Monday, 5 March 2018
Another week, another round of Brexit, the fantasy rise of the far right, the deification of the NHS and many pointless exchanges between people whose moral and intellectual vantage points are so disparate that seeing eye to eye would involve scaffolding. Honestly, it’s amazing we can even approach concord on anything at all. Oh, sure we all want peace and love, man, but why do we have to disagree so much on who we have to butcher to achieve it? And who gets to call the shots?
I was viciously mauled on Twitter by somebody calling themselves a ‘democratic socialist’ for not agreeing that every bad thing in the land was the fault of the Tories and that Jeremy Corbyn would change all of human history when he ascended to his holy throne. ‘Viciously mauled’ is, of course, code for ‘called a racist/sexist/all-purpose-bigot’ by somebody with no other weapons. Apt because, as is by now well-established, socialism doesn’t coexist comfortably with democracy and changing history is a fairly straightforward process when you have access to all the books, including one full of matches.
Democracy is an interesting notion; everybody applauds it when the vote goes their way, but denounces it when it doesn’t. So far, so very human, but what’s the alternative? And how do we decide what is and what isn’t democracy? For instance, here in the UK we have what we refer to as Parliamentary Democracy which means we have a periodic electoral bun fight and then the party with the most members of Parliament gets to ignore the people who put it in power. Being British we put up with this because we know our place.
Supposedly, we elect individual members who best support our interests as a constituency, but in reality we tend to vote for the party we think is most on our side. We do this from a low-information base and then we look on with horror and incomprehension as they then administer the power we gave them in ‘the wrong way’. No truly representative sample of voters, from any party, voted for the social changes wrought over the last two decades. So instead a minority ideology was unimpeded in paving the way for the closest thing to actually asking the demos we have ever had; the referendum.
A clear majority, albeit a small one, voted for a course of action. But the losing side insist on believing that every abstention is a tacit vote against the result; or that the votes of people yet to be born should be taken into account, because, of course, it’s their future as much as it ours. By that measure a massive majority did not vote for the motion and therefore must have voted against. Turning that argument on its head, of course, an even larger majority must have not voted against the motion and must, therefore... oh, you get the point.
But we don’t need to tot up imaginary votes to see the contradictions of democracy; it seems that even then you only include actual ballots cast you can end up with undesirable outcomes. As I write this, exit polls have the Italian 5 Star movement set to gain the largest vote share and thus an opportunity to control the make-up of the next government. But regardless of this election, what if, say, 40% voted for one party and 30% each voted for another two? If neither minority party will work with the winners, they could join forces and form a joint majority, meaning that in effect the party that 70% did not vote for puts a Prime Minister in place.
Your vote counts... for nothing.
It is little wonder that nobody ends up happy. The politicians complain that the electorate doesn’t understand. The voters get to see their hopes betrayed. And ideological minorities get to shout with a far louder voice than they really possess. Democratic outcomes which don’t suit the politicos are denounced as ‘populist’ and therefore very, very stupid and before long you have the potential for revolution. If you are not going to have actual free and fair elections, with votes cast by a population educated and sufficiently informed of the consequences of their choices; and if you are then not going to respect the choices they make, I ask you: democracy, what’s the bloody point?