08 Sep

Ivan Krastev: Can democracy exist without trust?

This week in Toronto, there was an interesting controversy that had occurred involving its mayor.  More specifically, he was in court regarding a conflict of interest matter and there is a very real possibility that he may be forced to resign.

Now something like this occurring to those in political office, is not exactly a ‘new’.  However, with the way media portrays politics, it seems to be something is becoming all too common.

Which brings us to this TED Talk, delivered poignantly by the surprisingly charismatic Ivan Krastev.


Date Filmed: June 2012

Length: 14 minutes, 5 seconds

Total Views so far: 180,504

One Sentence Summary: “Democracy has become successful and what made it work, also makes it broken.”

 Krastev starts off with a pretty good joke regarding Bulgarians, I don’t know if its true but its memorable.  I do not know if it is true in regards to being pessimistic but I think I’ve found a new association on gloomy Mondays.

(btw, Mondays are not depressing.  Link:  Ignore the musical introduction, its a real video, not a monday-roll)

Krastev segues quickly to what could be the protest for the common person.  To appear to vote and to purposely vote for no one in protest of a lack of candidates, is absolutely a brilliant action as it ‘in theory’ shows a majority of protest.  (Although I would imagine that these would be considered to be invalid votes and ignored, but this is a complete guess.  The book Krastev mentions this belongs to is ‘Seeing’ by Jose Saramago sounds like something worth checking out.)

What I find rather fascinating about this talk most, is that Krastev states right at the beginning that he is not giving answers or solutions to the quandaries that he brings up.  So what is this?  Modern political philosophy?

Modern day music, more than ever nowadays, has a lot of spoken words but what they “speak” is actually very little.  This was not always the case, there was a time when music created a generation, when music represented a protest and opinion to the world around it.  Ironically, this is also during the time of when Krastev mentions the power of protest at that time.

One of the most beautiful things about this talk is that it, in parallel with certain music,  says many funny and sometimes observant things and at the same time, Krastev is saying nothing at all.

Unfortunately, this is a sign of the times that we live in.  The ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protest is plagued with having too many different groups each demanding multiple objectives that aren’t related to each other.  However, they do state one clear objective, and that there is indeed a great deal of mistrust that exists.

What about democracy? 

With voting turn out occurring at around 56% for America and 60% for Canada, these numbers definitely are not the 99% of the country.  So I can quickly agree with why Krastev says there are many who simply choose to ‘not play the game’.  (The other possible hyperbole/truth that Krastev says regarding the fall of communism creating the imbalance of power hierarchy runs down a line of thought that is incredibly deep.  It’s just a few statements, but it would require so much additional research that I both accept and disregard it at that the same time.) 

Maybe I simply have mistrust.

Could this be the era of mistrust?  Time magazine said that this might be time of Protest but mistrust might be a better description.

People do not believe playing the stock market is the way to become rich because of a severe lack of faith that it will not crash.  People do not trust banks’ intentions after hearing about bailouts versus executive bonuses.  There is a lack of trust of mainstream media about which stories are given light versus those that are omitted.  People mistrust whether gasoline prices should be jumping up and down every day.  There seems to be a great deal of mistrust happening all over the place.

Mistrust is actually quite healthy.  The cost of freedom is self vigilance and that begins by not relying on mechanisms that are invisible.  Automation today should be about the ability to enact our decision making, not creating blind processes so that we ignore them.

(This is quickly turning into one of my favorite TED Talks btw)

At the three quarter point, the talk turns toward a natural solution of mistrust and that is open transparency. 

Have you ever seen cockroaches when you turn on the light?  They do two things.  First, they freeze and then they scatter.  In an eerily similar description, Krastev mentions that the transparency of government meetings causes a pseudo paralysis of officials as it becomes readily apparent when one strays from the flock in opinion.

And they will remain paralyzed until some invisible tipping point occurs and then there will be scattering and possibly a large boot. 

Another interesting point is that the need for transparency is an issue that is talked frequently in regards to the internet.  There are many TED Talks devoted to this topic, so I will save that for another evening.

Just a couple things I also noticed..

5:32, the cold war involved two old guys kissing?

6 minutes in, that brain science diagram looks like witchcraft.

So now what?

Unfortunately, these questions are part of the system it belongs to.  In order for the democracy to exist, there needs to be this sort of questioning to follow along.

Note1: It is amazing that hear the reminder that democracy is about the right to decide.  And that deciding, is something that changes due to discussion and additional information.  It is thus equally startling that people are identified based upon who they last voted for.

Last I checked, I didn’t vote for that.  I don’t trust it.


-Updated every Friday

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Posted by on September 8, 2012 in Uncategorized



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