Democracy in a de-civilizing age: The rise of shameless personal truths
Editors: Lilleker, D.
Journal: International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics
Publisher: Itellect Publishers
Shit, piss, fart, puke, burp, excrete, etc., repeat. This could easily be part of an art installation symbolizing a cultural turn to the base and vulgar, but it is not. This simply represents a list of bodily functions that have been increasingly hidden away, controlled and soothed through euphemism. It is illustrative of a 'civilizing process' witnessed since Medieval times, a process driven by value being placed on human sociality and a defining of self through our interactional relations with others. Indeed modern forms of democracy can be considered, in part, the result of us placing greater trust in the collective will, an acknowledgement that our own flit-are is intricately tied to that of our fellow citizen. However, in this conceptual article, we argue that contemporary notions of democracy, ontologically premised on the atomized individual as the legitimate social agent are themselves being destabilized. This disruption is due to a shift in our conception of 'self' that is both corroding the core pillars of our civilizing process and altering the nature of our engagement with democratic politics. In essence a contemporary self that is characterized as having narcissistic tendencies desensitizes our sociality and thus thresholds of embarrassment and shame rise. Consequently, we see our democratic rights but not our responsibilities; we engage in democracy primarily to assert and validate our way of living, our beliefs, our existence. Also, to compt further an oft-misused quote from Sartre, 'to hell with other people'. Such populist uses (perhaps misuses) of democratic processes undermine the very principles on which democracy is based: fairness, equality and the dignity of all human beings. 'Trumpism' and other forms of populist political outpourings that are marked by disinhibition, vulgarity and personal truths are the result of these cultural shifts. This article explores this cultural turn situating narcissistic individualism at the heart of the post-truth phenomenon.