I was asked yesterday after my talk what’s the most important characteristic of democracy that is being eroded out of existence right now.
My answer is: the value of human life. The idea that an individual is valuable and that every human being is endowed with equal and inalienable rights is at the heart of the nation-state’s social contract with its citizens. Yes, it took a long time to include every individual and every group into this rights-based compact. But that doesn’t invalidate the revolutionary nature of this idea that only in the 1700s managed to migrate from Christianity to politics.
The neoliberal post-nation state has a very different view of human life. Not only aren’t individuals sacred, they are, for the most part, ‘human waste.’ Pesky, annoying, useless rubbish that needs to be pushed out of the way.
Immediately, policies arise that aim to dispose of this human waste. Deaths of despair, puberty blockers, state-imposed genital mutilation of unhappy adolescents, euthanasia of those who are inconveniently sad or not perfectly healthy. Identity politics where nobody is allowed to be an individual. You can only be a function, a blank slate where somebody else will write and rewrite a situationally useful story.
It is crucial that we look at all these policies as part of a whole and not a random collection of incomprehensible instances of weirdness. There is a method to this madness and we need to be very aware of it.