The current situation in international politics is as much depended on the World Health Organisation as the United Nations is on Security Council, otherwise. Amidst a world torn apart to its core by a public health emergency, the pandemic is coming to a slow and burning end. However, several scientists still predict possible spillovers while tending towards ruling out the possibility of any new major epicentres string that this infection phase will be a long drawn, pedestrian one. In other words, although most affected nations including China, the source of this outbreak, begin to open up their markets and services, the number of infected persons is set to predictably increase manifolds. In India, peculiarly, the series of lockdowns have not particularly affected the flattening of the curve as the infection rate continues to grow every passing day.
This period of lockdowns has caused a global economic standstill. People lost their jobs, means of livelihood, homes, among other intangible social truths such as the freedom of movement, assembly and in extreme cases, freedom of speech and expression. The responsibility of the government has increased considerably towards the general welfare of the people as a major political priority to avoid a health crisis.
In the digital era, this has resulted in increased cybercrime and privacy breaches. There has been increased surveillance from the government’s end as well. The policies have been more restrictive and censorship almost brutal. Moreover, the major governments seem to keenly focus on digital media channels for the acquisition of data and information on the people and spread tailored content based on the insight gained through highly advanced strategic disinformation campaigns. This argument is instrumental towards understanding where our current counter-culture, the youth is imbibing through online sources, is heading considering not much dissent goes unnoticed.
Notwithstanding the aforementioned paragraphs, digital media has been a key component in the development of a particular type of culture accurately fits the definition of what a counter-culture might entail. There been a significant rise in the number of active users of several online media channels and websites. Live streaming and Movie-streaming applications have also seen a spike in subscriptions as a Velocity MR study revealed Amazon and Netflix witnessed more than 60% growth in their respective subscriber base during the lockdown. Many producers have shifted to the digital space instead of waiting on a probable release date for their movies. There is increasing uncertainty about normalcy returning to us anytime soon.
Counter Culture can be understood as a culture whose values system differs substantially from those of mainstream society, often in opposition to mainstream cultural practices. In history, counter-cultural movements have focused on literature, art, music and intelligentsia of that era. For instance, Romanticism was an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that spread across Europe until 1900. This period was marked by its renewed emphasis on individualism alongside a glorification the past. It brought in a focus on emotions and nature and led to preferring the medieval over the classical beliefs. It partly originated as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, the aristocratic socio-political practices of the Age of Enlightenment, and all components of modernity. This movement left a legacy in the diverse fields such as visual arts, music, literature, education, natural sciences, among others. It considerably influenced politics, especially in the intellectual development of liberalism, radicalism, conservatism, and nationalism as ideologies during this period.
In today’s world with the advent of advanced information and communication systems such as Artificial Intelligence, Data Sciences and Machine Learning, the entire digital world is reaching a new phase in modern-day politics. Technology has become publicly accessible and cheaper than a hamburger. The world is far more connected and exponentially high gigabytes of data and information is being shared and stored every day. This advent of technology has created a large impact on the way most art, music or literature is being consumed or produced nowadays. Modern-day artists are shifting to digital painting options such as Photoshop, Infinite Painter or Sketchbook by Autodesk while contemporary artists who are loyal their medium are choosing online options such as e-exhibitions, e-auctioning and e-retail to sell their artworks.
In today’s counter culture, one could debate on constitutes an artist far more than admiring one. There has been considerable use of digital media in modern sculpting and architecture. Visual arts has extended to encompass graphic designs and illustrations that are rendered digitally. Filmmakers are shifting to animators while influencers are gaining what is being lost by the out-of-work actors. Especially due to the current situation with the pandemic.
