Sunday, 3 July 2016
The Death of Democracy
Robert M. Hutchins said "The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment." He was wrong. Democracy is in its final throes and it is dying in the most noisy and flailing of ways. It is being strangled by a minority that, somehow, is louder and more powerful than we care to admit. It is being euthanised under the banner of the 'greater good' and a 'better society'. Allow me to give you the post-mortem before the patient's inevitable demise.
How did democracy die? Symptoms started to show in the EU. In 1992, Denmark voted on the Maastricht Treaty. It said no. They were made to vote again. In 2001, Ireland voted on the Nice Treaty. It was rejected. The Irish Government made them go again. In 2005, an EU Constitution was put before the people of France and Netherlands. They did not accept it and by clear cut margins. The respective governments and the EU ignored them. Governments wilfully ignoring its citizens and either asking until they got their way or implementing measures against their will; there is a name for that: Dictatorship.
The disease spread in Greece. A democratically elected government, voted in on the platform of anti-austerity, walked into the EU Council and demanded that the will of its citizens be respected. A new deal had to be crafted. Austerity had to be eased. The EU, with every single commissioner, MEP and support staff do not get near the numbers that voted in the Greek elections. Yet, somehow, this supranational body had the power to shrug at those democratic demands and say "No" to them.
Who came running to defend the democratic will of the Greeks? No one. Tough. We were all okay with bullying one of the oldest nations on this planet into implementing the very program they had opposed. We were fine with their majority being ignored. The EU wasn't a tyranny, it was just politics. Social media stayed relatively quiet about it. We had no issue with the EU and the IMF threatening bankruptcy against a country that was already in deep poverty. We watched them crush their will and make them financially crawl, even to this day.
Maybe we thought it would stay in Greece, so it wasn't our problem. It didn't. We got to the 2015 elections and the result came in. The Conservative Party had won the most seats. In a Parliamentary First-Past-The-Post system, that was how governments were picked and had been for over a century. If people didn't like that, there was a chance to change the voting system in 2011. It was rejected overwhelmingly. 2015 gave us a government that a lot of people didn't like. So they protested in the streets, which is their right, if not a bit odd because it was protesting against a democratically elected government. It was a protest against people voting? Putting aside how stupid it looked, that wasn't the big problem.
It was that people felt like they couldn't admit that they voted Conservative. You could have had 101 reasons to vote any way you felt and plenty of them were valid. You could not, however, declare that. Irrespective of your rationale, people who did so were castigated. They were told that they were making the rich richer and the poor suffer. They hated people on benefits, apparently, because they assumed that they were feckless. They were considered hateful people and, perversely, they would be treated hatefully for voting that way. Because Project Fear is the wrong way to campaign but Project Hate is the way to change your mind.
Then the UK had the EU referendum. The outcome was Brexit. 52% voted to leave the EU. The minority didn't take it well. Protests were started, a petition demanding a second referendum be held was initiated. Democracy had a phantom margin of error and this was cemented by the minority stating that the vote had been won by racists, xenophobes, islamophobes and the uneducated. How dare these people drag us into the wrong answer, they would state. The idea being that politics involves the absolutes of right and wrong, rather than the reality of what is subjectively best. Legal experts look for loopholes, because a manipulation of language and scenarios are considered more democratic than the masses casting their vote.
Democracy is dead. Not through apathy. Not through indifference. Not through a lack of nourishment. Plenty were involved. It's rarely the big things in the body that kill it. No, it's the tiny little things that eat away at people. So to is it with democracy; the minority are killing it. Democracy is meant to be where the will of the majority is enacted. The last time we saw a democratic country actively enact the will of the minority, it was South Africa during Apartheid.
But we're okay with that. We didn't like the democracy we had. We strangled it with a refusal to accept its outcomes. We buried it under aggressive language and bullying. Then, on the tombstone, we wrote "It was for the greater good."