Democracy part of the problem

Stuart Moriarty-Patten

COLUMN

Thank you Samantha Wood for a very interesting article (October 15, TGH) on why people don’t vote. I especially agreed with this point: “People don’t vote because they don’t feel they can make a difference, or they don’t care enough to see their importance, or there were no candidates they liked.”

From my experience with people who don’t vote this is exactly right — not the standard accusations of people being too lazy too vote. There is a famous anarchist poster that says, “Vote for nobody, nobody tells the truth,” and it certainly seems that with each passing local and central government election, nobody is getting more and more popular.

Yet is Samantha’s idea of a “none of the above” option the way to go? I would argue not. It still locks the person into a system that has been reflecting and defending their interests pretty poorly.

We need to change our whole thinking of how to look after our interests. Trusting them to politicians is not working.

As we face a world of climate collapse, poverty in the face of obscene wealth, and permanent war, our system of representative democracy is in fact part of the problem. It endorses and legitimates an unjust political system and makes us look to others to fight our battles for us, while at the same time offering us the illusion that electing parties to office means people have control over their own lives.

With the goal of electoral politics being to elect a representative who will act for us, our system blocks constructive self-activity and direct action, and leaves most with a tendency to entrust important matters to the “experts” and “authorities”, when the reality should be the opposite. No one else is suited to know what is best for us than ourselves.

In fact, far from empowering people, electioneering dis-empowers them by creating an expectation of a “leader” figure from which changes are expected to flow. Because of this, instead of building worthwhile alternatives in our communities and workplaces, political participation merely becomes the activity of campaigning and voting. Instead of participating in decisions that affect our lives, we become passive observers as we hand that power over to others who don’t necessarily have our best interests at heart.

Instead we should be looking outside of Parliament and local authorities to solve our problems. Such extra-parliamentary activity, based around individuals solving their own problems by their own actions, not only can achieve changes, but also builds confidence in people, teaches them how to use their initiative, and helps create solidarity between us all. Most importantly it breeds a sense of individual and collective power, giving a sense that what you do matters and that you can change the world.

Nothing will ever change unless we ditch our reliance on politicians and act for ourselves. It is only through the use of action that we can force the establishment to respect the wishes of the people.

In short, what happens in our communities, workplaces and environment is too important to be left to politicians, or indeed the ruling elite who mostly control governments.

Abstention from the ballot box allied with vibrant and powerful movements built around extra-parliamentary activity is the only way we can meet the challenges ahead, as we face an increasingly uncertain future and this will send a powerful message to the powers that-be that we are serious in our desire for change.

However, if you must vote, don’t expect too much, and remember that what is really important is what you do every other day of the year to protect your own and your community’s interests.

Thank you Samantha Wood for a very interesting article (October 15, TGH) on why people don’t vote. I especially agreed with this point: “People don’t vote because they don’t feel they can make a difference, or they don’t care enough to see their importance, or there were no candidates they liked.”

From my experience with people who don’t vote this is exactly right — not the standard accusations of people being too lazy too vote. There is a famous anarchist poster that says, “Vote for nobody, nobody tells the truth,” and it certainly seems that with each passing local and central government election, nobody is getting more and more popular.

Yet is Samantha’s idea of a “none of the above” option the way to go? I would argue not. It still locks the person into a system that has been reflecting and defending their interests pretty poorly.

We need to change our whole thinking of how to look after our interests. Trusting them to politicians is not working.

As we face a world of climate collapse, poverty in the face of obscene wealth, and permanent war, our system of representative democracy is in fact part of the problem. It endorses and legitimates an unjust political system and makes us look to others to fight our battles for us, while at the same time offering us the illusion that electing parties to office means people have control over their own lives.

With the goal of electoral politics being to elect a representative who will act for us, our system blocks constructive self-activity and direct action, and leaves most with a tendency to entrust important matters to the “experts” and “authorities”, when the reality should be the opposite. No one else is suited to know what is best for us than ourselves.

In fact, far from empowering people, electioneering dis-empowers them by creating an expectation of a “leader” figure from which changes are expected to flow. Because of this, instead of building worthwhile alternatives in our communities and workplaces, political participation merely becomes the activity of campaigning and voting. Instead of participating in decisions that affect our lives, we become passive observers as we hand that power over to others who don’t necessarily have our best interests at heart.

Instead we should be looking outside of Parliament and local authorities to solve our problems. Such extra-parliamentary activity, based around individuals solving their own problems by their own actions, not only can achieve changes, but also builds confidence in people, teaches them how to use their initiative, and helps create solidarity between us all. Most importantly it breeds a sense of individual and collective power, giving a sense that what you do matters and that you can change the world.

Nothing will ever change unless we ditch our reliance on politicians and act for ourselves. It is only through the use of action that we can force the establishment to respect the wishes of the people.

In short, what happens in our communities, workplaces and environment is too important to be left to politicians, or indeed the ruling elite who mostly control governments.

Abstention from the ballot box allied with vibrant and powerful movements built around extra-parliamentary activity is the only way we can meet the challenges ahead, as we face an increasingly uncertain future and this will send a powerful message to the powers that-be that we are serious in our desire for change.

However, if you must vote, don’t expect too much, and remember that what is really important is what you do every other day of the year to protect your own and your community’s interests.

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Peter Jones - 2 years ago
"The real hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal. Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives, that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does. They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted."
- Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited

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