For several days now I've spent time each day making a cursory search of the web for information about what the heck is going on with the riots in France (or across parts of Europe) and find little or nothing useful to me.
Today I went looking for riot info and, lo and behold, the first thing I found and which is interesting and useful to me (although in a way I didn't expect) was from Open Source Media (the Big Web Band Formerly Known As Pajamas Media).
While the article doesn't tell me much about events on the ground in France it does (in addition to providing some analysis of the political situation in Europe) highlight something about democracies and their citizens that has been a small burr under my saddle for a while. To try and get at the point, here are some excerpts from the OSM article:
"The whole Western world lacks leadership at the moment," said Guillaume Parmentier, director of the French Center on the United States. "I cannot see any leader who can seize the mantle of the EU and move it in this or that direction."While this assessment of "western leadership" may be more or less true it is the indicators that are siezed upon to make the case which "bother" me. The following are presented as evidence of lack of "strong leadership" among western democracies:
Chirac, 72, was politically humiliated in May when French voters rejected the proposed European constitution...Add to these the current US assessment, discussed here at YARGB, that US President Bush suffered a "defeat" or "vote of no confidence" when the Senate "ordered" him to provide some form of quarterly report about Iraq.
In Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair suffered a severe political blow last week when lawmakers rejected a detention-without-charge proposal in his anti-terrorism legislation _ the first major defeat of his premiership...
Granted this is a "media" analysis but I believe it is consistent with "masses" analysis. When some form of congress or parliament doesn't go along with something the "leader" requests or supports, it is seen as a "defeat" for the leader and an indicator of "weak leadership".
Isn't the whole point of representative democracy to keep the "leader" from always getting what he wants? Are items like this evidence of weak leadership or evidence of the strength of representative democracy?
If the "leader" doesn't always have things his way the media, and the citizenry, are very quick to declare his leadership "weak". Yet at the same time, if the leader isn't given a strong majority in the congress or parliament, or govern according to the latest "opinion polls", he's (or she) is declared "weak".
In Germany, a potentially fragile coalition government is taking power...To some degree we have both these issues here in the US; a "fragile coalition" within the Congress and "plummeted popularity" of the "leader".
Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi faces an election in April; his government's popularity has plummeted due in part to a sluggish economy...
It seems to me that we, the citizens, want the impossible. We want leaders who pander to our ever changing whims, opinions, and anxieties yet at the same time we want "strong" leaders who are never denied anything by the representatives we elect. We behave like children. We want Daddy to never deny us anything yet provide the strong guidance we need to grow up safely and well.
Yes, I'm just pissing and moaning. None of this is surprising. I just wish it weren't so danged relentless and ever present. We expect and demand way too much and we're ticked off when we get it and when we don't.