Civil democracy is a very powerful concept. It will change every individual, many organisations, and the culture of every society in the world. Of course, not Civil democracy alone – it has to go along with a cultural change that is already on its way and will need to proceed. But it is a necessary means to bring the powerful dynamics of our human mastering of our own fates into a stable setting.
Why is Civil democracy such a powerful concept? For the same reason that made representative democracy such a powerful concept a century ago: Because it offers an institutional setting in which individuals can enter responsibility for the collective. And for the reason that it avoids the specific cultural traps that limited representative democracy’s success story seventy and sixty years ago.
As mankind, we are at the end of eight thousand years of forced domination. About eight thousand years ago, a first man used a bronze sword to force acceptance of others to his will, and a era began that was marked by the difference between dominators and dominated, between kings and subjects. Over millenia, this concept was injust and cruel on one hand, but stable and productive on the other. Population density, division of labor, and interlinkage through exchange and externalities have however brought both this stability and this productivity to an end.
This general insight has been made already in the American and French revolutions almost a quarter of a millenium ago, and it led to the impressive success story of democracy between 1789 and 1989. In its specific form, it was however bound to a specific European culture of group affiliation. Consequently, it was much less successful outside of the realm of European culture, and it is not able to solve the environmental challenges we currently face – and finally, individualisation has changed even Western societies in a way that it does not longer work as it did.
Civil democracy annuls this restriction. It extends both the democratic promise and the democratic responsibility to the whole mankind, irrespective of their cultural background. Every individual that is willing to enter the common culture of collective responsibility is invited to participate.
This promise entails large demands. In binding us all into a common culture, we all have to bid farewell to some of our cultural exceptionalisms. People with Western cultural heritage have to finally accept that they do not longer reign the world. People with non-Western cultural heritage have to finally accept that many concepts do and will continue for the better to reign the world that have first developed in the West. On both sides, we are already acknowledged to these painful truths. But time and again, we are reluctant to let go our old images when it comes to specific realisations. Individual rights and responsibilities are valid for a number of non-Western peasant workers that exceeds the Western population. But these rights and responsibilities bear historical experiences that have been made in Western history but are applicable to mankind in general despite of cultural differences.
Civil democracy will change all our lives. It will make us more conscious for what we do, both as individuals and in our relations with others. It will do so by constantly reminding us of the constant responsibility we have for being able to hand over the world to our grandchildren. It constantly reminds us that there are collective decisions to be made, that these collective decisions rest on the individual decisions we make, and that we can influence them, even beyond our individual contribution to decision-making, by influencing others, together with others. We can join civil society organisations and serve as helpers to our fellow world citizens by providing them arguments, and as world citizens we can hear and weight and judge these arguments to come to our own conclusions and provide these conclusions. It will hence draw us out of fatalism. We can make a difference, and we need to make a difference.