Disappointment and illusions in democratic life

Politics has become a spectacle that requires a new criticality on the part of everyone


Great disappointments arise from great illusions. The word “illusion” has, as is evident, a double meaning: it can mean a beautiful aspirational ideal or a mere mirage. Living inside a mirage seems somewhat aberrant. However, social sciences constantly give us reasons to suspect that mirages are much more common than we usually think.

The set of certainties uncritically accepted by a person or a society is usually enormous. How many ardently defended convictions emerge from certainties that have never been verified by reason! I do not wish to invite the kind reader to universal skepticism. On the contrary, aware that fiction and even self-deception are phenomena that tend to be common, it is necessary to make a constant effort to settle into reality. Without this somewhat ascetic work, our entire being easily settles into illusions that are, to a large extent, evasion and comfort.

Why does reality fail to maintain our tension and attention? Why is illusion and simplification more palatable to us? At other times, the answer to these questions required a long explanation. Nowadays, it is easier to get to the bottom of the matter: we have become accustomed to living amid various fictions because reality demands decisive and uncomfortable commitments from us. Commitments that force us to change our lives. The current reality, plagued by violence, ideologies, and hypocrisies, invites a type of free response that entails not only a certain courage but mainly accompaniment, involvement, and persevering and sincere solidarity with those who suffer the most.

The electoral processes in Mexico, in Latin America, and in many parts of the world, have become a scene of promises, “acts of faith” (secular), and illusions. It is not strange that, during election time, many of us cancel critical judgment and join the democratic illusion with which we feel most comfortable. The important thing is, once the fantasy is over, return to reality and review: What have we learned? What did the staging teach us? Where are the truth and good after so many words and disqualifications? Who are those who invite me to radicalize, to remain in the world of simplifications and maximalisms? Who, on the contrary, call me to embrace complexity and call for my reason and my heart to mature in their criticality, in their freedom and in their responsibility for everyone, especially for the last?

Returning to reality will not prevent us from diving into the brand-new world of illusions from time to time, but it will help us recognize them more in their truth: a narrative inhabited by belligerent slogans, reductive ideologies and boasting. To do this, it is necessary for my self to carry out that healthy critical distancing that helps us to be free, persevering and capable of rediscovering the reasons for Hope and for democracy. Only in this way can we avoid both easy discouragement and irresponsible fanatical radicalization.