Wednesday, 4 February 2009

To Vote or Not to Vote

I am thinking about who I might vote for in the next general election, it is a difficult task and one which I have always prided myself for doing. However, I am finding that the decision is becoming increasingly hard to make. None of the parties speak for me or my family; in fact the whole system seems to be less about democracy and more about ‘who wants the power more’.

What is Modern democracy? A pale shadow of a once glorious ideal, an experiment that happened in ancient times. We pride ourselves on the fairness of our system, and comment on the fairness of the ancient Athenians. Whilst in reality only citizens could vote, and women were not citizens. The Athenians spent there time creating and philosophising whilst the real work was done by slaves. Today we have technicological slaves, women are recognised as citizens (though not always as people), but we have lost our love of knowledge.

I listen to the political shows on TV and read the newspapers with a sense of despair. Our news is controlled by people who have their own political agenda, and, just as I am sure it was in ancient times, they choose their political allegiance with great care. I hear politicians argue with no real rhetorical skill, they ridicule each other, seemingly to never discuss the facts, nor offer alternative solutions. Debate, the cornerstone of Democracy is relegated to the classroom (if that), and very rarely happens in government.

I have personal experience at local parish/town council level. As a councillor I really wanted to get involved in debate, and by doing so get the best possible deals for the people of the town. How naive I was. There is no debate, not open and honest discussion, no love of knowledge or searching for the truth. It was about prestige, pay backs, and who had lived in the town the longest.

In horror of the blatant undemocratic behaviour I discovered I raised my voice to the District Council for help, but found them hollow and meaningless in their support. Whilst I had a strong case, it was dropped and the council, indeed the councillors got off free. So, where is democracy? If no one can speak and be heard, it is dead. If the people have stopped caring then, it is dead. If our laws, designed to protect the people from corruption fail, it is dead.

When I see young men and women dying for the sake of democracy miles away from home I ask, what about saving democracy here? Why was the civil war fought at all in this country? I was taught that it was because the people had rights, and that the people had a voice which needed to be heard. The voice of the people is very quiet until it is manipulated to a roar by newspaper owners. How fickle the people are. We want rights without responsibility, strong leadership that does what it is told (but that is a whole different rant).

I am one of the people, I am not being heard, and what can I do? I am left with a ‘damned if I do, and damned if I don’t’ situation. If I vote I give them license to do whatever they please, and if I don’t, they will still do whatever they please. However I give the despicable parties, who seek to hate and hurt a doorway into power.

There was a time when people went into politics with I desire to do good in the world, now they only want to be powerful and rich. When I marched side by side with my fellow students during the 1980’s, it was with a belief in what I was doing and saying. Yes we were a young and unsophisticated, but we wanted a better society, a fair society. Today those words are used in a dark way; they have become tag lines in a media circus. Perhaps the notion of a fair society is a lie, an impossible dream created by honourable people. There is no honor left in our society, which is why the rot has taken over.

If there is no debate, there is no democracy (ironic really, for the age of communication). If you will not listen, then you are a tyrant. So it only remains for me to either choose my tyrant or just let it happen. Perhaps I will just let it happen, if the far right get in, at least people will realise what they are missing.