The Word Rabbit


This article was written on 20 Jan 2016, and is filled under Uncategorised.

No cheers for democracy

This post may well be illegal, if the words coming out of David Cameron’s mouth are to be believed, in which case, ‘meh’. I’ll happily answer any questions the police might like to pose to me and they can decide how much of a threat I am for making one simple statement: democracy, as it exists in the United Kingdom in 2016 is an absolute mountain of bollocks.

What elicits this comment is reading a section of Geert Mak’s latest book in which he emulates John Steinbeck by travelling around America. In one section, he ruminates on Graham Greene’s ‘The Quiet American,’ where the world-weary British journalist, Fowler, tells the idealistic young American of the title, Pyle, that the people of Indo-China simply want one day to be very much like the last, enough rice and a bearable life. The rest is just sophistry.

The reason why this is interesting is that Vietnam later went communist, perhaps not for an active belief in the ideology itself, but because it promised an improved standard of living compared to what had gone before, and the name, ‘communist’ didn’t carry the same fearful connotations as it did in the west. Greene’s Englishman was proved right by circumstance and Pyle looks to us like a pious fool whose values didn’t translate outside of his country.

Greene’s idea that people just want a quiet life has a ring of truth about it, as I think that is what may motivate many people who vote, and which turns the political system in which we live into a glorified beauty contest. The two main parties tell what they identified as the largest bloc of voters that they will have a nice life, some other people are in the wrong and they will take action against them.

And so it goes. Not a massively edifying spectacle and one that I find myself increasingly detached from, especially since the Press seem incredibly taken with the idea that one side should have holes shot in the bottom of its boat before anyone has put to sea. This, then, is our democracy, in which the Press help choose the government and then sell them to the people, hard, as they demonise his opponent.

Introducing some form of proportional representation might help as it seems that if four million idiots are prepared to vote UKIP, they should at least get some MPs out of it. And if the Tories can get such a thumping majority with such a feeble share of the vote, again, something is wrong. Even then, though, this isn’t a system that I’d really want to participate in. Four million people voted UKIP? More voted Tory? Hell, no.

Jose Saramago’s book, ‘Seeing’ is the story of what happens when a whole city decides that it can’t be bothered with the idea of voting and the efforts of the state to coerce it to do so. This seems like an excellent idea, in which those whose confidence in the process is non-existent flag up that they have no belief in it and withdraw their participation, thereby exposing the whole thing as a messy, grotesque sham devoid of meaning.

Of course, this won’t happen. If only a handful of people in each constituency voted, the system would still rumble on and we’d be told that this was our glorious democracy in action. But walking around an exhibition at the Nottingham Contemporary that looked at art in pre-civil war Yugoslavia, a country that was a liberal but undeniably communist dictatorship, I was struck by a very heretical thought.

Maybe, if the regime were liberal, I had a house and was allowed to write every now and again, had access to free healthcare and could go off on a holiday when I wanted to, it wouldn’t be so bad. Probably unworkable in practice and as we’re all told that democracy is brilliant twenty four hours a day, on a loop, it feels like heresy, but there we go. Democracy, in the UK at least, doesn’t seem like it’s working. I neither will its overthrow nor its continued existence. In fact, it bores me. I’m opting out in a fog of indifference.

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