Time to wake up and vote for new order

In 2018, individuals, grass root communities and civil society organisations rang social, environmental and democratic alarm bells yet again, by speaking up, protesting, demonstrating, supporting and forming new civic movements, or signing petitions. Their alerts are not new, nor are the lack of ambition to respond to them with the necessary urgency. Will 2019 be different? What needs to finally happen for the change to take place? A good start would be to stop “zapping”, and instead to be mindful, to challenge the current system and to start building a new frame for our society to thrive.

Scientific evidences published in 2018 confirmed that alarm signals turned to dark red regarding the state of our planet. The decisions that our leaders will take now are probably the most significant in the history of human kind. As many other warnings, these facts are reported by the media. We hear them, we read them – but the question is: are we listening and how do we react? Are we outraged? And for how long? Until this news is “zapped” away by another one item a few seconds later? Are our lives at stake, because our attention spans have been reduced to the length of a news bite? Because we are not paying enough attention? Because we are not mindful of our surroundings and the people around us? Some, like the amazing Greta Thunberg, believe that we would not be talking about anything else if we actually became fully conscious of the deadly consequences of human activities: “headlines, radio, newspaper – you would never read or hear anything else, as if there was a world war going on”. Powerful. True. Engaging? 2019 will tell and the demonstration of more than 12500 pupils and students in Brussels marching against climate change last weeks is a good sign that it will be!

Changes can only happen if all actors in our societies and at all levels realise what is at stake and act accordingly. And for those actions to have an impact, we need to shape them in the right frame. This means more than ever that we need to decrease the damaging environmental impact and to stop the social divide that feeds growing inequalities: in the last ten years, wealth has increasingly become concentred in the hands of a few and the number of billionaires has nearly doubled since the financial crisis. According to a report published by OXFAM this week , 26 richest people own same wealth as poorest half of humanity! The current system, which puts growth and competitiveness on top of every strategic agenda, is not working for the majority of the population. It is not sustainable, neither from social nor from an environmental perspective. Growing disconnects between people and their elected representatives are deeply rooted in this system, undermining our democracies.

We urgently need a burst of consciousness and civic responsibility. The domination of homo economicus in all aspects of life, with its promotion of individualism, has trapped our societies in a dead end. It’s time to create a new frame – a frame which puts the common good at the centre. This frame needs to be developed at European level and the upcoming European elections are an opportunity to get started. For this, citizens will have to ask fundamental questions and go to vote in their masses: in what kind of society do I want my loved ones and myself to live? What will I tell my children, when they ask why I knew and did nothing? Why did I vote for those who destroyed our planet? Why did I cast my ballot for those who did not put human rights and dignity at the heart of their priorities and instead cultivated violence and hatred? Why did I support those who were not truly engaged in building the fair and sustainable Europe that the generations that follow can live in?