Politics

The decline of democracy

Worldwide, democracy and global freedom have been declining since 2006. The COVID-19 pandemic made things worse, with many leaders choosing to use authoritarian measures to contain the virus. It was difficult for the opposition to protest the measures because they weren't allowed to gather in groups.

But the trend towards dictatorship began long before the pandemic. The decline is not just happening in nations with authoritarian governments, but even long-standing democracies have suffered. In 2020, nearly 75% of the world’s population lived in a country where democracy deteriorated. The United States, which has long stood as an icon of democratic values, is becoming so divided that the government can barely function. The 2020 election results were challenged, ending up in an attack on the Capitol building itself.

Look at this graph from Freedom House showing the democracy gap since 2005. Interpret and discuss it with your teacher.

Freedom of the press in Minecraft

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has created the Minecraft world, "Uncensored Library", to make censored journalism available to all. The library contains hundreds of articles by journalists around the world that have been banned in their own countries.

According to RSF, nearly half the world still has no access to a free press. In many countries, journalists are imprisoned for speaking critically of the government. In other places, just a few media organizations control the publication of information. Under these conditions, propaganda easily takes the place of news. But for democracy to work, people must know the truth.

Opinion: Critical thinking needed!

This opinion is a rant—a passionate, typically angry, speech or piece of writing about one particular topic.

This rant is about American anti-maskers—people who are opposed to wearing a face mask during the coronavirus outbreak. 

Take a deep breath and try to read as emphatically as you can.

"I can't stand it! These people who won't wear masks even though all the medical science says it helps prevent the spread of COVID-19. I hope all the anti-maskers have never taken meds for anything, or know anyone who has. That includes blood pressure meds, insulin, asthma inhalers, allergy medicine, pain relievers, eye drops—heck, even bandaids! What do they put on a cut? Natural remedies like moss and honey? I highly doubt it. So they're either totally ignorant, or total hypocrites.

Changing the role of the police

As Black Lives Matter protests have swept America, one of the many calls has been to change the role of the police. One complaint has been that police officers often use excessive force when subtle methods would be more beneficial. A few specific ideas have been put forward. 

First, specialized nonviolent officers could be trained to deal with nonviolent issues. One simple proposal is for traffic police to be unarmed and trained in resolving conflict on the roads. In America in 2015, 50 million people came into contact with the police. Of them 25 million were pulled over in a car, and another 8 million were involved in a car accident. 

Other ideas include mental health workers to deal with mental health concerns, or community mediators to handle conflict resolution between people who live in the same community. A further idea is for communities to police themselves—officers would live locally and have a relationship with the people they protect. 

The issue of universal basic income

The idea of universal basic income (UBI) has been gaining steam around the world. A Japanese billionaire and an American presidential candidate, among others, have both thrown their weight behind it.

The concept is simple: the government provides unconditional money to their citizens. The theory is that in order to provide basic services for all citizens and to stimulate the economy, a small amount of money can be given to each person, equally. 

In the United States, presidential candidate Andrew Yang has even given away $12,000 to a random Twitter follower. In his plan, each adult would receive that amount of money every year. Yang argues people will continue working, even with UBI. $12,000 a year is barely enough to live on in many places and certainly not enough to afford much in the way of experiences or advancement. To get ahead meaningfully, people will still need to get out there and work.

Young people demand a better future

On Friday, September 22, millions of young people around the globe walked out of school to protest the lack of action to reverse climate change. Led by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, teenagers, children, and some adults added their voices to an ever-growing movement to hold governments and corporations accountable for their environmental destruction and demand that they make immediate changes to reverse the damage. A week later, more strikes drew similar crowds, some even larger. In New Zealand, an unprecedented 3.5% of the population took to the streets.

Does the Internet help democracy?

A lot of people thought the internet would help democratize the world.

More people and groups would have access to information, and the ability to mobilize from the ground up would gradually undermine concentrations of power—that was the idea, at least.

But the reality has been quite different: Instead of democratizing the world, the internet has destabilized it, creating new cleavages and reinforcing the power structure at the same time.

This is the story sociologist Jen Schradie tells in her new book The Revolution That Wasn’t. Schradie argues that technology is not only failing to level the playing field for activists, it’s actually making things worse by “creating a digital activism gap.” The differences in power and organization, she says, have undercut working-class movements and bolstered authoritarian groups.

Japan and EU sign free trade deal

The European Union and Japan signed a monumental trade deal in, July 2018, eliminating nearly all tariffs between the entities in one of the world’s largest free-trade deals. The pact, signed in Tokyo, covers a third of the global economy.

The agreement is in stark contrast to President Donald Trump’s trade war and alignment with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Although the leaders didn’t mention him by name, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and EU leaders Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker distanced themselves from Trump’s tactics in a press conference following the deal.

“Politically, it’s a light in the increasing darkness of international politics,” European Council President Tusk said of the deal. “We are sending a clear message that you can count on us. We are predictable – both Japan and [the] EU – predictable and responsible and will come to the defense of a world order based on rules, freedom and transparency and common sense.”

India faces water crisis

India is facing its worst-ever water crisis, a new report by a government advisory body has warned. The comprehensive study on the state of India's water warned of conflict and other related threats, including food security risks, unless actions are taken to restore water bodies.

Currently, about 600 million Indians are facing high to extreme stress over water. Ninety cities in India do not have enough clean drinking water now to sustain their populace. More than 20 cities, including New Delhi, Bengaluru and Chennai, will run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting 100 million people. Around 40 percent of the population will have no access to clean drinking water by 2030. 

The water crisis could also aggravate political tensions in the region. Eleven Indian states are locked in major disputes over river water-sharing. Scores of people have died in violent protests over a river water dispute between two southern Indian states.