A democratic leader from the East Europe visited me recently. Our conversation was about how the current youth seem not interested in the "democracy" topic anymore, not as enthusiastic as the time when they signed the Charter 77. He is thinking of propagating democratic ideology from the universities, to resist the Communist black hand of Russia stretching toward East Europe, or, using the term by their friends in East Europe, the black hand of the KGB.
This black hand has not just helped Russia to restore a quasi-Communist government, in a way similar to the current Chinese Communist Party's autocratic rule. Its control and influence in the East European countries has also grown rapidly, more and more close to what it had under the former Soviet Union. Many anti-Communist democrats feel that the society has gone backwards, that the Communist Party was not defeated there; instead it was simply transformed into a new style Capitalist autocracy. Yet, behind this Capitalist autocracy are still the old Communist Party and the Lenin-Stalin style autocratic Communist system.
I always felt that the revolution of 1980's was not really successful, that the happy Westerners are too naive. In the past 2 decades, people's thought has just completed a circle. Our way of thinking when we were young - those democrats in China, as well as the East European dissidents such as Havel & Sakharov - was to worship the West: from its ideology to its political and economic strength. All were a part of Western democracy. We thought that the West was the only correct model; to copy the Western world would be to solve all the problems. This was not wrong at the time; it was a necessary way to oppose the Communist model.
However, the reality of the last two decades has inspired the people in a new way. The Western world did not help those people in the Communist countries build and strengthen a democratic social system. The West simply cheered that they had defeated their adversary and finished the Cold War. Instead, the Western world is most fond of the so-called "economic cooperation" with the Communist countries and former Communist countries, to make a lot of money. The efforts for the democratization of China and the building of democracy in the former Soviet Union and Eastern European countries are totally out of the interest scope of the Western countries. After the events that happened in both Georgia and the Ukraine, along with the weakened policy toward the Chinese Communists by G. W. Bush and Obama, people's disappointment in the Western democracy went over the critical point. Some thinkers and politicians in the West are also thinking the same: What are the problems of the Western democratic system? Is the Western democratic system going downhill?
So now the issue is not just limited to China, or East Europe, or Russia, but an issue of the world, and an issue of how a democratic social system is to develop. Just because the Communist Party in the former Soviet Union and East Europe collapsed, does not mean a diminishing of the Communist autocracy. The Communist countries such as China and Vietnam have successfully transformed into a new style autocracy of inclusion among "All the Capitalists of the World United". They have been more and more successfully forcing the Western countries to surrender themselves, and thus set up examples for all the autocratic countries in the world. The old style Western democracy has lost more and more of its model function, as well as lost its attraction to the people of the backwards countries.
I see many people within the democrats of the older generation, who are still buried in the ideology that they built when they were young, and insist on accepting the democratic ideas and democratic system of the West completely. But this thinking is already not enough; it is lagging behind the era. Just repeating those advanced thoughts of 30 years ago to today's youth will not likely convince them. The modern day Internet has greatly expanded young people's scope. These young people know sufficiently, unlike the time when we were young, when we knew little. The existing problems of this era are all in the scope of their interest.
From my own contacts with the younger generation, if we keep trying to talk about that old democracy theory to them as out of a textbook, they would give a snort of contempt. Most of them have already known these ideas, and they also know the problems of the older democratic system. What they are most interested in is exactly the fresh topic of this era.
This fresh topic is that the autocracy has turned itself from defense to offense and has been rising after its transformation. What method could the democratic countries have in dealing with that? Is the democratic system in decline? Could the democratic society turn around the trend of this decline? Will the older democratic system need its own transformation, etc.? In discussing these topics with the youth, they are very interested and very sensitive. These discussions exactly prove that the young people are not a generation without hope. Instead, we should entrust to the care of these youth.
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