. According to the Jesuit University in the United Sates, dedicated to the propagation of Bioethics studies, there is a way out of this dangerous slide into chaos. Can corrective measures really be taken seriously,  when both politicians and religious leaders speak bluntly in favour of issues and behaviour that decry the very existence of something as ephemeral as ethics?  When ethics may well mean being seen to be taking an interest rather than actually doing things correctly from everyone's point of view, the subject falls off the agenda. It conjures complications and and antagonism from those whose hands are not that visibly clean. In fact lamentably, even in strongly puritanical countries of the higher echelons of the European family, the doubt begins to emerge as to whether ethical values have not only disappeared but have been superseded by a new type of quantum politics and social behaviour now geared to personal, basic survival. Could yuppism have entered these public platforms and taken root ? Whether that survival merely means clinging to the job or amassing whatever can be gleaned from whatever opportunity is probably a matter of individual character, but whilst sections of the affluent societies and all the rest wriggle in their insecurity, veritable fortunes, opportunistically obtained sieve their ways through clumsy, unwilling controls to build estates, which can serve little purpose other than feed the next few generation of potentially incapable members of the family. There is something very bizarre and ugly about this in the face of the horror which our front lounge television sets portray of the increasingly neglected and disdained, so called, third world. But then one does not have to go that far to see what is already happening to those within the democratic communities in the age of computerisation and push button benefits ? For most, short of answering twisted, rhetorical, opinion poll questions, the political extension of family life might as well not be there.  By that I mean that the sense of participation in social development has as much as gone as politicians increasingly make themselves felt only when issues become relevant to votes. Real public needs and fears have become subjects of political whitewash when the expenses involved in correcting them appear not to be justified. Meanwhile, the anxiety factor eats away increasingly at public morale and the thin line of residual respect for authority and order becomes irrelevant. Today, in most developed society this stress not only provokes a cynical disregard for the political contribution, but drives a significantly high percentage of the respective populations to the all powerful chemists and time conscious doctors in search of a panacea. Values and personal safety. The dangers  of social collapse become clear when even superficial analysis shows that ethical values and honest conduct have been and are necessary for a modern democracy to function. In the absence of these virtues, nothing can be taken for granted and unwittingly the door opens to the degeneration that heralds the entrance to state, oppressive forces. For the family,  the need to have a society relatively free of aggression and deceit is a basic factor which overrules all else – it is after all synonymous with planning a realisable future. If a lack of ethical standards becomes apparent in political commitments and taxes applied to the wrong issues, public concern can turn to anything that portrays sympathy and explains the prevalence of cults and religiously orientated welfare groupings, m not to mention Mafia style protective organisations which can be seen in countries where the politicians have failed to impress. But is this understood by the politicians and the tired looking religious figures who appear to have lost their definition of sin ?  Curiously, the public of many modern democracies appear to ride rough shod over ethical standards in their day to day dealings but it very much expects its leaders not to as if street level underhandedness could be justified. Where educational standards fail to reach required levels and families drawn into drink and drugs and sexual licence reap the results of the resultant neglect of their issue, can blame be placed anywhere ? Is this an issue that influences politicians to break away from the sterile rigours of dedication to the ethical cause ? Or can we place the poor social results on both doors ? Is the State what it is because of the nature of its constituents and this is another chicken and egg situation? A mayor business magnate with a lifetime of social and political influence, earnestly insisted that corruption at high levels was quite acceptable and had always been there from the early dawn of civilisation, but what was dangerous, was, he underlined, when it came down to public level. It sounded a bit Berlusconian, but somehow, the seed of potential reason echoed in the background. Could leadership therefore indulge in such behaviour in pursuit of the best for its citizens and should the servile rest, by law enforcement, be required to abstain ? The British Queen made a curious plea in a recent Christmas talk to the vast number of Nations she represents. It included a philosophical touch about the nature of service to others rather than taking from others, acknowledging the former to be a mayor source of happiness and contentment. This criteria is,once