This era of ‘Digitalism’ has also had a significant impact on the way music is made. Major recording labels and music producers are shifting to Digital Audio Workstations instead of the physical studio for all their music. Furthermore, the preference for electronic music has shot up considerably as well. Musicians, as well as music festival organisers, have resorted to the online streaming services to propagate their music. Literature is being read and spread over digital channels since bookstores like other businesses continue to remain shut due to the lockdowns. There has been a significant rise in the number of public users invested in network-based streaming applications such as Tik Tok, YouTube, Twitch and Discord have risen alongside an exponential rise in the number of users of video conferencing services such as Google Meet, Zoom, Skype, among others. This is an important concern since these applications have reportedly been the platforms with grave security risks due to possible data breaches. Furthermore, it has been seen in the past that governmental organisations can use such data to manipulate elections, establish a public norm and propagate fake news.
In this regard, we could argue that yesterday’s concerns of ‘liberty’ have manifested into today’s concerns for ‘privacy’ at the individual level. While for the government this change has been from one of ‘law and order’ to one of ‘national security’. Several politicians and celebrities continue to use social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to connect with the public and influence public opinion at large. This shuts off the portions of the population without internet access. In a developing nation like India, which has a very poor internet penetration rate, this creates massive misappropriation, misinterpretation and misrepresentation of information.
Similar to the hippie culture during the 1970s in the United States, today’s sub-cultures involve the ‘gaming culture’ and so-called the ‘meme culture’. The former is a result of the incredible amount of time spent by today’s youth behind online gaming and streaming gaming related content online. The eSports leagues across the worlds are seeing again in their business revenues with more people becoming increasingly interested in gaming. The latter is far less sophisticated than the hippie culture or the gaming cultures but it is influential none the less. Memes refer to organically created visual and text-based online content that uses humour to propagate a certain opinion or idea. Memes have been time and again used by major political parties across the world to reach a more diverse audience with their ideas and initiatives. They are often derogatory and resemble challenging positions with a negative focus on conventional mainstream societal practices and beliefs.
In a paradigm that debates whether the world today is multipolar or unipolar, the counter-culture brought to our fingertips by technological advances directs us to argue that it is indeed a unipolar world where every section is interconnected via a multidimensional network of communication systems spread at a global scale but, with multipolar tendencies, as these sections often intensely identify with or against established social arrangements that trigger major protests and demonstrations leading to major political and socio-economic repercussions at the international level. The current paradox in this respect is the fact that the digital era has made public dissent more widespread while it has also curtailed our right to free speech and data security online. However, the truth that remains undeniable is the fact that this digital counter-culture or ‘Digitalism’ has had a profound political influence in our lives as an integral member of the global village.
Carl Schmitt for the XXI Century
For decades, the scholars of international relations have confused the term “New World order” in the social, political, or economic spheres. Even today, few scholars confuse the term with the information age, internet, universalism, globalization, and American imperialism. Unlike the complex categorization of the New World Order, the concept of the Old World Order was purely a juridical phenomenon. However, from standpoint of modernity, the term New World order is a purely ideological and political phenomenon, which embodies various displays such as liberal democracy, financial capitalism, and technological imperialism.
In his Magnus Opus “The concept of the Political”, Carl Schmitt lauded a harsh criticism on liberal ideology and favored competitive decisionism over it. This is why according to Schmitt’s critics; the whole text in “The concept of the political” is filled with authoritarian overtones. Nonetheless, the fact cannot be denied that it was the radical political philosophy of Carl Schmitt that paved the way for the conservative revolution in Europe. Even today, his writings are being regarded as one of the major contributions to the field of political philosophy from the 20th century.
Throughout his major works such as “Nomos of the earth”, “the Crisis of Parliamentary democracy”, “The concept of the Political” and “Dictatorship”, Carl Schmitt frequently employs unadorned terms such as ‘actual’, ‘concrete’, ‘real’, and ‘specific’ to apprize his political ideas. However, he advances most of the core political ideas by using the metaphysical framework. For instance, in the broader political domain, Carl Schmitt anticipated the existential dimension of the ‘actual politics’ in the world today.
