The French elections are a very worrying symptom of a grave illness that is spreading all over the world, but that has a powerful epicentre in Europe. A complete paradigm shift that has sparked the steep rise of populism, radicalism, irrational nationalism and the shocking collapse of the quality of the political elites.
It is the coincidence of some very toxic circumstances: a terrible economic and financial crisis; the rise of nationalism; the feeling of the middle classes that they are being left behind; socioeconomic uncertainty and political instability.
The political leadership in the world has deteriorated to a point of institutional implosion. No country is an exception, from the obvious cases of Spain, and Greece with their extreme Left wing populists; Italy and Five Stars; the UK with UKIP or Germany with AfD; or so many countries in the East of Europe where extreme Right wing parties are in the surge, or where even neo-Nazi ideology is creeping out of the dumpster of shame, fueled by radicalism, hatred, ignorance, bigotry and racism.
Even the North of Europe that claims to be the beacon of democracy is struck by this contagious and dangerous disease.
In France which has always been the home of rationality, a very solid political and administrative elite, with the “Grand Corps de d’état”, the elite corps of the French administration, has suffered a dramatic crumbling of the quality of its ruling elites.
The debates, albeit far better than in so many other countries, were of an exasperating lightness, on the fringe of frivolity. Political lightweights without proper CVs; experience; intellectual training; principles; values; vision; a roadmap for their countries or for Europe, or let alone the world. The political elites in Europe lack gravitas and auctoritas (authority).
Leadership is a quality that has all but disappeared and credibility seems to be a mythical creature that our forefathers told us that once roamed the political scene of our democracies. It seems very hard to believe today.
The result of the French election is very revealing, we all sighed in relief when an unknown, ill experienced, ambitious elite bureaucrat-turned-banker, with no known ideology won the first round of the French elections. It is obvious that Emmanuel Macron will be president of the Republic. But what happened to the De Gaulles, Pompidous, Mitterrands, Giscards, or the Chiracs of France?
Why do the people of greatest quality shy away from public service? Why do some of the best get passed by, shoved away or even kicked out? Why is Europe waging a suicidal bet on mediocrity, conventional wisdom, and a political correctness; that is more an oppressive ideology than a benign set of principles? In many countries which middle management of parties are taking over leadership, many come from nowhere and have no ideological or moral compass.
The answer is simple and profoundly disturbing: radicals need polarisation that can only be attained by manipulating their societies.
In the era of mass-information, education should be the king. In fact, what is happening is the opposite, our political systems have created the loopholes through which populism and extremism are conquering the souls of our societies, overwhelmed by manipulated information that seemed to serve the purposes of some elites and have ended up being their suicide pill.
The big question is: in view of what is happening on both side of the Atlantic, the rise of aggressive irresponsible and sometime violent populism, nationalism, geopolitical risks, and a very shaky economic recovery… are we doomed?
The future looks bleak, and the dangers that are concentrating at our very doorstep could spark conflict, mayhem and instability that could last for decades, even if in the surface things seem “normal”.
The situation desperately needs leaders, ideas, clear ideologies, principles, in the era of political mediocrity and moral inconsistency, and the extreme weakness of democratic ideologies that have been pushed to a corner of fear by the 21st Century bullies that are the offsprings of the monsters of the 20th Century.