Checking Checks

Balancing Balances

Posted on January 12, 2017

Some changes surprise us (me and other people I imagine) as explosions. The arrival of an Uber shocked the taxi companies, and online sales made retail shops vulnerable almost overnight. Some changes crawl and slouch, edging towards unknown tipping points, nudged by less visible developments. Social media did not make TV obsolete, but redrew the network of agencies, which manufactured consent and channeled disagreements. Still deeper, under the radars of both mass and social media, changes in teaching minds and curing bodies (but also curing minds and teaching bodies) are taking place.

Two giant bureaucracies swim under our societies, visible, but not frequently branded as newsworthy. Meanwhile the new networks of new agencies stretch their arms, test their muscles, exercise and compete. New forms of schooling are tried and compared. New ways of educating from the age of four to the age of hundred appear and disappear as actors on a giant stage. European Union standardized higher education in Bolonia agreements. New ways of healing and protecting our health are tried and compared. New mixes of general medicine and specialist therapies are tested on children and senior citizens and everybody in-between. Obamacare is the case in point. Politics today are an all-in experience.

What emerges from all these processes, transformations, metamorphoses, often briefly lumped together under the label of changes? Well, one way of creating a road-map for a concerned citizen is to appeal to the democracy of knowledge, which prompts never-ending inquiries. Donald Trump had more electoral votes, but less ordinary individuals voted for him. Should the rules of the democratic elections in world’s number one democracy be redrawn? The established elites think so (Amartya Sen is the case in point). But the same oligarchic establishments dismiss ordinary citizens as populist mobs. And Donald Trump is blamed both for catering to populist sentiments of the lower classes and for being the most extravagant version of Warren Buffet. Democracy of knowledge should prevent us from believing Amartya Sen only because he is the Nobel prize winner. But democracy of political practice should also make us uneasy about the all-Republican White House, Capitol Hill and the Supreme Court.

Democracy, like knowledge, has to be reinvented, renegotiated and re-designed at all times, everywhere. Checks should be checked, balances - balanced.


Rotterdam, January 12, 2017