How To Revive Democracy: With Authenticity, Empathy, and Rigorous Logic

Written on 2023-11-27 • conversation

The best antidote to a totalitarian “this is the decision, we have guns” is a transparent “this is the decision, this is why we made it”. I’ve seen far too little of that recently in Belgium, in Europe, and it scares me.

You cannot expect people who live in a world where information is instant, constant and without context to simply believe you because you were elected. You have to build trust 🤝

The way to build trust is to:

  1. be authentic;
  2. be empathetic;
  3. and follow rigorous logic.

We’ve all been in situations where one of these wasn’t present. It doesn’t feel right when someone follows rigorous logic that leads to the marginalisation of a group of people, does it? Or when someone is empathetic and authentic but adapts their logic to the situation that’s presented to them in the moment.

Plenty of leaders are stripped of authenticity. Most of their communication is half-empathetic at best. And there is definitely no more rigorous logic. Liberals vote pro privacy-reducing changes. Conservatives push for progressive legislation. And socialists are, apparently, racist but only when they’re drunk.

Solving the authenticity and empathy problems, seems hard. Most leaders are either authentic, or empathetic. And they are rarely both. Good examples of leaders who do cover both? Jacinda Ardern. Nelson Mandela. Sanna Marin.

The empathy/authenticity problems are getting more complex. Gen Z is all about authenticity. And they are growing up in some of the most turbulent times in recent history, so a healthy dose of empathy will help as well.

My point: this problem isn’t going anywhere.

Solutions? I’m not sure. Maybe we have become too sensitive to do the “bring your whole self to work” thing. Maybe the inspiring leaders of the next 100 years will be authentic and empathetic in a specific (avatar) version of themselves, in a specific context. Authenticity doesn’t necessarily mean that you have no filter. Empathy doesn’t necessarily mean that you zig-zag based on the case in front of you.

The political party affiliation seems an ancient relic that makes it harder to think this way. In Belgium, for example, I have no idea who to vote for anymore. There is no progressive+green+liberal-social view. It’s always either-or in a false dichotomy. Vote for anyone, and you always lose. I like your view on energy, but not on immigration. Help?

Then, the rigorous logic problem. Logic improves with critique. Science! In order to do that, the Belgian government could try to open source the logic behind their decisions. Expose us the backroom debate.

How? Write and comment. Don’t put experts and politicions in the same backroom. It renders the decision making process opaque. If you must, discuss it over video and record the discussion. What do I imagine it looks like? Maybe something like this.

That video is interesting for a couple of reasons, but mainly: it demystifies a process, it demystifies people and it opens up ideas for further debate.

People will say we already have this; we don’t. The only thing we see is the play-acting part of politics. And it is precisely this – with the risk of projecting my own views as truth – that I think people have had enough of. Everyone knows it’s a charade. Trust is at all-time lows. Elections are 51-49. Why perpetuate such a preposterous waste of human resources?

Without hyperbole, I believe that liberal democracies will take a nosedive if they fail to rebuild trust in the next 8 years. China already exports their model to more and more places, and it has me wondering… We can do better!

Yes. We can do better. Authenticity, empathy and rigorous logic will be key ingredients. And to get there, we might need to take a radically different, radically transparent road. Something only a liberal democracy can do. And then, we may just have a chance. 🤞🕊️

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