On the contrary, in his famous work “The Concept of the Political” readers most encounter the interplay between the abstract and ideal and, the concrete and real aspects of politics. Perhaps, understanding of Schmitt’s discursive distinctions is necessary when it comes to the deconstruction of the liberal promoted intellectual discourse. However, the point should be kept in mind that for Schmitt the concept of the political does not necessarily refer to any concrete subject matter such as “state” or “sovereignty”. In this respect, his concept of the political simply refers to the friend-enemy dialectics or distinction. To be more precise, the categorization of the term “Political” defines the degree of intensity of an association and dissociation.
In addition, the famous friend-enemy dialectics is also the central theme of his famous book “The Concept of the Political”. Likewise, the famous friend-enemy distinction in Schmitt’s famous work has both concrete and existential meaning. Here, the word “enemy” refers to the fight against ‘human totality”, which depends upon the circumstances. In this respect, throughout his work, one of the major focuses of Carl Schmitt was on the subject of “real Politics”. According to Schmitt, friend, enemy, and battle have real meaning. This is why, throughout his several works; Carl Schmitt remained much concerned with the theory of state and sovereignty. As Schmitt writes;
“I do not say the general theory of the state; for the category, the general theory of the state…is a typical concern of the liberal nineteenth century. This category arises from the normative effort to dissolve the concrete state and the concrete Volk in generalities (general education, general theory of the law, and finally general theory of the knowledge; and in this way to destroy their political order”.
As a matter of the fact, for Schmitt, the real politics ends up in battle, as he says, “The normal proves nothing, but the exception proves everything”. Here, Schmitt uses the concept of “exceptionality” to overcome the pragmatism of Liberalism. Although, in his later writings, Carl Schmitt attempted to dissociate the concept of “Political” from the controlling and the limiting spheres but he deliberately failed. One of the major reasons behind Schmitt’s isolation of the concept of the political is that he wanted to limit the categorization of friend-enemy distinction. Another major purpose of Schmitt was to purify the concept of the “Political” was by dissociating it from the subject-object duality. According to Schmitt, the concept of the political was not a subject matter and has no limit at all. Perhaps, this is why Schmitt advocated looking beyond the ordinary conception and definition of politics in textbooks.
For Schmitt, it was Liberalism, which introduced the absolutist conception of politics by destroying its actual meaning. In this respect, he developed his very idea of the “Political” against the backdrop of the “human totality” (Gesamtheit Von Menschen). Today’s Europe should remember the bloody revolutionary year of 1848 because the so-called economic prosperity, technological progress, and the self-assured positivism of the last century have come together to produce long and deep amnesia. Nonetheless, the fact cannot be denied that the revolutionary events of1848 had brought deep anxiety and fear for the ordinary Europeans. For instance, the famous sentence from the year 1848 reads;
“For this reason, fear grabs hold of the genius at a different time than it does normal people. the latter recognizes the danger at the time of danger; up to that, they are not secure, and if the danger has passed, then they are secure. The genius is the strongest precisely at the time of danger”.
Unfortunately, it was the intellectual predicament at the European stage in the year 1848 that caused revolutionary anxiety and distress among ordinary Europeans. Today, ordinary Europeans face similar situations in the social, political, and ideological spheres. The growing anxieties of the European public consciousness cannot be grasped without taking into account Carl Schmitt’s critique of liberal democracy. A century and a half ago, by embracing liberal democracy under the auspices of free-market capitalism, the Europeans played a pivotal role in the self-destruction of the European spirit.
The vicious technological drive under liberal capitalism led the European civilization towards crony centralism, industrialism, mechanization, and above all singularity. Today, neoliberal capitalism has transformed the world into a consumer-hyped mechanized factory in which humanity appears as the by-product of its own artificial creation. The unstructured mechanization of humanity in the last century has brought human civilization to technological crossroads. Hence, the technological drive under liberal democratic capitalism is presenting a huge threat to human civilizational identity.
 Wolin, Richard, Carl Schmitt, Political Existentialism, and the Total State, Theory and Society, volume no. 19, no. 4, 1990 (pp. 389-416). Schmitt deemed the friend-enemy dialectics as the cornerstone of his critique on liberalism and universalism.