again, difficult to absorb by those, unacceptably high, underprivileged members of modern developed societies. Their resentment at  having been marginalised by successive insensitive governments, indisputably argues that they feel that they should form part of the  very base of all protective monetary and social systems. If pouring millions into into inefficient banks that could easily disappear in the effervescent process, why not pour the same where it is needed to keep roofs over people´s heads and food in their stomachs ? The money would make its way to the banks in any case so that (interestingly) would mean killing two birds with one stone and avoid the creation of the social ills that aggravate the welfare state. It is difficult to imagine how that piece of  bake could emerge edible from the social oven to provide an answer that could satisfy those who manage well enough and those who do not know how to. It proves that there is no will in that direction but there is no evidence that it is an impossible pursuit. In fact, the reaction on the part of leaders to such a angles of approach to social needs, betray a regard for the age old syndrome of the few at the expense of the many. In brief, ignorance versus the well informed. Democracy at breaking point Some people merely want to live comfortably with the least effort and others to turn every minute of the day into a sustained drive to riches and demonstrable wealth. The former might be the wisest, but the latter may not find the time for peace of mind and basic self indulgence, that his/her lower economic counterparts already enjoy. Unfortunately however, the problem lies in that fact, today, that even a roof over the head and food to survive cannot be guaranteed to many and the figures shows an alarming ascent. Under these indicators, one salient point emerges – there is not enough money for all and that means that democracy begins to fail. The banks and their wanton ways with public money has received the bulk of the blame, but in reality as can be seen, it is public expenditure in the hands of an inflexible and untouchable bureaucracy, fed by the weak Governments of the day, that brings democracy to its breaking point. If huge bureaucracies can be set up that double or treble the numbers of those actively involved in public service, like police, doctors etc. the only contribution to social effort, must surely be employment figures and self perpetuating tax creation/collection. In the less well off European countries, this is now a terminal illness set to destroy most small and medium sized companies with a voracity that spells imminent disaster as it creates the bulk of unemployment. It does so in pursuit of its own survival, to create wealth where it matters least and where eventually it sinks the oar less boat. It is no coincidence that the ever critical IMF targets this obscenity as a first shot across the bows of those who come to it cap in hand, after having created the monster. The very obvious explanation is that politicians are bad economists (and businessmen) and bureaucrats are a protected species with a fondness for privilege at the taxpayers expense. Creating public jobs should be a negative rather than the positive, genuinely productive exercise, gleaned from the calculated economic efforts of the supply and demand entrepreneur. As such each one should be deducted from the national employment figures and perhaps even multiplied by two. Again,it is disquieting that economists and social academics have not tackled this accommodating and wasteful line of pursuit by the bureaucrats and politicians in their convenient way of wallpapering the ever widening cracks.

Example from above. Why moral values should be part of the social currency  is not too difficult to understand even at its most primitive level. In its absence, delinquency could become as it does in some countries, a matter of personal choice, by the public or its leaders. If  smash and grab appears to work for those without the means or without belief in the ones who rule their collective destiny, then the choice is made early in the game.  Public example must therefore, like that demanded of credible Justice, be seen in its ethical context and all behaviour, free of public doubt or background shadows. For the average and sensible member of the public,  the choice of direction follows example set from above, even if only to appear socially correct, and always, if the message ()good or bad) is very loud and clear.  It is however, I must repeat, lamentably, increasingly difficult to detect the clarity of the image  through the paper barricades and empty signals of a money hungry bureaucracy, forever creating new taxes and penalties.  