How to get out of the current crisis of democracy

Democracy atrophies itself, becomes a nominalism, a formality, loses representativeness, becomes disincarnated because it leaves the people out in their daily struggle for dignity, in the construction of their destiny” (Pope Francis).

How to counteract this decadence? Mario Toso – bishop of Faenza-Modigliana, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Magnificent Rector of the Salesian Pontifical University – explained it at the conference “At the heart of democracy” which directs us “Towards the 50th Social Week of Catholics in Italy” (21st February 2024, Forlimpopoli).

Today we live in a “liquid” context – fluid, precarious and vulnerable – overwhelmed by crises of different nature:

  • Social crisis, where fear and instability, social fragmentation and individualistic and libertarian feelings reign, there’s lack of stable and lasting bonds, points of reference and a strong connection with our community;
  • Climate crisis, for which global warming and climate alterations generate contrasting anomalous situations: from drought situations, which often cause fires, to hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons, with consequent floods;
  • Geopolitical crisis, with 59 wars going on in the world, with more than 2 billion people involved;
  • Migration crisis, for which Italy is incapable of managing the phenomenon (the two Permanence Centers for Repatriation (CPR) that will be opened in Albania under Italian financing are not an adequate way to welcome and manage migrants).

These crises are synonymous with the defeat of democracy. In the current situation, therefore, democracy is in deep crisis. There’s thus an urgent need to revitalize and reinvigorate it, so that the socio-political context can also revived. Participation is the starting point: democracy grows through participation, not only through the civil one, but also through political and party participation, supported by moral and spiritual life and the recognition of rights, duties and responsibilities. A participatory, substantial, deliberative, inclusive and representative democracy – as proposed in the Encyclical “Pacem in terris” by Pope John XXIII – and not of a populist and oligarchic nature.

We therefore need greater presence and commitment in politics. It’s important to re-evaluate political participation across parties; parties that must have plenty of confident people inside who work for the common good. If they lack instead of internal figures, they will not be authoritative at all but only irrelevant. For their significant presence in politics, the motto ‘unity is strength’ is the mantra to follow.

To nourish democracy on a political level, Msgr. Toso referred to the metaphor of the tree: civil society – the roots – must perpetually water the parties – the trunk -, which in turn feed the public institutions, that are the branches. If this nourishment of the parties is poor or even absent, democracy dries up.

Within the framework of an integral culture, fundamental for emerging from the crisis of democracy, it’s necessary to deal with the following challenges with a critical sense:

  1. the reduction of inequalities;
  2. the protection of the environment;
  3. the promotion of work for everybody;
  4. the urgency of world peace;
  5. the radical reform of international institutions.

Facing the issue of democracy today means facing a vital issue, especially to reevaluate our commitment to public and social coexistence and to reclaim democracy, because we are gradually losing it. We must strengthen the four pillars on which democracy is based, which are the same four pillars of peace – Freedom, Truth, Justice and Love – all interconnected and essential.

Today there’s the desire and need to restart a new democracy and the speaker Toso suggested a kind of recipe: starting from active participation in the common good also by young people, it’s essential to promote social responsibility, keep associations strong, listen to needs and desires of the people, also to reduce inequalities and achieve world peace. For a real democratic life in which everyone participates, we need to achieve mutual respect, listening, sharing, dialogue and collaboration, rediscovering the sense of community, brotherhood and union. It’s not easy but it’s possible and strongly necessary for our near future.

Lucia Valentini

Lucia Valentini è neolaureata in Comunicazione giornalistica, pubblica e d’impresa (laurea magistrale, Università di Bologna), Comunicazione e Giornalismo (master, Università Pegaso) e Scienze Internazionali e Diplomatiche (laurea triennale, Università di Bologna). Interessata alle questioni geo-sociali e politiche dei PVS e del Medio Oriente, ha partecipato all’International Summer School “Social-Political Conflicts of Modern Society” presso la Saint Petersburg Mining University (08/2019). Incuriosita dalle religioni e dalle criticità dei paesi in guerra, ha frequentato i corsi “Hinduism Through its Scriptures” (HarvardX, 04/2020) e “Terrorism and Counterterrorism” (GeorgetownX, 02/2022). Inoltre, grande passione per la lingua inglese e con qualche conoscenza della lingua russa e hindi.