Populism - Weekendavisen (op ed by Kathrine Richter)

Michael Böos wrote a sobering remark in WA #44: that we must stop blaming populism for everything. Brexit, Le Pen and Lega have not arisen out of nothing, but in my view we may still talk of a form of “nothing” which have given rise to this type of politics. And it is found within ourselves.

It has been and still is a standard narrative that it’s “those in Bruxelles” who make life difficult for hard working national politicians. Only by removing this construct can we again be free to let our national politicians make the decisions – this has been the discourse, roughly speaking. And when we subscribe to this narrative about them and us, why should we be surprised that this sirene call in xenophobic minor key continues and even increases in strength?

If we have taken part in creating this dichotomy in society, by accepting these easily bought narrative about them and us, can we then also stop this division? How did we reach this point where demagoguery lead rebellions from the rostra of Facebook and Youtube appears the best way forward?

It is not populism as an external factor which alone is causing our current situation with an increasing right turn in European politics. It is the way politics is structured.
When one’s voice is not represented; when one does not feel that there is proper access to a democratic process; if you are bullied, not supported, then it is a matter of life and death to be heard when you finally have the chance. In that one election, for that one time, you don’t speak – you shout. You shout out of fear that the power of your voice is lost. They call it a protest vote. And this word should sound more alarm bells than it does.

So if we are to emerge on the other side of this political crises in Europe, we need fundamental changes. We need to embrace the subsidiary principle and work to ensure that local problems have local solutions and that global problems have European solutions.

It begins when we, the citizenry, take ourselves more seriously but also for those who wish to be politicians to listen to citizens as much as they listen to experts, so we can truly have the best solutions which serve the interests of the citizens.

As citizens in our commune, our region, our country and our Europe, we need to demand that our voices are not only heard during an election. The democratic process should not be held back like a dam, only to be released when the pressure is too great – democracy should be a continuous flow of facts and debates, which last more than five minutes. Not only do we need a critical and free media, who suffer no fear of financial retributions, we ourselves must be critical consumers who value our own time.

Sunday 11 November is the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. A sober day where the 11 o’clock silence can easily be forgotten at a playground or during a coffee order. And the peace? We take it for granted.

So has our European peace made us lazy democrats? I hope not, because 2019 offer many choices. I believe that we owe it to ourselves and to those, who do not yet get to vote but who will have to live with our choices that we begin to think constructively about our European future.

We are facing great challenges and in my opinion, we cannot handle these challenges without a strong EU, so let us discuss how we can help shape our European cooperation rather than break down the most efficient cooperation and the creator of peace in the history of the world.

Kathrine Richter, head of Volt Denmark

Op-ed published by Weekendadvisen.dk