To many in less prosperous countries ,the bureaucracy is the bane of their existence and many flee into an underworld away from what it represents. Anarchy in this context is derived from the unacceptable face of a pampered group set up to provide services and inflict increasingly repressive charges for the purpose. The pathetic queues of obviously dejected and fearful citizens in most government offices and local courts in countries like Spain and Greece, is a sorry sight unworthy of a modern democracy. The paper - the lack of sensitivity - the obvious display of good incomes on the wrong side of the counters - the usual disdain and unwarranted dismissive attitudes - all contribute negatively towards public resentment and fear. Those who should be setting the correct example are by their nature, wasteful and occupying the wrong ethical space, even when the taxes and fines are supposedly set to provide the services demanded by the politicians. This is a grim reality which becomes more obvious as the economic indicators of the country reflect the political suppression. If ever any aspect of modern government contributed to social decline in all its aspects, it is this public service sector which once engaged draws on every resource that should be available to those who genuinely need it. The now elevated salaries and profusion of executives (not to mention their hidden pension handshakes) in this highly fragmented sector, would also suggest that a great deal of the money does not filter down as progressively as it should. Additionally, when the world appears to be falling apart in every direction and the financial institutions, like spoilt children,  make demands on all but themselves, those who fall through the net, cannot but reproach the use that public servants makes of their needed and unavailable family support. In most developed Latin countries for example, there is no government financing of the basic family needs and Spain for example, spends very little in this direction. Britain, Germany, Holland and the Scandinavian countries among others provide benefits, albeit now stretched, which are unheard of further south of the Pyrennean divide. Cheap communistic talk about encouraging employment and placing the burden unfairly on the employers deflects from an unfulfillable and deceitful political commitment. The right to work is much enshrined in constitutions, but just who should be be providing it, is less clear. In the same countries with high employment, the lack of real effort to promote it is allied to the overtaxed and unsupported small to medium business interests where most of the fiscal contribution comes from. In fact, destructive penalties and union supported archaic tribunals ensure that most have to close under the burden of taxation and continuous fines. Turkey once came to a grinding halt for the same reason and Greece, Portugal and Spain obviously never learnt from that experience. The employment creation demands are curiously aimed at the employers as if they had a Divine right to provide the answers that politicians and bureaucrats are incapable or unwilling to face. The term “right to work” is therefore a much abused chimera that the very constitutional instigators are mainly incapable of underwriting whilst deterring the disliked entrepreneurs from proper selection and discipline of a staff, all too knowledgeable about union and tribunal instruments but progressively, less prepared to do a good days work. This deflection of ethical approach is encouraged by wily activists of the political and union left wingers who seek support at the expense of the social interests at large. This is what is happening with a vengeance in the lesser economically viable regions of Europe. In fact, careful analysis shows that there is neither will nor sufficient sympathy among the more influential members of the political society to create a firm platform for creative employment whilst demonstrating eagerness to swell the ranks of the party through politically generated executive appointments at terrific cost. Additionally, they court big industry in pursuit of future lucrative appointments or party finance with measures that support monopolistic growth at the expense of the myriads of would be, small competitors. Dismantling these mistakes, is as taboo as facing the cold affront of the thriving left wing union interests behind unproductive, over protected workers. The two sides of the vice grip on the national economy and public interest, is the silent removal of the only contributive and self regulating element in the economic chain – the sensitive, self employed entrepreneur.  It is not surprising therefore that the average hard hit members of the public aware of the declining choice, have little time for ethical values that never got them anywhere. Street talk makes abundantly clear, in some of these societies, that the very thin veneer of respect for the Institutions is rapidly eroding to the point of cracking the already dry parchment of democratic principles. Democracy without ethics ? Ethical values therefore, have to precede democratic demands and when closely examined, it is impossible to see how one can do without the other.  Those who assume otherwise,  appear to fail to see what lies behind the absence of these two pillars of civilisation. A calculated guess would arrive at the obvious - receding freedom and eventual slavery for the majority.   Totalitarian government in pursuit of its own highly sectarian survival,  once consolidated, can impose political or religious shackles that could take much bloodshed (and often centuries), to shake off.  Standing in defence of ethical standards at the very outset is a better way of avoiding these atrocities. Whether suppression must follow periods of plenty and democratic licence, as Plato insisted, it is still a question of watching the balancing point and making the public voice heard at all cost. Even so, unless the quality of leadership and genuine political commitment comes to the surface quickly, in the trauma we are experiencing today, democracy as we know it, is in for a hard time.

