2009/07/15

Our democracy evolves...

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The German population is aging in average and median - it's not a disaster, but an important change.


Some have predicted a clash of generations as the elders get a larger and larger share of the vote. Things like high pensions and deficit spending (effectively moving the burden of state expenses on the young) have been used as examples.
The results about this are mixed so far.

Instead, we've got a completely different trend; the elders don't understand the youth and their lifestyle and concerns.
This is no news, ABSOLUTELY NO NEWS. The ancient Greeks already wrote extant texts about this phenomenon.
It's also quite ridiculous because exactly the generation that got in trouble with conservative parents for their rock and Beatles music (born in the 40's and 50's) is now opposing the internet pop culture of the young German generation.

The 'young' Germans (I draw the line at about 35-40 years age for this purpose) seem to have found a tool to resist intolerant (and at times technology-incompetent) elder's politics.
The politicians who try to grab elder votes by representing their views seem to face more and more opposition.


The online petition against internet censorship addressed one concern of the young Germans that most elders didn't even understand. This petition got a record-breaking participation without being significantly supported by mainstream offline media.

Now there's another one. That's also against a pet project of intolerant conservative politicians (conservative, but not just CDU/CSU): Their campaign against violence in video games.
Their argumentation gets refuted by scientific experiments all the time, but they persist because the elder generation has its firm prejudices.
The new petition is only one week old and already reached the critical 50,000 signatures mark that forces the parliament committee to listen to the petition initiator.

American politicians are scared of nipples - German politicians are scared of guns. Even on screens.


The political parties attempt to wage their campaigns for the federal elections in the internet as well. The most conservative parties are apparently failing the worst in this terrain.
A new party - Piratenpartei - that focuses on fighting exactly against these conservative policies gets surprisingly much support (and a similar party won actually a seat in the European parliament in the Swedish elections).

I doubt that the new party will have a lasting impact. The new ability of grass-roots ad hoc mobilization of voters and future voters is much more impressive.

The German political world was similarly challenged by the environmental-friendly movement of the late 70's that eventually led to the establishment of a substantial green party.
The reaction of the established parties was to counter by adapting most of their messages, just a little bit weaker. The green party was kept small (typically five to little more than ten per cent of the vote) and German policies became more environmentally friendly.

That's a well-proven approach, probably introduced by Bismarck (a somewhat ruthless, but most likely the greatest German politician of all time) to German politics when he invented obligatory social insurances in response to the rise of socialists in the 19th century. The worker's life quality was raised, and the left was stopped in its advance.

Something like this may happen again - especially if some key politicians are much smarter than I usually assume.
The Piratenpartei may eventually be absorbed by the liberals, but the e-petition campaigns, the Piratenpartei and all the other resistance may have a lasting impact and may defeat the conservative populism/ignorance.

The new ability of near-spontaneous mobilization for e-petitions will most certainly last as well. The youth has (almost) no representatives in the parliament, in the top leadership of parties, in the boards of the public television stations, in church leadership and it lacks a lobby.
Nevertheless, its voice can now be heard.

It's the closest thing to a federal plebiscite we got.

Sven Ortmann
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2 comments:

  1. Maerchenwelt19 July 2009 12:22

    "Their campaign against violence in video games.
    Their argumentation gets rebuked by scientific experiments all the time, but they persist because the elder generation has its firm prejudices." S.O.

    Sorry, are you really free from prejudices ?
    Many studies support the theorie , that video games may aggravate propesity to violence, others don´t.
    There is no clear evidence, that video games are harmless.
    http://www2.uni-jena.de/svw/compsy/texte/FrindteObwexer.pdf

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  2. Aargh, wrong verb anyway. Fixed that.

    I don't think that we're in disagreement here.
    You consider the results as inconclusive while I say that inconclusive results are no scientific support.

    Add to it the often obvious lack of knowledge of those who agitate against "Killerspiele" and the fact that some of the most public critics have economic interests in their critic (like the filter software producer who doesn't identify himself as such in TV discussions).

    My personal experience on the topic showed me quite clearly that many older people have prejudices about these games. They know very little, but reject the stuff.

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