Real Democracy?

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Democracy is great isn’t it? The ordinary citizens elect people they trust to represent them and look after their needs in government, right?

Wrong. Across the western world democracy has become corrupted by a group of elite professional politicians who represent their own and their rich friend’s interests, not the ordinary people. They have subverted democracy to their own ends.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not against democracy, I would simply like to see true democracy in our world.

Before I get to a vision of a renewed type of democracy I would like to discuss the issue of professional politicians and political parties.

This class of person and this group are the reason why politics has become corrupted. Professional politicians are like the priests of politics and their party is their sect. And sects are not good for ordinary people because they only serve their own ideology. Like monks, professional politicians are cut off in their sect from the realities of daily life that affect most people, they mostly mix with those within their own sect who will always agree with them.

Sects are bad for human society. They lead to black and white, either/or thinking, (what Derrida called Logocentrism): all you have to do is watch any political debate before an election to see this at work, either you are liberal or conservative, left or right, pro-war or anti-war, socialist or republican, with us or against us, insider/outsider, etc.

Political sects view life through their chosen lens, but real people don’t fall into such neat divisions. On some issues I might lean to the left, on others the right, sometimes I’m liberal, sometimes I’m conservative. I think most rational people understand this about themselves. But the political sects don’t see the world this way, they loose touch with a sense of perspective within their sect. They stick to their programme, their manifesto and by doing so they exclude and ignore good ideas, good people. That is not democracy, true democracy reflects the will of the people, not just a majority of people who voted for one sect, and to hell with the rest.

Politics has also become a game. Here in Ireland we recently had a local election, which is the election of representatives to local councils, but if you watched the media coverage you would have thought there was a major sporting tournament taking place. The TV presenters spoke about the results the same way they’d talk about a football game: which party won seats, which party lost, what professional politician was past his time? Who was still in the game? There was no real discussion on what the important policies and decisions these politicians were in favour of making, it was all about who won and who lost. It was sad. The media played their part in this game, but that is another discussion.

These games are played on TV every few years across the Western world and they are cynical exercises to give the illusion of democracy, but nothing ever changes after elections, the professional politicians always win. The sects shift seats in the parliament and the game continues for another five years.

But what if there was a way to bring about a renewal in democracy? My idea is to rid ourselves of professional politicians and political sects and make sitting in parliament a civic duty. Imagine a process where a group of one hundred citizens, over eighteen years of age, are chosen at random each three years to put themselves forward for election and the people elect fifty of them to represent them in parliament? These people would come from all walks of life and they would not know they are to be chosen. They would serve their state for three years then could not be chosen for another six. This elected fifty would then have to vote on a leader from among themselves, like the selection of a chairperson, but all decisions would have to be made collectively.

This would be true democracy, ordinary people making decisions in the best interest of all, with no sects, or professional politicians to serve a narrow interest in opposition to the will of the majority. And they could not make a career of it so their decisions could be more long term rather than on getting re-elected.

I know that this is an ideal, and is probably open to some problems I have not foreseen but at least it would take democracy out of the hands of professional politicians and political sects.

Just some thoughts.

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2 thoughts on “Real Democracy?

  1. very interesting. Jesse Ventura, the former professional wrestler(!) and ex-governor of Minnesota, makes the case that there should be no more political parties, too. Your suggestion is intruiging, but I think you have more faith in the common human than I do. At least in the US, most people are struggling so much to keep on top of their bills and their mandate – Consume! – they are happy to fill their heads with Dancing With The Stars or Keeping up with the Kardashians and call it a day. Maybe it’s better in Ireland which might have more of a tradition of reading and debate?

    • Thanks, I am in fine company so! I see where you are coming from, but I think a lot of voter apathy comes from people feeling that they are not represented at the top table in political life. Too often we let elites make the important decisions. I think if a new type of really representative democracy was in place it could bring about a change in consciousness among people. In saying that I only have a cursory understanding of political life in the US. It would appear that the masses are hypnotised by TV/celeb culture, the same is mostly true in Ireland, but being a small country of four million probably means we have more balance or a more interested electorate as we see the effects of politics and politicians as they are closer to us. Maybe in the US a smaller, state by state democracy as I outlined would work better? Pull some power back from Washington perhaps? Bigger isn’t always better.

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