Ethical values appeal to those with noble sentiment and whose considerations within business transactions include principles like fair play and the aim to establish goodwill on both sides of the contracting fence. In business, leaving margins for both to play with and benefit from, is a sure formula for repeat sessions during the course of time.  Bad, opportunistic and imbalanced contracts serving the interests of one crafty side, often provide the basis for a great deal of future aggression and bitterness which add venom and insecurity to the ripples of perceptive awareness which flow across all societies, almost imperceptibly. The creation of the yuppie, whilst stimulating personal,  positive advancement, literally unleashed an attitude based on false principles which served a very limited purpose. A purpose, which victims of the exaggerations and inaccuracies of the selling jargon, if  not for those who perpetrated the abuse, would  forge the shortcomings of future decades to come. The pressure tactics,devoid of all ethics, in the main, fed people into economic bottlenecks, like property bubbles or accumulation of useless products. Those who applied them, would have not survived within markets requiring an ethical approach to the establishment of the buyer´s needs. Unfortunately,truth at the bottom line depends on whether the buyer necessarily wants to hear it. If so, could one equate an ethical society with a firm inherited base, or one with a tactical defensive training based on defensive, do's and don't s ? To eat or be eaten as some would say, but can values be taught and applied in this cut and thrust me lee of public apathy and opportunistic delinquents?

Education or survival tactics ? Ethical standards, some would say, depend on upbringing, which is not always the case, as modern governments often sacrifice public interest in pursuit of narrow, party politically inspired benefits and destroy family faith in such things  Finding ways and means of extracting the ultimate drop in unwilling contribution from the electorate, appears to feed most of the political motivation. Ethics to some political parties have very little to contribute to survival. Additionally, some politically orientated ideologies often bend the truth (short of 360 degrees!) to ferment non existing needs or establish a nebulous base for a line to follow.  Public consciousness is often late in reacting to such pressures but curiously, it misses little and gladly, albeit rather tardily, often reacts with media related repose, for a change. The sorry side is, that this response, nearly always, has much to do with the pocket rather than the heart and at the end,  things have already turned for the worse.

Legislation however clumsy,  in its pursuit of the protection that would otherwise be served by good general education and family standards, is often a blunt instrument that perverse elements often find the loopholes to outwit  It takes little study to see that abuse of public confidence by national, politically influential monopolies, has increased alarmingly. So much so, that even in  basic need industries like energy and water suppliers  the profit balance aspires to get the  market applaud - at the expense of the consumer. The benefits of a few at the top of the fence with their eyes on their shareholdings and stock options contrast unacceptably with the mortgage payment failures of far too many.   Any peripheral study of the market games of this quasi monopolistic sectors betray one glaring omission - one that provokes a public sense of outrage if not helplessness - lack of social concern. In other words, low ethical standards, with respect to the service they provide and which nobody can do without, are plainly visible. Today, with declining tobacco and alcohol sales, energy becomes a source of revenue that leads to poor lighting and absent heating. In this emerging respect, politics and ethical standards appear to be heading in different directions, illustrating the rule that taxes never disappear, they simply mutate. The simplification of social management is therefore one of the most desirable needs to be faced. The removal of power from the bureaucracy through drastic reduction of red tape and the need to demonstrate public accountability at every turn of the expenditure commitment is like the climate fracas, a little too late, but nevertheless a step in the only direction. The nurturing and careful support of entrepreneur activity born of vision and resolve, is also part of the en kindling of the economic spark – as the United States has always illustrated till now.

Ethics, cynics would assume, should belong to the category of those utopian, nostalgic sentiments bred out, by realistic hard-line practice, but the sorry state of the institutions and economic safeguards urgently dictate otherwise. How to bring it all back into line is something that deserves not only the close evaluation of those intending to restore the so called balance but the urgent reappearance on the political and religious field of those with values that speak of courage and determination.  Values that speak of eyes and not of lips. Our present world leaders are not of that genre and the profiles of the new emerging personalities of countries leave a lot to be desired. .  President Obama brings in a little of the breath of fresh air so desperately needed, but surprisingly, it was the unlikely David Cameron and aspiring Prime Minister of the UK who said something closely related to what these pages are about and which I had never heard before. “The power of the Bureaucracy must return to the Politician and that of the Politician to the Public.” This gleam of hope shines through our posing, boring, political corps, but who dares to harness it and make the power wave move in this direction, with such people as we appear to have on board ?

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