With the conclusion of the most recent Australian Federal election, a German equivalent on our doorstep in a matter of weeks not to mention continuing general political rumbling going on globally it’s given me a cause to pause and take a moment, just to ponder.
Democracy, as defined by the Oxford English dictionary as; a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.
Makes sense, didn’t really need to go to the dictionary for that one, but I did, more so to prove a point. That point being that in a real democracy we, the population, should have a varied choice and the sum of all those alternatives should be distinguished well enough from one another to make a real difference and offer the variety of choice. With that, we the population, are obliged (as a way by which to repay the debt of being able to live in a democracy) to get off our asses, make an informed decision, choose an alternative and vote accordingly.
There are two things that strike me sideways about the above premise, one is that sadly we as the voting public are generally so complacent and lazy that unless it’s a punishable offence under rule of law, we won’t vote, but rather be content to sit and moan about how bad things really are. And even in the instance of compulsory voting (such as in Australia) the incidence of donkey voting is far reaching. This in many ways is a vicious cycle and a direct result of the second thing to make me squirm. In this day and age of left and right political leaning, it has become so incredibly difficult to distinguish between political parties, more over in most “democratic” nations the choice between parties has been so massively narrowed to effectively create a two party system only. And what do these two parties generally spend their time doing? Arguing with one another and shouting down the opponents policies. Being in opposition to the incumbent has taken on the most literal meaning. So can you blame voters for not really caring? Not at all, ultimately when it comes to choice the line is so faint that it’s hard to know who you’re voting for and ultimately why.
A couple of things have happened in recent days to get me thinking even more about this situation.
In Australia the slanging match and war of words between the two parties leading into the election was quite frankly disgusting, but other than calling each other names neither party was able to provide a clear, well articulated version of what they would do for the country if they had the honour of being elected. There seems to be a complete lack of vision, an altruistic agenda or anything resembling what these people are meant to be actually doing once in elected office.
This phenomena isn’t restricted to a small country like Australia either, take the US for example (which is roughly 14 times the size), what have we got there, Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives and various nut jobs skirting on the fringes of either monolith. What’s worse is that once in power and apparently running the country, the incumbent generally does little of any real merit other than to try and secure their next tenure. On average a political term in the western world is about 3 years, during which period you can safely count on a new government (or even one that’s been returned for that matter) will spend the first third of that term appearing to keep promises made during the campaign all the while squirming out of actually adhering to those promises. The final two thirds of the term are spent with both eyes firmly on the re-election goal. Do just enough of what they believe is necessary to ensure that when polling time comes up again, they are a nose ahead of the other mob. Truly a popularity contest, nothing more, nothing less.
But if you argue that it’s nothing more than a popularity contest, then surely the winner, the elected government is thus the most popular as deemed by the voters. Well, yes. BUT when it’s a choice to decide which is the lesser of two evils, is anyone truly winning there.
A final bone to pick and weight to get off my chest, the Euro zone and the European Union. How is it that it hasn’t failed yet, blah blah blah, I have heard enough of this garbage, truly. It hasn’t failed and won’t because it’s a political face saving exercise. Where there’s a will there’s a way and if ever that was true then never more than in this instance. The citizens of each respective member state, bitch and moan about how bad it is, why it should be different etc, well you’re stuck with it unless you elect parties that don’t want to be a part of the union and will actively do what they can to extricate themselves from it. Until such time, please for my sake, just shut the hell up and get on with it.