What’s So Great About This Thing We Call Democracy?

Positivity Link: Disney and occasional cases of decency.

It’s election time in America again and the media will not let us forget it. I live on the other side of the ocean, and yet there’s still talk about Biden and Ryan and a whole sea of Obama supporters (for some reason us Brits don’t like Romney. I think it’s something to do with the Mormonism. Or the unnerving smile.) Even here in English politics, the entire country was able to groan when Nick Plebb “apologised” for his party’s lies and then readjusted his tie in preparation for the 2015 elections.

Politicians on both sides of the world are preparing for their slinging matches and proud voters are buying badges and shirts to publicly affirm their support for X party. And I have to admit that I just don’t understand it at all. Democracy seems to be a popularity game, with an entrée of lies for the voters and a main course of unfulfilled promises. And yet the public buys into it every single time.

Of Crows and Democracy

Perhaps I’m just a pessimist when it comes to democracy. I’m sure many of you may disagree with my views (especially if you’re an American voter, who seem to be the most enthusiastic when it comes to this matter). But I’ve begun to think about where I stand politically, because when the next voting period comes around in England I’ll be old enough to register and cast a vote. And yet I’ve become so disillusioned with the vulgarity and endless cycles that I’m not certain I will vote at all.

Perhaps an older reader can correct me, but it seems like very few/no politicians ever deliver on their promises. Or try to. It seems to me (and perhaps this is biased by my perception of British political parties) that when a faction comes into power they begin things by tearing down any trace of their predecessor and then set about doing whatever they like, regardless of the consequences? Parties drag each others’ names through the mud like children, compete to snatch up the most popular ideology in order to get the public vote and promise different things to different demographics, whether it’s going to war, promising a crackdown on immigration, a support (or lack of support) for gay rights, whatever. One party gains the power and sits on it until the next election time. And so the cycle continues.

Yes, I hear you say, democracy gives us the freedom to make an informed choice about our country’s rulers. At least we’re not North Korea or the USSR. But many people make choices heavily influenced by cooked-up propaganda or their favourite actor/parent/relative proclaiming the best political party. And if our dissent to the governments laws (like protests to illegal wars) is ignored, or worse more propaganda is used to gather support for those laws, is it really freedom?

I don’t really know yet where I stand politically or whether my views make any sense; this is a disorganised rant after all. But I do know that I trust neither of the candidates for the American presidency, nor do I trust the three main parties in England. Politicians are individuals I don’t want to be forced to touch with a ten-foot pole, never mind agree with.

15 thoughts on “What’s So Great About This Thing We Call Democracy?

  1. The Waiting

    The late, great American comic George Carlin once had an act where he said that America was bought and sold a long time ago, and they [the politicians] just bring out these elections every four years to give voters the false sense that they have some control. We laugh at this but I think it’s because there’s a kernel of truth to it and it’s easier to laugh than it is to admit that the American political system is broken. I have voted both ways in the past, and each time I felt convicted by my choice. This time, I am neither enthusiastic nor convinced that my voting will contribute to fixing the mess that is America.

    1. dlaiden Post author

      I think that Carlin got it exactly right. That truth is applicable to any democracy out there, really. Democracy itself is a broken system. Like many other ideologies, it’s a great idea in theory but not quite so much in practice. Back in 2008 I was convinced that Obama would be a good thing for Americans. Four years later, and he’s just another policy-spouting politician, with some changes being implemented, yes, but not enough. Both he and Romney are just saying empty words, the same as David Cameron and Nick Clegg here in England. The worst thing is that I’m not sure what we as a public can do about it. Simply wait for the next great political ideology, I suppose.

  2. NicoLite Великий

    I get where you’re coming from. Many humans have a need to be lead, to have someone make their choices for them. This alpha structure is a common trait among social animals. But to get back on your post: (Proto-)Democratic assemblies have taken place in many autocratic cultures, and they were not only tolerated, but utilized by the ruling systems, as long as they didn’t amass too much power. Of course, it only becomes “real” democracy, when the people have the power, which will not happen for a long time. Power has a tendency to concentrate on individuals and groups, it is an organizing force in (human) society. What makes our western system so special is that potentially, anyone could rule; of course, the rich and famous have a gigantic head start, but there are those like our dear Dr. Angela Merkel, a woman physicist from eastern Germany, probably the least likely canditate one could ever think of, still managed to overrun those with the head start.

