Sunday, 4 May 2008

The myth of democracy

The local elections were on Thursday but I didn't vote.

I think I am the only member of the Diogenes Club that takes his cynicism to such an extreme. I am quite sure that some of my fellow Diogenarians would frown on my lack of public spiritedness. I can almost hear the tutting from some of the older more established members over their copies of the Times. After all we live in a democracy, don't we? Our fore-fathers died to give us the vote, didn't they? We are part of the enlightened free world, aren't we?

Well actually, no we don't, no they didn't and no we aren't.

I think the realization came upon me only a couple of years ago. Democracy is a myth. It is a fiction put out by a rather successful government marketing machine. The way I came to this conclusion was simple. I realized one day that really we have no say over anything that is done in our name. Whether it was insane road changes, crazy new education policies, tax laws, petrol rises, speed-trap cameras, planning laws, the siting of wind farms, the issuing of ID cards, internet controls, the extension of 42 day detention without charge, removal of the presumption of innocence, removal of the right not to be tried for the same crime twice, going to war with Iraq..... we have no say over anything. No one asks your opinion, no one takes your views into account. That's how it is in our democracy. We can't change any of these things even if we wanted to. All we can do is get rid of people several years too late, and replace them with people just as bad.

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the will of the people is the only authority for government. But the will of the people is never consulted except at a general election. It is what is called a representative democracy which means that it is the will of others that matters not the will of the people.

What our democracy amounts to is this. You get a chance to make one choice every five years between two or three parties that are almost indistinguishable. And that's it. That's the full extent of your democratic power. You can pick Conservative, Labour or Liberal (or some other less likely possibility) and that's the full size of it. In the States its even worse. You only have Republicans or Democrats to choose from.

You're not allowed to decide what happens yourself, you have to pass that power on to someone else to make all the decisions for you. But they never come back to you to ask what you want to happen. They just do what the party tells them to do.That means that whoever you vote for, the government wins every time.

The only opportunity for democratic choice happens in a referendum when the people are asked to express their will. But time and again these are promised and then refused. Take the EU. Entry into the EU required signature to the Maastrict Treaty. Most were against it. A referendum was refused. More recently the Labour Government promised a referendum on the recent Lisbon Treaty - the EU Constitution under another name. A referendum was refused, basically on the grounds that the people would have voted against it. And so they went ahead without the will of the people. What use is the vote when the will of the people is ignored? Voting is not an expression of power but an admission of powerlessness.

The fact that the technology now exist for everyone to have a say in the decision making process just make the situation less excusable. In the past representational democracy grew up because you couldn't physically fit millions into a simple voting structure that could be used on every decision made. But with the coming of the Internet that has all changed. It is now possible to easily consult every person about the introduction of every law. Should that wind farm be put in the centre of town? Should we build that motorway through that green belt? Should we go to war with Iraq? Or Iran? Well we can now all be consulted because the technology now makes it possible. But I will tell you something. It will never happen. Why? Because we do not live in a democracy. And the few will never give up their power to the many.

So I didn't vote last Thursday. Voting only keeps the charade in play. The game goes on. If nobody voted then the pretense would be over. So vote for nobody, for nobody represents you.

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