That’s how the first article of the UNESCO Constitution defines educated people. Free from fear, superstition, ignorance and arrogance, and responsible, aware of their surroundings, willing to commit themselves to the present and future generations, but refusing to be deceived and distracted, preferring to act upon their own reflections. To be –as I have always insisted- full citizens and not subjects; actors rather than spectators.
In that regard, for years we have insisted on the importance of citizen participation for the consolidation of democracy, so that we can be taken into account not only by our votes in elections but also continually by our political leaders, since this is precisely the definition of true democracy: to continually take citizens’ opinions into account and not only when they cast their votes every X number of years. Vote, vote, certainly, to comply with the essential civic duty to ensure that parliaments and governments reflect the true will their citizens, without partisan impositions. But, above all, to gradually create a new type of citizen who can continually and finally express his opinions freely in cyberspace, without restraints.
For years we’ve seen this coming but, as usual, all indications were ignored. The impact of virtual participation should have alerted our political leaders and guided civil society, which was experiencing a new awakening of citizen power. But the former have been so preoccupied with the market crises and the latter overly distracted by the great media conglomerates that they didn’t realize that we now live in a new virtual world until the tidal wave arrived at their doors.
What’s been called an “Arab spring” or “Arabic democratic revolt” is in reality the commencement of a worldwide “spring”, a new beginning that must be peaceful, but that must ensure that the voice of the people is heard at the municipal, regional, national and international levels. Listen to them; understand them; take care of them…
Genuine democratic institutions –all power emanates from the people- should appreciate this new capacity for participation, so that parliamentary practice, the word, can serve as the basis for the other possible world to which we aspire… and that now is becoming a reality.
At the same time, on the planetary level a re-founded United Nations, with broad popular participation (“We, the Peoples”) and a Security Council with extended powers over the environment and economy, so that we may comply with our supreme commitment to all generations, leaving a worthy legacy to all of our descendents.
A virtual tidal wave… “free and responsible citizens”… serene but firm evolution through concrete and urgent action –eliminating the groups of plutocrats (G8, G20…), regulating financial flows and immediately shutting down tax havens; reestablishing solvent political action, preventing prevalence and harassment by the markets; social justice …. All of this will enable us to shortly overcome the present systemic crisis, so that –and it’s worth repeating- this will not only be an era of change but rather a change of era.