    1. dlaiden Post author

      You’re right, there’s definitely a basic need to be lead. And when that leadership does not lead well, does not fulfil its promises to the people, the public recognises its ideology as false. Angela Merkel is a fairly good example of what democracy is meant to do, but human nature and its capacity for greed and selfishness seem to show that many of its cons outweigh the pros. People thought similarly when Obama was elected, that he would be an unlikely candidate for presidency because of his race. And yet he’s just another politician now. Maybe there is something in our nature which allows cold reality to take over hopeful idealism.

    1. dlaiden Post author

      That’s a great post, thanks for sharing. I think I keep my faith partly in God, and also partly in the good I know human beings can do. Well. Outside of politics. But I do agree that the church likes to hide itself under whatever party looks “traditional,” when really it’s just another example of how far the modern day church is from its roots.

  3. Deri

    I have repeatedly failed to answer “how can I choose between evil idiots and malicious morons?” Voting seems like I am validating a system I don’t trust. But what’s better? Could we have some sort of internet-based referendum system each time a choice is required on some issue? Can we exclude votes from people not affected by an outcome? Is it better to accept a choice made by one man or by 600 men?

    1. dlaiden Post author

      I honestly don’t know what the answer is either. As bad as this system is, I don’t know that there’s one any better. I’m starting to think that it’s almost in the human nature for dreams like that of a democratic society to be ruined once brought into reality. Do we find another system and start again, or do we trudge on and hope for the best?

  4. Daphne

    I think most Americans would agree that the system is broken. But no one can seem to agree on a better alternative. I don’t particularly care for either candidate this year (and I have been in the same boat for every year I have voted). Instead of viewing it as ‘who will do a better job’ I see it as ‘who will cause the least amount of damage’?
    It takes so long for changes to trickle down that by the time the changes are felt, the person/people responsible are no longer in office. So someone else gets the credit/blame. And because politics are so ridiculously expensive, the pool of candidates is relatively small. How many ‘good’ candidates would there be if it didn’t cost millions to run for president?

  5. pinappleflavouredpeople

    I think it’s quite sad when I hear people say: “I’ll vote for Romney, because I hate Obama.” Or the other way around. From what I gather, politics (for example the US elections this year) are based on hatred and as you said dragging the other party through the mood in a childish manner, not on preference and actual long-lasting achievement.
    And besides, I don’t think democracy ever was or will be perfect. When it was first “founded” in various revolutions, women, for example, weren’t included and it took us ages to change that. But it’s true, nobody can think of a better option, unfortunatley.

    1. dlaiden Post author

      I think the worst thing I ever saw as an example of that blind hatred, was a YouTube video of a six-year-old child expressing why he hated Obama (reason 6: no one knows where he came from >.<) and using it as justification to vote for Romney. It was actually sick to see the extent to which he'd been brainwashed.
      And that is very true. Never been perfect, never will be. *sigh* I feel powerless complaining, but I suppose someone's got to.

  6. Sarah

    I’m a teenager and I’ve lived in the states pretty much my enitre life ( I know, I know. My dad lived in germany until he was in his twenties, if this saves me from the american stereotypes. I’m not overweight, I’m in honors math, thankyouverymuch:P), and I don’t know if it’s wrong of me but I HATE the time around the elections.
    I live in a very very republican area, and I consider myself to be democrat. It’s not fun to be called a communist every four years. The part that is most frustrating is when people blindly throw themselves on one politcal party just because their parents are that way. And all those political attack ads on the tv? You’re not swaying me either way. It’s biased information, no matter what party it came from.

    1. dlaiden Post author

      Haha, I didn’t know the stereotype of American kids being overweight and not into maths. 😉 And I imagine that’s tough, living in that sort-of area. Politically, I live in a Labour-dominated area (over here, they’re liberals, basically) but election times don’t get too bad. Do you actively put across the fact that you’re a democrat–ever handed out leaflets, or worn a nifty badge? 😉 In England the government always moans about how the youth don’t really care about politics, and I have this idea in my head that things are completely different in America. The media pushes the election across so much I sometimes forget that there are politically neutral or quietly political people.

      1. Sarah

        No way, I don’t even bring up I’m a democrat unless someone asks me! If I put on a badge…*shudders* that would be social suicide:P.
        I’m 15, so I can’t vote, but people talk about politics at lunch and stuff. I have wanted to move to London for all of forever, so hopefully I’ll get to see how different it is there myself:)!


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