THU 3 OCT 2013: At this time, Francis is meeting in Rome with his Council of Cardinals (Vatican G8) to explore the question: Is the Vatican broken?


The Vatican G8 are doing some deep and meaningful thinking. They are going to think outside the Vatican square because, as Pope, he has simply told them to do so. They will rethink the current government model of the tiny but ancient sovereign citystate. They will tear up the current constitution and start again.

What an extroardinary act of geo-political leadership! What a cue for other states around the world to do the same, on at least one level or another.

Indeed, maybe it’s time to ask the question: Is democracy broken?

Here in Australia from where I write there is a lot of dismay with Washington at present and there seems to be a new and rising disappointment in America in general. From my recent visits to the US I suppose it’s only a small reflection of what’s being felt around America, too.


Australia, for example, has been a long term ally of America and even looked to Washington for leadership in the past. But lately I have noticed a change of mood. Right now people here are worried about the effect that the US shutdown might have on our economy. Some people are even cancelling their trips to the US. It is an ongoing dinner-party/BBQ discussion of concern about the regularity with which Americans are shooting Americans. And the latest US threat to attack Syria worried many Australians as to whether we would be sucked into yet another war on the repeated but less-convincing threat of “weapons of mass destruction”. We are still recovering from Iraq.

Many compare the US with China and say things like “China seems to be running itself on a trend that is much better than the current one in the US” and “Is it possible that democracy is broken?” etc etc.


Personally, I’m old enough now to know that on the one hand periods of crisis do come and go. Some years, even decades, are better than others. Things can always get better. But, there are no guarantees. Very often they can get worse, too. Looking back over the past 50 years I’m personally not convinced that democracy is as good as we are told it is. My doubts began in the late 60s even as a young national service soldier in Vietnam.

The question, “Is democracy broken?” may be a very sensible question to ask. I’m not sure about the answer. I don’t think the past decade has been a great one for democracy in Australia, the UK and America. Especially, if you compare it to an obvious alternative like China.

I think the media has played a big role in all this.

From where I stand I think that one American, in particular, has done more to put a spanner in the works of democracy than any individual since democracy had its heyday after WW II.

That man is Rupert Murdoch. He started out, of course, as an Australian.

Although he’s trying hard, I cannot imagine that the leaders of China will allow him to do to them what the leaders of Australia, the UK and the US have allowed Murdoch to do to them in the past decade or so. To put it politely.

My observation is obviously not an argument to imitate China at all. China is on a journey of it’s own and clearly has a long way to go. However, would it not be valuable for us to see if we can escape from the negative and self-destructive trend of recent years and to design a much more positive and constructive future for ourselves?

I think the next decade will be a very interesting test to see whether democracy is as good as we tell ourselves it is. I think that the merchants of democracy will have an even harder job of selling and/or imposing it on their clients around the world. Especially in the Asia Pacific region of economic growth.

I think a form of cognocracy is emerging. A quite different bottom-up, wired and networked, market-driven, self-educating boardroom model will displace the old “send your representative to Washington” model of democracy. The traditional model may remain in place but it’s influence and effectiveness will be displaced.

Gallup-Poll-on-trends-in-trust-of-Politicians-and-American-peopleI don’t think people even trust their representatives as much as they once did. I think they probably trust each other more. Even their FB ‘friends’.

No-one can predict the future, of course, but I really don’t think it’s going to be business-as-usual in the Congress nor the Parliament.

My view is that for a long time it’s been in great disrepair. It’s seems to me dysfunctional and probably even unfixable.

But at least in today’s world we’ll all get to watch and share what happens in spectacular plasma-screen colour!