Democratic Backsliding: A Framework for Understanding and Combatting it
Democracy is suffering setbacks around the world. Over the past decade, the number of liberal democracies has shrunk from 41 to 32. Today, 34 percent of the global population lives in 25 countries moving in the direction of autocracy. By contrast, only 16 countries are undergoing a process of democratization, representing just 4 percent of the global population. Reflecting these troubling trends, USAID Administrator Samantha Power, during her confirmation hearing, highlighted democratic backsliding – along with climate change, conflict and state collapse, and COVID-19 – as among the “four interconnected and gargantuan challenges” that will guide the Biden Administration’s development priorities.
However, defining “democratic backsliding” is far from straightforward. Practitioners and policymakers too often refer to “democratic backsliding” broadly, but there is a high degree of variation in how backsliding manifests in different contexts. This imprecise approach is problematic because it can lead to an inaccurate analysis of events in a country and thereby inappropriate or ineffective solutions.
To prevent or mitigate democratic backsliding, policymakers need a definition of the concept that captures its multi-dimensional nature. It must include the actors responsible for the democratic erosion, the groups imperiled by it, as well as the allies who can help reverse the worst effects of backsliding.
To address this gap, the International Republican Institute developed a conceptual framework to help practitioners and policymakers more precisely define and analyze how democratic backsliding (or “closing democratic space”) is transpiring and then devise foreign assistance programs to combat it. Shifting away from broad generalizations that a country is moving forward or backward vis-à-vis democracy—which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to derive specific solutions—the framework breaks closing democratic space into six distinct, and sometimes interrelated, subsectors or “spaces.”
Political/Electoral: Encompasses the arena for political competition and the ability of citizens to hold their government accountable through elections. Examples of closing political or electoral space range from fraudulent election processes and the arrest or harassment of political leaders to burdensome administrative barriers to political party registration or campaigning.
Economic: Refers to the relationship between a country’s economic market structure, including access and regulation, and political competition. Examples of closing economic space include selective or politically motivated audits or distribution of government licenses, contracts, or tax benefits.
Civic/Associational: Describes the space where citizens meet to discuss and/or advocate for issues, needs, and priorities outside the purview of the government. Examples of closing civic or associational space include harassment or co-optation of civic actors or civil society organizations and administrative barriers designed to hamper civil society organizations’ goals including limiting or making it arduous to access resources.
Informational: Captures the venues that afford citizens the opportunity to learn about government performance or hold elected leaders to account, including the media environment and the digital realm. h. Examples of closing informational space consist of laws criminalizing online speech or activity, restrictions on accessing the internet or applications, censorship (including self-censorship), and editorial pressure or harassment of journalists.
Individual: Encapsulates the space where individuals, including public intellectuals, academics, artists, and cultural leaders– including those traditionally marginalized based on religious, ethnicity, language, or sexual orientation–can exercise basic freedoms related to speech, property, movement, and equality under the law. Common tactics of closing individual space include formal and informal restrictions on basic rights to assemble, protest, or otherwise exercise free speech; censorship, surveillance, or harassment of cultural figures or those critical of government actions; and scapegoating or harassing identity groups.
Governing: Comprises the role of state institutions, at all levels, within political processes. Typical instances of closing the governing space include partisan control of government entities such as courts, election commissions, security services, regulatory bodies; informal control of such governing bodies through nepotism or patronage networks; and legal changes that weaken the balance of powers in favor of the executive branch.
Examining democratic backsliding through this framework forces practitioners and policymakers to more precisely identify how and where democratic space is closing and who is affected. This enhanced understanding enables officials to craft more targeted interventions.
For example, analysts were quick to note Myanmar’s swift about-face toward autocracy. This might be true, but how does this high-level generalization help craft an effective policy and foreign aid response, beyond emphasizing a need to target funds on strengthening democracy to reverse the trend? In short, it does not. If practitioners and policymakers had dissected Myanmar’s backsliding using the six-part framework, it would have highlighted specific opportunities for intervention. This systematic analysis reveals the regime has closed civic space, via forbidding large gatherings, as well as the information space, by outlawing online exchanges and unsanctioned news, even suspending most television broadcasts. One could easily populate the other four spaces with recent examples, as well.
