Some of those disappointed with the election results have blamed the concept of democracy. Others blame the British public themselves, the Guardian even called the electorate ‘evil’. I disagree with both of these views and think it unwise to blame a loosely understood theoretical system of rule and the people engaged in it.
Democracy: is often understood to mean ‘by the people, for the people’. Now, an ideal democracy – that is truly representative of people – in an ideal society – where the electorate understand the long-term impacts of their vote and have an equal say in affairs – sounds wonderful. Of course, the UK has neither an ideal democracy nor is an ideal society. Yet I think the latter should be blamed for poor election results before the former.
We live in a neoliberal, capitalist state run by politicians that have outsourced political power to corporations. Corporations who are now so embedded in politics that they can sue countries if their profits are threatened. Meanwhile, much of the so-called free press is owned by right wing media moguls who dictate that a certain message is shared – just think of The Sun before the election supporting the Tories in England and the SNP in Scotland, its anti-Labour agenda all too clear. Then there’s the competitive nature of capitalism, encouraging us to be selfish consumers and feeding us the myth that we are ‘self-made’ – as if we can achieve greatness without the help of others. And let’s not forget mass advertising that addicts us to products we don’t need and makes us feel ashamed of most aspects of our lives – we’re not rich/pretty/social enough etc.
So somehow in and amongst all these selfish incentives and mixed messages democracy is supposed to thrive? Unlikely. We must remember the sheer power of the establishment, power that runs back for centuries, physicalised in the very stonework of the Houses of Parliament themselves. The elite have had years of getting what they want. It’s not that democracy has failed it’s that it was bought out by the establishment before it even had a chance to work.
Evil People: so, just as the tears start to fall and people get angry what do we do – we turn on each other. Conservative voters are suddenly ‘evil’ as if people who raise families, suffer depression and worry about their retirement are related to Satan. No, this is far too simple and is just reverse snobbery. Now is not the time to write people off, we must try and understand why people vote the way they do – if someone has lived in a predominantly white and middle class community and read right wing newspapers then its not surprising they won’t trust immigrants, won’t know the extent of the suffering that austerity causes and will vote in a way they think will protect their best interests and, probably, the best interests of their immediate family. But behind crass stereotypes are real people worthy of friendship who can be inspired to join the movement to affect positive change, remember the time the York Mosque invited the EDL in for tea?
So let’s stop dismissing the British people for one box they tick every five years and let’s remember they are people just like us. They don’t want to be patronised or villified. Grass roots movements that oppose austerity and corporatocracy and want real democracy and community have the opportunity to invite all people into their movements, however they vote. Most of us do care about the well-being of our family, friends and environments, there is so much common ground to be had despite the media’s brilliant ability to conjure polarity out of potential cohesion.
Democracy does not work because the system does not work and that system is neoliberal capitalism. It facilitates psychopathy and rips apart community because everything is done for cash, not love. Even the Labour party are neoliberal. The Green party are the only one that discusses sustainable alternatives. Meanwhile, people are not evil they are just subject to the stresses and forces of large politico-economic systems that infiltrate so much of their lives – education, leisure, work, relationships etc. Now more than ever do we need to challenge the system. This is a cross party endeavour, something the Tory party will soon discover as the pillars of the economy carry on collapsing around them. Challening capitalism is often akin to farting in front of the Pope but we’ve got to do it. We cannot leave capitalism alone, for obvious reasons…