We are the generation who have been reared and educated in the ways of modern democracy. It is a fact of the 21st century! There is no getting around the fact that it is the only operable system in the world. This is what we have been taught. And many examples of other systems have been held up to the light to demonstrate this as evidence to support that fact. But what is democracy? Ahhhhh…I must have missed that lesson. Maybe it was taught on the same day as class photos were taken (I was almost never there that day…I had the flu…cough, cough…)
This is, of course, the 64 million dollar question isn’t it? Because the answer to the question of what constitutes a democracy depends entirely on whom you pose it to. I have no intention on embarking into a world civics lesson here, so suffice it to say that of the 100 or so ‘democracies’ existing in the world today, few if any of them share a common set of rules. Even those who call themselves by the same name, such as ‘republic’, don’t seem to resemble each other on a superficial examination of their M.O.’s. As a case in point we might like to compare the republics of, say, the United States of America with France. Pish, posh, you say! The important thing is that the population at large decides on who gets the vote. Let’s not open that can of worms for the moment. Let us, instead, look at the general feeling of this population towards the very people whom they have elected.
The trouble with all existing democracies is that we take them for granted as the solution to our problems rather than the beginning of a dialogue. This is where we err on the side of apathy. We complain that regardless of which crooks we put into office, they will screw us over anyway. There is, around the world, much evidence to support this sentiment and as a result, many, and in some countries you could even say most, voters will stay away from the polls. What difference can MY vote make? But of course the point of the exercise is to demonstrate the power of the mandate. And then there is the unavoidable campaigning. The process is such a bore and all together predictable. This candidate tells you how great things will be once he gets elected and the other tells you about all the bad things this guy did when he had the chance. Political parties line up in rows of people on the left opposing those on the right with a queue down the middle looking in both directions. In the end there is very little that distinguishes them from one another. How can an intelligent decision be made on the basis of looks, charisma or who has the loudest speaking voice?
Yes, it is a dilemma! But let’s pose ourselves a question. Now, be honest: Did I vote my true conscience in the last election? If your answer to yourself is ‘no’ or ‘not really’, then it might interest you to know that you will statistically fall into the category of half the voters in the world, regardless of which side you pick. The notable exception to this is anyone who voted fringe parties, such as ‘Green’ or ‘Nationalist’. Now, why would you suppose that fringe parties have a more dedicated following than established, main-stream ones? The answer is simple: people who vote fringe parties have no interest in forming governments but opt instead to ‘send a message’. In many cases around the globe, this has resulted in coalitions which have availed themselves of the few representatives of these parties to establish the balance of power and form governments. And in some cases, these earlier ‘fringe’ parties have outshined their major coalition partners to the extent that they were able to steer the ship of state at later stages. This is, in fact, the way that trends are begun.
Of course the majority of us are not interested in the fringes; we just don’t want our vote to be wasted. However, when you think about it, how can sending a message ever be considered wasteful? Suppose everyone would vote their conscience. Think about this for a while and you will soon realize that we might have to contend with dozens of tiny political parties with no one actually able to form a government on its own. And this would be a bad thing because no one single party’s policy would dominate and this might lead to new ideas at every turn. Hang on….wait just a minute…hmmm….WOW!!! That really is something to think about, isn’t it?
Political parties have a tendency to offer small incentives to the voters, in effect ‘buying’ their votes, knowing full-well that they are not expected (nor in most cases do they intend) to deliver on every promise they make. They are careful to point out the harmful effect your ‘incorrect’ vote will have vis-à-vis their NOT getting into power. ‘Don’t waste your vote’, ‘make your vote count’, they tell us. You know and I know that we are voting for this guy because we don’t like the last one; not because we like him but because he is the lesser of the evils available which has a chance of governing. However, when politicians get elected they tend not to interpret their victories as a sign of general discontent but rather as a full-blown endorsement of their person and position. After this point there is no room for discussion or compromise.
But suppose we began by establishing that a new group of people’s representatives are not intended to merely shove their preconceived ideas into law, but rather as your voice in discussions on how to solve the everyday problems of living in a modern society? They are there to be your voice in a dialogue, not to tell you what’s best for you. How would that be? Is there still a hint of democracy here? What do you think?
We really MUST stop telling ourselves that we waste our vote by voting our conscience!
The reason why is simple: WE are accountable for the state of the globe (affairs and environment) today! We are! You and I! It does not do to ‘blame’ the politicians. It is no excuse that we have elected a corrupt politician or judge or dog catcher. Politicians and governments are not entities unto themselves. They are meant to be responsible to every voter (not just those who elected them).
The issues of the world are complex but the causes are simple. Consider this and know it to be true: Countries and governments do not start wars! Countries do not pollute! Countries do not commit acts of terror or genocide! It is PEOPLE who do these things. Some of those people are elected but that does not absolve them of personal responsibility for their actions. Nor does it absolve you or me! Every single negative action in the world which contributes to war or destruction of the environment or human misery is the brain-child of one mind. It could just as well be yours!
I am not under the delusion that we can save the planet, but I know for sure that unless we make a start of it now future generations will not be able to harbour such an aspiration either.
Think very carefully before casting your next vote.