To provoke but also partly in belief, I used to say "All modesty is false modesty." Mostly what I meant was that the gesture of being modest also carried hidden benefit for the "modest" person, a certain touch of nobility and civility -- positive attributes on a person's lapel. But that was before social media elbowed its way into our lives and good manners. It was before dialogue, debate and constructive discussion left the school curriculum forever, replaced by a likes-driven social-media universe and totally unilateral exchange of useless sound bites. The very idea of evaluating the quality of an argument based on the number of random folks having clicked "Like" or how many "Followers" a person has, is pretty ludicrous science.
In those days, at least a handful of honest politicians joined the public service because they felt they wanted to participate in the larger discussion of how a country should be run, how it should reflect its population and how best to achieve constructive compromise and move forward. Compromise actually existed. It seems like the Stone Age now. In a "social-media" driven world, that capacity could still exist, of course, and indeed, if it weren't for algorithms designed for profit and addiction rather than credible discussion, things might be working BETTER with social media in place rather than worse. Unfortunately, those tools have been taken over by ideologues, not much interested in conversation and finding compromises, but in ramming their power-hungry ideals down other people's throat, in a permanent false narrative that this is what democracy is all about. A handful of ideologues punching people in the public square, led by a twelve-year-old desperately hungry for attention, is not really what the Ancient Greeks had in mind when they carefully pondered how to manage a society.
In the past 20 years, thanks to that extraordinary (not to say dangerous) bias oiling its way down the slippery slope, social media have managed to convince most people that much of the public establishment and governments in general are just corrupt, self-serving entities. That's not always false but largely speaking, in the eyes of the last couple of generations, the governing classes are useless, and at worst, they think, those old dudes should be overthrown. The important point here, of course, is that all faith has been lost in crucial democratic structures while much of the discussion has been reduced to the latest flash-mob that will "change the world", à la Greta. Good intentions deflected by cynics, impossible tantrum solutions that would cause more social unrest than they ever could imagine. When that well-meaning teenager appeared on the news this week, on the brink of tears, conflating the entire airline industry with deforestation and therefore, bat-and-pangolin-populations wandering aimlessly in human environments and "of course people using them for food" and "therefore" we have the COVID-19, both my eyebrows went straight up. Yes, indirectly, maybe, just maybe, over the past two centuries, petroleum, coal, cute animal relocations and all the rest, we've got problems, that's clear. World population has also increased a fair number since then. But it's not because we have been playing video games or shooting videos of ourselves for two months, that the "new world" will be built overnight, or by setting fire to everything that currently exists, and THAT ALL OF US have been using and enjoying.
And so the inevitable happens. When a massive ship, one as bulky and complex as the vessel of Democracy itself, tips over, it creates a gargantuan vacuum that sucks in much of the surrounding wildlife, smaller boats or just garbage floating nearby. And so it is that a lot of countries are going to find themselves with a colorful assortment of doorknobs, dipsticks, twits and incompetents, filling the void that formed when the vessel tipped over, and cynics decided simply to give up. People are going to get the leaders they deserve, after choosing everything -- love partners, cell phones, political parties, restaurants and good employers -- by clicking "Likes" for the past 10-15 years.
The last century was one of the most exciting ones that humanity had seen yet. Fasten your seatbelts, the present one is sure to be just as fascinating, in ways we probably cannot even yet imagine.