Saturday, September 22, 2007

Democracy, represent.

There seems to be a general agreement that democracy is good and ideally everyone should do it. In fact, a lot of people have died over this opinion recently.

If this the-people-choose thing is so vital, why are we not moving towards direct democracy? We could. Representation began in an age of primitive communications and very low literacy - does it really still have the least purpose, or do we only do it because it's what we're locked into? Is there any real benefit to keeping civic life restricted to a tiny elite (who are, at least if you look at UK MPs, almost all white, male, heterosexual and of a middle-class background)? You can say expertise is necessary in political life, but it's not the representatives that provide that; they just make the civic choices.

If you love democracy, is it possible to defend a system of representation that often ignores, or acts against, the will of the people? (I'm thinking of the 90% of British people who were against the Iraq war). makes me sad; it's a graveyard of civic impotence. I've signed dozens of them, even though I know there's never, ever a point to it - the best result anyone can hope for is for the PM to email 1.7 million people to tell them he doesn't give a fuck what they think. From someone who went to war for democracy, he seems oddly cold to it at home.

Yeah, in practical terms we're locked into what we've got. (Though given that we stalwartly defend the use of juries to enforce our judicial process, and have the bureaucratic machinery in place to manage that, I'm wondering how hard it would be.) But is it even slightly ideologically defensible to not be working on dismantling representation here in the same way we seem intent on dismantling dictatorship overseas? Let's refer to SCUM here:

The elimination of money and the complete institution of automation are basic to all other SCUM reforms; without these two the others can't take place; with them the others will take place very rapidly. The government will automatically collapse. With complete automation it will be possible for every woman to vote directly on every issue by means of an electronic voting machine in her house. Since the government is occupied almost entirely with regulating economic affairs and legislating against purely private matters, the elimination of money and with it the elimination of males who wish to legislate 'morality' will mean there will be practically no issues to vote on.

I'm not digging all that ideology, and I think there's more to civic life (and the economy) than she makes out, but it's cute that Solanas is way ahead even of Switzerland on one of the most vital questions of liberty.

I'm also inclined to wonder how much the limpness of representative democracy contributes to our idea of adulthood - 'adult' being a byword for sex and an accompaniment to alcohol, an invitation to enjoy those two things as you please, while the political rights of an adult are so slight they're barely worthy of discussion. I have voted three times (two local, one general) and sat on two juries; that's the full extent of the effect I, as a citizen, have had on my country. To do more I'd have to align myself with a popular party (guess what, they're all lead by white, privately educated men), hope I fit through their hoops, win a popularity contest against several other people (who have no less right to participate than I do), then spend five years pretending I alone could convey the wishes of 75000 fellow citizens, no two of them alike.

I can't describe the leap of logic (maybe after lunch -), but when Gordy faffs about 'Britishness', or Daaave hugs those hoodies, I see one huge connected process, with them at the top pretending that the power they unjustly hold has nothing to do with any of it.

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