A different kind of democracy

This was originally posted to my old blog on 2 November 2013.

Recently, I was quite impressed with the opinions Russell Brand expressed in an interview with Jeremy Paxman. Many people are ripping into him for the views he aired, and this is as it should be (though some criticise him because they find his manner irritating, and to those I say: grow up and say something about the thoughts, not the man). One great criticism levelled against him, is his encouragement to people to not vote. I at first agreed with him, because to my mind any election is an exercise in getting people to choose between either a mud pie or a mud sandwich for lunch. Choosing either is a kind of agreement to eating mud, so surely the right choice is to refuse both.

I’ve in the meantime come to other conclusions – we should go vote, but spoil our votes as an expression of our dissatisfaction with the choices we’re given. Yet there is much criticism directed at Brand over only highlighting problems, not offering solutions. I would argue that someone like Brand should do no more, he is an entertainer and as such (in my opinion) it is his duty to highlight things we should think about. In the meantime, I’ve wondered what my ideal government should look like. Am I a communist? A socialist? I don’t even have a proper understanding of all the -ists. Even so, I do have some thoughts, as an ordinary citizen with real concerns, over how I can be better represented in government.

We live in a world where advertising has evolved from an activity primarily aimed at spreading information, to one of manipulating people into buying things they probaby don’t need. Psychology has become a hard science, which will probably in the near future become a subdivision of neurology, and has found that people’s views can be manipulated in the most extraordinary ways. Yet our political systems are still fuelled by a method of gathering opinions which was invented two thousand years ago, and which became popular two hundred or so years ago. The world this system was designed for had limitations our modern reality laughs at, and challenges dwarfed by the societal needs we must cater for today.

So here’s a random thought (okay, not so random, it’s been brewing in my mind for a good while now): why not adapt democracy to the realities of today?

Why not give up on elections as we know them? It’s a fecking farce anyway, because politicians promise anything they have to for that coveted power seat, then basically do what they like once they have the fat salary and lifelong prestige. Either that, or they come into power with big ideas only to find that in practice, they are powerless to execute them. Or they realise in practice, executing their big ideas will cost them the next election, and in politics these days it certainly seems that the long-term wellbeing of a country is a very distant last on the list of politicians’ priorities, with winning the next election at the top. It’s also a process wide open to mass manipulation.

Why not gather individual opinions on the quality of various services and aspects of daily life? With modern technology, it is totally possible to continuously poll all citizens to get an idea of their experience of specific issues, to ascertain if their needs are being met. Why not base promotion through the ranks on performance rather than how white your teeth are and how convincingly you can lie?

Why not shape policy according to the massive body of research which gives us a pretty good idea of what makes us happy? For instance, why not look at the fact that everyone is worse off the bigger the rich/poor gap is, and limit top earnings to a multiple of the average, mandating investment into infrastructure with whatever you earn over that limit? Why not say that health should not be a commodity, it should be a right, and institute a mandatory state-run health insurance which consists of a contribution based on a percentage of your income (with minimum incomes exempt)? Why not make this universal health insurance comprehensive, so that nobody ever has to die or suffer because they can’t afford medical care? Why not look at the insane way hospitals are run at the moment and CHANGE THINGS because my god, surely lives are more important than money?

Why not? Because this would not suit those who are in power. Rich, privileged folk so far removed from reality they wouldn’t know it if it bit them in the arse would much rather keep passing the baton to and fro than ever turning to the audience and considering a system which would truly benefit the majority.

In the past, such radical change has always demanded bloody revolutions and uprisings. Why not change that, too, and find a way to restructure government without violence, without bloodshed, without death?

Why not?

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