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It's a fact of human nature that when we get accustomed to the good things we have, we start taking them from granted and lose appreciation for them. It's not until we lose those good things that we realize how much we actually needed them, which is when we reacquire the appreciation that we should have always had in the first place.
Let's assume that a person owns a car, and has owned it for many, many years. This person has medium-to-low income, and hence the car is a quite valuable property for him. Then the car gets stolen, he reports this to the police, and after a few days the police finds the car and the thief. The car is completely undamaged, and is then returned to the owner.
This is where the curious thing happens: This person will, probably for many days, be a lot happier now than he was before the car was stolen. This is curious because, technically speaking, nothing has changed at all. His situation is exactly the same as before, he owns the exact same amount of property, and his life situation is exactly the same as before. Nevertheless, for a time he will be a lot happier than he was before.
Why is this so? The answer is simple: He gained appreciation for something good he had, which he had been taking for granted and thus was underappreciated. The realistic prospect of actually losing this good thing made him realize how much he appreciates it, and hence he is now happier about having this good thing.
This exact same phenomenon is happening at a global scale throughout Europe. And the good thing in this case is freedom (including things like freedom of speech) and democracy.
Freedom and democracy have been around way too long. The vast majority of people currently living in Europe have lived in free democracies their entire lives. Hence both freedom and democracy are being taken for granted, and there is no appreciation for them.
On the contrary, there is actually an ever-increasing ideology throughout Europe, not only among politicians and state leaders, but also among the media and many influential individuals, that seeks to limit freedom and democracy from what it has been and currently is. As more and more time passes, freedom and democracy are, as incredible as that may sound, seen as cursewords.
When you have a conversation with people about freedom, especially things like freedom of speech, someone will almost inevitably say something along the lines of "freedom of speech does not mean you can ..."
Naturally freedom of speech has never entitled people to do whatever they want. However, if you compare how people completed that sentence 20 years ago to how they complete it today, you will notice that what is covered and permissible by freedom of speech has significantly narrowed in these last 20 years. More and more things are being today added to the list of things "you can't do" regardless of freedom of speech, compared to 20 years ago.
Curiously, in many cases, in most countries, the actual law hasn't changed in the past 20 years. Only the interpretation of the law has. What was unpunishable by law 20 years ago may have become punishable today, even though the law has not changed. Today you can get fined or even jailtime for things that you could have said 20 years ago with impunity.
In today's Europe freedom of speech is a bad thing because it allows people to express the "wrong" opinions. And this is not just people getting offended by such opinions and whining on the media. This is people getting fined and even jailed for expressing such opinions, opinions which were protected by the constitution 20 years ago. Yes, this does actually happen, today, in Europe.
Likewise appreciation for democracy is plummeting rapidly among the same people who detest freedom of speech. The "problem" with democracy is that it allows citizens to vote for the "wrong" people, who have the "wrong" opinions.
There have been actual cases where international opinion (mainly inside Europe itself) has condemned voting practices inside a country or a city precisely because it allows the citizens to vote for the "wrong" things. (For example, Switzerland has been so criticized because of letting their citizens to decide by public vote whether to allow building minarets or not.) These types of examples have caused some politicians to, literally, express such incredible opinions as that "citizens should not be allowed to vote" (when dealing with such matters).
This trend is getting more and more common throughout Europe. Less and less things are subject to public opinion and public voting. More and more of existing public elections are being removed (or at the very least heavily criticized).
And no, this is not limited to things concerning subjects such as religion or immigration. For example, when the countries of the European Union voted for the new European constitution, how many of these countries actually had their citizens vote for it? From the 20 countries that have voted, only four had a public vote (two of which where only labeled as "consultative referendum", meaning that it was not binding).
I can't say for other countries, but at least in Finland the parliament did not ask nor listen to the citizens in any way or form when voting for this issue. Independent public polls showed a significant percentage of the citizens showing concerns about this European constitution. These concerns were not addressed satisfactorily, and the parliament vote was held completely regardless of them.
"Well, if your party is voting against your own opinion, then stop voting for it, and vote for someone else who has the same opinion as you."
That would work in theory (and is, in fact, the theory behind democracy). In practice it's much more complicated than that.
Citizens in Finland, and probably many other European countries, have been brainwashed to believe that:
Citizens are actually afraid to vote for that one party (in most countries there is always just one significant party that is radically opposite to all the others, very small and insignificant niche parties notwithstanding) even when that party has most of the same opinions as they have, while the "mainstream" parties have opinions they dislike. Even though they dislike and disagree with the "mainstream" parties, they still find it "safer" and more comfortable to vote for them nevertheless.
This is usually strengthened by the fact that all the other big parties will start a political war against that one party, denigrating it and making it look like a monster (Godwin's law will often come into play), trying to make citizens fear and hate that party like the plague.
This phenomenon in itself (all the big "mainstream" parties ganging up on that one single party that has radically opposing views and which they feel to be a real threat) is another symptom of the diminishing appreciation towards democracy in Europe.
The basic idea in a multi-party democracy is that citizens are offered diverse choices on how they want their country to be run. In practice, however, in modern-day Europe, in many of its countries, there are only two parties: The "mainstream" one, which constists namely of several big parties, and the single "opposite" party, which is denigrated and vilified. Radically dissenting opinions are not allowed, and any such opinion is shunned and shot down, if possible.
(Another big problem is that many people who strongly oppose the "mainstream" parties to the point of actually not voting for them, have the sadly detrimental attitude that they will not vote at all, as some kind of odd "protest" against the entire system. Hence they will not vote for the problems to be fixed either, hence perpetuating the problem.)
This, plus the fact that people have been brainwashed into believing that they can't really affect how their country is run by voting, is quickly running towards a direction where, perhaps some time in the future, voting is seen as useless and obsolete. Less and less things are being voted for by citizens nowadays. It's to be seen how far this trend will go.
Europe is currently in the stage where it doesn't appreciate what it has, but takes it for granted. Because it doesn't appreciate what it has, it will not protect what it has, either, because it doesn't feel any need to protect it. The time might come in the future when Europe will actually lose what it has. It won't be but then when the appreciation will come back. However, unlike with the car example, the "car" in this case might never be returned, but lost forever.
Many people call this kind of opinion "fear-mongering". This is, once again, a symptom of having lost appreciation for what one takes for granted.
People who accuse others of "fear-mongering" (when these show concerns about losing freedom and democracy) seem to somehow oddly think that freedom and democracy are not things that can be lost, at least not that easily.
Of course this couldn't be farther from the truth, and it's enough to look at history for this. In fact, it's the exact opposite: Freedom and democracy are really fragile things. Countries which have them have usually fought for them long and hard, paying a big price for them. Likewise countries during the history of humanity have very easily lost them very quickly, when not protected enough.
It is said that "those who forget history are doomed to repeat it". This is happening right now in Europe. If you want to call it "fear-mongering", then go ahead. I sincerely hope you are right and I am wrong, for the sake of everybody.
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