Immediately, we see how this exercise leads to more targeted interventions—support to keep news outlets operating, for example, via software the government cannot hack—that, collectively, can help slow backsliding. Using the framework also compels practitioners and policymakers to consider where there might be spillover—closing in one space that might bleed into another space—and what should be done to mitigate further closing.
Finally, using this framework to examine the strength of Myanmar’s democratic institutions and norms prior to the February coup d’etat may have revealed shortcomings that, if addressed, could have slowed or lessened the impact of the sudden democratic decline. For example, the high-profile arrest of journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo in December 2017 was a significant signal that Myanmar’s information space was closing. Laws or actions to increase protections for journalists and media outlets, could have strengthened the media environment prior to the coup, making it more difficult for the military to close the information space.
A more precise diagnosis of the problem of democratic backsliding is the first step in crafting more effective and efficient solutions. This framework provides practitioners and policymakers a practical way to more thoroughly examine closing space situations and design holistic policies and interventions that address both the immediate challenge and longer-term issue of maintaining and growing democratic gains globally.
Authentic Justice Thus Everlasting Peace: Because We Are One
The ceasefire in the Israeli-Palestine conflict is a good thing. We thank God for it. Be it between two individuals or institutions or nations or the internal colonial and colonized, war does not do anything except cause more immediate or future mass misery and human destruction. Our continued memories of our interpersonal and international and internal colonial and civil wars and the memorials we erect to remember them recall and record wounds and pains we never get over.
So it becomes a bothersome puzzle as to why we human beings still just don’t get that war like oppression leads to nowhere except to more human devastation. And we should have learned by now but have not that peacemaking like ceasefires mean nothing without justice.
It is the reason why I constantly find myself correcting those who stress Peace and Justice.No Justice No Peace is more than a cliche.It is real politic emotionally, economically, socially, and spiritually.
Our American inner cities like those in every continent where culturally different and similar people live cramped impoverished lives and nations and colonial enclaves with such unequal wealth remind us of their continued explosive potentialities when peace is once again declared but with no justice.Everyone deserves a decent quality of life which not only includes material necessities but more importantly emotional and spiritual freedoms and other liberations.Not just the victors who conquer and rule and not just the rich and otherwise privileged.
And until such justices are assured to everyone peacemaking is merely a bandaid on cancerous societal or International conflictual soars which come to only benefit those who profit from wars which are bound to come around again when there is no justice and thus peace such as family destroying divorce lawyers, blood hungry media to sell more subscriptions , arms dealers to sell more murderous technologies, politicians needing votes so start and prolong wars, and military men and women seeking promotion while practicing their killing capacities.
So if those of us who devoutly practice our faiths or our golden moral principles, let us say always and pray and advocate justice and peace always as a vital public good and do justice then lasting peace in our personal lives and insist that national leaders, our own and others do the same in their conduct of international affairs and affairs with those who are stateless in this global world.
All such pleading is essential since we are all brothers and sisters in the eyes of God who created all of us in God’s image as one humanity out of everlasting divine love for all of us so we should love each other as God loves all of us leading to desiring justice and thus lasting peace for each and every one of us.
This is difficult for those in international affairs to understand who take more conventional secular approaches to historical and contemporary justice and peace challenges as if our universal spiritual connectivennes ( not to be confused with the vast diversity of organized religions)as human beings which makes us all brothers and sisters has no relevance. But if we are going to find true enduring peace we have no alternative but to turn our backs on increasingly useless secular methods which go either way, stressing peace then justice or justice then peace and understand how much we must begin to explore and implement approaches which we look at each other as spiritually connected brothers and sisters in which it is the expectation that peace only comes and lasts when through the equal enjoyment of justices for every human being, we restore our universal kindred rooted in the everlasting love of God and thus for each other, no matter the different ways in which we define God or positive moral principles which originate in understandings that we human beings in all our diversities are one and thus brothers and sisters.
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