Are we Losing Hope in Democracy?

In theory, it’s a great idea. We all join in and decide who we’d like to govern us. We get the leadership we ask for. But recent elections see Europeans biting their nails at the same time that the constant onslaught of “sad” news from the White House makes us lose hope in democracy.

A decade ago, we were still celebrating the democratizing force of the Internet and now we fear that Facebook may have played a central role in warping our public debate.

Growing up in the U.S., I was taught that democracy was the greatest system of government in the world. At university, the term took on greater theoretical depths: a constructivist system, inherently flawed, based on the principle of the majority rule. After all, look at the majority. What do they know?

But when Election Day comes, that’s not what I think about. In fact, all too often, most of us are not thinking at all. We’re feeling. Thomas Mann gave a lecture in 1938 entitled “The Coming Victory of Democracy”. In it, he said democracy was the only system built on respect for the infinite dignity of each individual, on each person’s striving for freedom, justice and truth.

It encourages everyone to make the best of their capacities. It’s our moral responsibility to do our best.

So to start 2018 out right, we spoke to the man leading Vienna through the 100-year anniversary of the Austrian Republic, former president Heinz Fischer. And to further honor the occasion, Metropole is launching a series of profiles and reportage on the 9 countries that became independent after the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

In Austria, consensus is the key to political culture, which we outlined with all its resilience and Verhaberung in the Cover Story. But politics doesn’t only take place in Parliament and we examined how Austria channeled a more American approach in the last election when big data became both a tool for and a threat to civic democracy.

One of the key elements tipping the scales in recent elections has been the social media monopolist Facebook. One of its first investors, Roger McNamee, outlined for Metropole how the platform distorts elections and proposed ways to fix it. Most of those who create Metropole and those who read it can’t vote in Austria. Nevertheless we participate, and for newcomers, we’ve outlined the ways in our How To article.

On that note, we introduce you to four Viennese personalities who work for the public interest, as educators, software developers, in a museum and in Parliament. To give you the best tools to drink up Viennese culture this February, we’ve compiled a choice selection of delectables in arts and entertainment, as well as some new and treasured food & drink offerings in town.

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Maggie Childs
Margaret (Maggie) Childs is the CEO and Publisher of METROPOLE. Originally from New York, Vienna has been her home since high school. She is known for non-stop enthusiasm, talking too fast, inhaling coffee and being a board member of AustrianStartups, where she helps entrepreneurs internationalize. Follow her on Instagram @maggie_childs and twitter @mtmchilds.

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