Tag Archives: democracy

Politics – do we really care?

I’ve always had a problem with ‘-isms’ – communism, socialism, facism, capitalism, republicanism, you name it – because they all seem to miss the point about people. Homo Sapiens doesn’t give a flying fruit bat about politics until things go wrong.

I was a kid in the late Menzies era of Australia [1949-1966], and I remember hearing some adults moan about elections while others moaned about the general apathy of the Australian voter. You see, in Australia, we have compulsory voting…and the times were good.

In fact, by the early 60’s, the populations of the Western world were better off, generally, than they had ever been before. Not quite the age of surplus envisioned by Marx, but close, and some of us really were able to live ‘…from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.’ That’s what the Age of Aquarius, Flower Power and Free Love were really all about.

Yet, on an individual level, despite the lack of scarcity, we still suffered from greed and envy and other ‘first world’ problems as we see-sawed between co-operation and competition. Because that is how the human animal is made – neither saint nor sinner but a combination of both.

And in a roundabout way, our dual nature is exactly why compulsory voting should be mandatory in all representational democracies. Voters are human and apathetic…and the silent majority doesn’t give a shit. That is why we have to be forced into protecting democracy, because democracy only works if the apathetic majority moderates the extremes on both the Right and the Left.

If I had my way, I would do away with all career politicians entirely. Instead, I would replace them with ordinary people, plucked off the street as for jury duty. These reluctant amateurs would bring their own strengths and weaknesses to the table, but their very reluctance might result in some genuine ‘…government of the people, for the people, by the people’.

Human beings won’t change, ever. That’s why we have to devise better systems to make it possible for this disparate tribe to live together in mutual protection and safety.

Only by understanding and working around our own weaknesses can we avoid going the way of the dinosaur and the dodo.

May 2018 be a better year than 2017.

Meeks

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The end of Representational #Democracy?

People tend to talk about our Western systems of government as ‘democracies’, but the reality is that they are only representational democracies.

Why ‘only’?

Because the original Greek definition of democracy was one man, one vote. Of course by that definition, neither slaves nor women could vote, but it was still a pretty amazing concept in a world of Kings, Emperors, Warlords and other hierarchical and dictatorial forms of government. When a civic decision had to be made, everyone would crowd into the plaza and vote with a show of hands. Simple. Direct. And non-scalable. Imagine how big a plaza you’d need for even a small country like say Hungary.

By the time some of the countries of Western Europe decided to give this democray thing a go, they’d already figured out that one man, one vote simply couldn’t work, not for big places like England and France. So they invented a system that allowed their citizens to choose between just a few people for the right to vote. The person who ended up being chosen at the grassroots level would then go up to parliament and vote on their behalf. This is the basis of representational democracy – one person voting in the name of lots of people.

Now representational democracy was a great invention in its time, but the reality has never lived up to the hype because all those representatives ended up being funnelled into parties. Then factions within those parties would compete amongst themselves. Eventually, one person would gain enough power to represent not only the whole faction but also the party. This leader would then go head to head with the leader of the opposing faction until one of them won. Eventually, the leader who won would get to represent and make decisions for…all of us:

we the governed

 

Forgive me for this child’s view of politics, but sometimes we have to remember what’s real and what is merely an aspiration. At the moment, the kind of democracy that gives each man and woman a vote that actually matters is still just a pipe-dream.

Or is it?

During the lead up to the recent Australian election, many of the political pundits mentioned that a massive proportion of eligible young voters were not registering to vote. [In Australia, voting is compulsory and anyone 18 and over is supposed to register their name on the electoral roll].

Were these young people merely apathetic? Just not interested in politics? Not interested in politics as we know it? Other?

At 63 I can hardly speak for the young, but as someone who lives on the internet, I can make a few educated guesses:

  1. I don’t think the young are disinterested in politics at all
  2. I think they are merely disinterested in the traditional form of politics taken for granted in the West.

Now let me make a few guesses as to why:

  1. change.org
  2. Facebook [and Tumblr and Twitter and…and….etc]

What does social media have to do with politics? And disaffected youth? Everything.

Todays 18 year olds have grown up having a direct say in the issues they care about – via Facebook et al., and organisations such as change.org and getup [amongs others]. On these platforms, groups form almost organically and as the groups grow, they gain a voice, a voice that is being heard by pollsters and politicians alike. The major parties may deny that they take any notice of online petitions, but no institution is large enough to withstand the fury of a self-righteous group.

So the young have found a platform and those in control are paying attention, and this is happening in real time, day after day. Why on earth would these young voices care about an election that happens only once every 3 – 4 years and does NOT reflect their views?

Make no mistake, in a representational democracy, only voting blocks actually matter. Individual votes matter hardly at all. For example, here in Warrandyte, we are part of the Jaga Jaga electoral area. Jaga Jaga is never mentioned in post election commentary because it is a safe Labor seat, and has been for a very long. Thus, no matter how I vote, my vote has no effect on the outcome of the election because it would take a massive change to turn Jaga Jaga into a swinging electorate. And swinging electorates are the only ones that can really change the final outcome of the election.

So for young people living in Warrandyte who do NOT believe in Labor’s values, voting is essentially pointless, and exactly the same thing applies to Labor voters in a safe Liberal electorate. Yet all these young people have had a taste of what true democracy could be like.

They have made their voices heard on social media and that is the kind of system they want: one person, one vote and each vote counts.

We do not yet have the technology to make online voting, issue by issue, a reality. The internet is simply not secure enough, not yet, but it will be, and when it is, I believe representational democracy will change. It will have to. Brexit and Trump and the [possibility] of a hung parliament here in Australia guarantee it.

We who are governed want to have a say in how we are governed. We want democracy.

cheers

Meeks


A Double Dissolution – the safety net of democracy in Australia

Since the Hockey-Abbott budget came out a few weeks ago, I’ve been wondering what we can do about it …in a democracy. Is it fair to make a fuss when a democratically elected government does something we don’t like?

For me, the simple answer is YES

Why? Because we have a Senate for a reason. The role of the Senate is to ‘moderate’ the decisions of the House of Representatives – i.e. the Abbott government. 

How does the Senate moderate the decisions of the House of Reps? By not passing bills. [A bill has to be passed by both the House of Reps and the Senate in order to become law]. 

Blocking Supply. If the Senate knocks back a House of Reps budget [3 times] the government of the day has the option of calling a Double Dissolution. A Double Dissolution means both Houses of Parliament are dissolved and new elections are held for both houses. 

No government goes for a Double Dissolution lightly as there is no guarantee it will be voted back in, and none of the politians want to lose their seats. 

Usually, the mere threat of a Double Dissolution is enough to force a compromise. In the case of the Hockey-Abbott budget, however, I think we should pressure the smaller parties to make a Double Dissolution inevitable. Voting is a pain, but it is the ONLY tool we voters have to keep politicians in line. If we can get rid of Abbott and his government, we will not only protect our national identity and way of life, we will send a clear message to politicians for decades to come : 

– Don’t break your election promises

– Don’t pick on the most vulnerable in our society

– Do try telling the truth for a change

– And do listen to what the people are actually telling you, even if it disagrees with your ideology

So let’s bring on this Double Dissolution. We really don’t have that much to lose.

cheers

Meeks


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