Kæmp for demokratiet, det er en minoritetsstyreform. Det nyeste eksempel på diktaturets fremfærd kommer fra et land, der ligger meget tæt på Danmark.
Do we in the West understand how fragile democracy is and how much we need to do to protect? I have my doubts
Fight for democracy, it’s a minority form of government. The latest example of a dictatorship’s conduct comes from a country that is very close to Denmark.
Perhaps the hijacking of the plane in Belarus’ airspace with journalist and system critic Roman Protasevich (on his way from one EU country, Greece, to another, Lithuania) on board has helped to open the eyes of people who do not normally allow themselves to be greatly influenced by the rise of dictators.
Because that’s how authoritarian systems work – look at China, look at Turkey, at Russia, Belarus – the list is only getting longer at the moment. These countries do not respect international territory, they do not respect human rights and conventions, they assassinate, poison and computer hack into power and influence – even outside their own territories.
Why is it now at all interesting what is happening in Belarus? In general, it is shameful and alarming when undemocratic regimes are allowed to terrorize their peoples, but at a geopolitical level, the events in Belarus also have major political consequences in relation to Europe.
Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus’ dictator, could not have acted as he did without Putin’s blessing. And as you know, Putin himself does not shy away from any means when it comes to sending signals to his political opponents. He does not go out of his way to take bits of surrounding countries (Ukraine) or poison Russian citizens who are in western, democratic territory in e.g. England. If Putin keeps getting away with his behavior, how many surrounding and former Soviet countries are sitting and trembling? And how many forces within Europe’s democratic countries do not sit and take notes in relation to how easy it is to intimidate themselves to power and submission?
That’s part of the danger. The complete lack of respect for the form of government that exists in countries outside and within their power. And this is where it gets interesting. For how do democratically governed countries react, not only on a political but also on a personal level, when their borders are exceeded and the despots behave as they please?
Until now, we have seen condemnations from political leaders when political opponents have been poisoned and killed within the borders of their countries. The events in Belarus, where we have seen an unprecedented aggression and lack of respect for citizens on the way from one EU country to another, show that the reactions that such actions have so far met have not deterred either Putin or his nod doll Lukashenko.
Democracies are in retreat, and democratically governed societies are a minority in this world. What are we going to do to protect the form of society that is in favor of equal rights for women and men, for freedom of expression and for the right to disagree with those who have access to weapons?
It may sound fluffy, but nonetheless it is true: Democracy is only as strong as the individual citizen. All things considered, this is exactly what the democratic model is about: that each person has a voice that they can (relatively) freely express without fear of life and (family members).
All over the world, dictators and authoritarianism are on the rise. Most recently, Samoa’s newly democratically elected leader has been greeted by a locked parliamentary door. As if that in itself should be a legitimate way to deal with his election defeat in order to cling to the stool of power. This year alone, we have been following the anti-democratic events in Hong Kong, Myanmar and now also in Mali.
But not all dictators lock the parliament building or occupy the top leadership stool in a military coup. Some are working to fight democracy from within. We see it in Turkey, we see it in Europe, and we saw it in four horrible years with Trump. Fortunately, it did not succeed in overthrowing democracy here in the United States, but it was close.
Maybe it’s because in my own micro level I have fought for personal freedom when I finally wrestled myself free from Jehovah’s Witnesses and regained the right to my own voice that I become so utterly discouraged to see democracy under tremendous pressure . Maybe it’s because I, as a resident of the United States, saw how Trump deliberately and actively eroded democracy from within and with his corrupt attempts tried to cheat and intimidate himself into power. Even if one does not follow the events of the world closely, it became abundantly clear to the world how fragile democracy is, with the attack on the Congress building on January 6 this year, the very symbol of American democracy.
But if we only have attitudes to issues we have close to life or in our backyard, and do not react actively when we see signs that democratic values are being challenged – then we can be 100 per cent. sure that the life of relative security with the democratic, western values, generations before us has fought so hard for whether adding time is a thing of the past.
If we want a democracy, then we must have facts, not propagandistically spun lies, that serve the interest of a ruler. And if we want facts, then we must have someone to report on what they see and experience. And if we want someone to report what they see, then they need to be present where the events unfold. It does not want authoritarian regimes, therefore their journalists are in prison or in exile in Hong Kong, in Russia, in Saudi Arabia and in many other countries. And if leaders with authoritarian ambitions do not use such methods, then they incite hatred against journalists, as we see in Brazil, or, as in the case of Trump, they consistently mention the media, reporting in a way they does not like fake news – and it may be the beginning of something as dangerous to democracy as throwing its political opponents in jail.
Freedom of the press is freedom of speech, the two are closely linked. And freedom of speech is one of the fundamental pillars for democracy to work. If we buy into it or accept the state of things and shy away from it, then the reality we do not get reported does not exist, does it? And if we allow it, we have de facto agreed to live in undemocratic conditions with a manipulated reality.
That is why we must fight for the freedom and democratic rights of all of us – even if the abuses seem to us to be so far away that they have nothing to do with us.
Before we know it, undemocratic forces can weaken democracy from within, made possible by our own democratic processes – and Danish indifference. If we do not shout and react, we will be suffocated – whether it is physically or mentally, then the result is the same. Violent regimes and dark forces take over, sometimes without having to loosen a single shot.
It is up to us how much we want to let those who rumble out there with bullying methods, assassinations and kidnappings and a deliberate attempt to influence democracies get away with it. How far will we let their authoritarian regimes pull in on our monopolies and shake the norms we have fought for?