Democracy, an obligation for all Chileans

The closing of the campaign in favor of approving the new Chilean Constitution, this weekend in Valparaíso. Adriana Thomasa (EFE)

Next Sunday, September 4, Chileans will return to the polls to institutionally culminate a process that began on October 18, 2019 in the streets outside the established order.

Whatever the result, all of us who live in this country will have to do an introspective analysis, but also about the country we want to be.

It is a common place to say that Chile changed. Everything is always changing. Here, in the old continent and even in China, it is only the different speeds of change that sometimes confuse us.

It is true that Chile is not what it was 10 years ago, much less what it was 30 years ago. Demographic composition, large volumes of immigration (legal and otherwise), changes in GDP, systematic reduction of poverty, levels of education and health in OECD standard.

Many local intellectuals have written about these phenomena and their implications for our democratic system. Political scientists warned that in these 30 years of young democracy some of the key pieces of the political machine were in crisis. The parties the first. The court system. The Congress and its inbred way of rejuvenating itself. The citizen apathy that with the voluntariness of the vote was leaving public affairs only in the hands of incumbents. Others, perhaps more lucid, announced that the Chilean miracle of economic growth was leaving a trail of wounded along the way. But our drunken success in the rankings did not let us see that the gap in the distribution of wealth had embarrassing overtones. While some of us enjoyed the fruits of the thriving Chile, others were less lucky. Health, education, pensions, quality of life, in short, were abysmally different for some (few) and for the rest.

It is true that we were able to reduce poverty in such a way that we could be proud of the Chilean model. But, as always, the statistics showed what the speaker wants to show. Underneath, there was and is a reality of which we Chileans not only cannot be proud, but of which we rather have to be ashamed. It’s not about being self-flagellating. In almost everything, Chile is today a better country. The contradiction is that many Chileans neither feel nor believe it, despite the fact that the evidence is real and overwhelming.

I have dedicated my life to journalism. For 25 years I have been a privileged witness of the political events that have outlined our reality and I have had the opportunity to tell my compatriots on a daily basis the future of the country. Perhaps that is why I did not stop in time on a phenomenon that intellectuals and political scientists did not highlight in time to try to warn of the crisis that was coming.

Another of the republic’s institutions that began to creak and crumble was the traditional media. It is not the opportunity to refer to the causes. I would like to dwell for a second on the consequences.

If our role was to be the fourth power, if we really represented the reference point of our democracies, we should have attended in time that the debacle of traditional media at the hands of platforms and social networks would also have political consequences, but we did not see it. Many of the media, and some of my colleagues, embraced social networks as an instrument of marketing and personal vanity, thinking that the likes were a support for their work without understanding that they were more an echo of the frustration and anger contained in the masses than they could not find where to express their feelings and emotions.

The emergence of social networks and platforms as factotums of reality (also of morals and ethics) and transvestites of supposed media outlets have exacerbated the problem.

A large majority of citizens say they get information this way, when these are not media. They do not respond to the journalistic vocation, they have no method or rigor, without structure or editing, in short, without responsibility. Thus, the people, who are already incapable of distinguishing between one and the other, are neither informed nor capable of constructing a thesis of the reality of the country in which they live and rather go on reciting, repeating and vomiting their rage and burst that the platform’s algorithm exacerbates in search of more traffic and more clicks.

Less than a week before the exit plebiscite that will approve or reject the draft constitutional text that the Convention (yes, equal and diverse, but also immature, naive and messianic) proposed to the country, I lose my life, more than because of the electoral result , for the conviction that the traditional media have resigned our republican role and have given a space and role to social networks that I only hope is not too late to recover. Because when the foam of social effervescence subsides, politics will once again be everyone’s responsibility, and democracy an obligation for everyone; voters and elected officials and journalism and the media either we resume our place as guarantors of public processes or we end up fading in the deaf and vulgar echo of social networks and the platform of the day.

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Constance Santa Maria She is a Chilean journalist, she works for TVN and Radio Concierto.

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