Monday, June 08, 2009

Voting in a (so-called) Democracy (Part One)

This post is part one of two (or three depending on how much sleep the author feels like getting) explaining opinions on democracy and experiences of voting during the European Elections of June 2009.

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1) Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.

- Sir Winston Churchill

2) When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.
- Thomas Jefferson

3) An educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern.
- Tony Benn, in the film SiCKO

4) The day is dark/ There's only one solution/ I'm a one-man revolution
- One-Man Revolution, The Nightwatchman (Tom Morello)

1) Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.
I couldn't let the chance to vote in the European Elections last week pass without comment. It was also an opportunity to articulate some of my feelings on the state of the world address. I wrote something about material coming my way on my Searching for Meaning post back in April and how I feel about stuff hasn't really changed (although it seems more people are reading my blog...I mean the notes that automatically update on FaceSpace or is that MyBook?).

So I registered my disillusionment with the current political system by going down to my polling station, wearing a Guy Fawkes mask and black hat (in direct tribute to and emulation of 'V for Vendetta') and spoiling my ballot paper.

I've been expressing these ideas and opinions for quite a while...I guess something like an election focuses people's thoughts.

There are a few things that have informed my changing opinion with the current political system. They are a disparate group of ideas, but I'm someone who will attempt to join the dots...it's just that politics, economics, philosophy, theology, ontology etc. are like a big messy ball of wool...they can be hard to disentangle because they're so interdependent.

What could start off as a question about a political opinion could quite easily end up being a discussion about science. It ALL relates as far as I'm concerned.

Anyway what the fuck is spoiling a ballot paper going to do?


Well, according to an old politics teacher, spoiled ballot papers get counted...

Now last time I checked, we do apparently live in a democracy and we are free to express ourselves.

As I understand it, in a democracy (on a basic level) we vote for people who represent our views and they form our system of government.

What happens when I feel that the people put forward to represent me do not represent my views at all?

What happens when I witness apathy, disillusionment and cynicism for the political system (and life in general) all around me?

What happens when I experience the mass media feeding me a diet of: celebrity to keep me stupid; terrorism and recession to keep me scared and advertising and consumer credit to keep me in debt? Now go back and read that quotation from Tony Benn at the top of this post.

What happens is that I want to rip up my fucking ballot paper - never mind spoiling it. Voting seems utterly pointless. All that rhetoric about the principles of democracy seems like bullshit.

Add into the mix that to be a politician you must be adept at lying, cheating and stealing (who disagrees with me on that?) Said another way you need a healthy disinterest in the concept of integrity.

So the political system I'm expected to participate in is founded on...well...bullshit?

Well that's pretty fucked-up...

But, as I found out - spoiling a ballot paper shows my willingness to participate in the democratic system. I'm willing to register to vote. I'm willing to exercise my democratic right. I'm in the system. I'd just like to find someone who reflects how I feel BECAUSE NOBODY FUCKING DOES. Spoiling my ballot paper is a legitimate form of taking part in a democratic system. It just registers my discontent too.

And I know I'm not the only one who feels this way...

2) When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.
When I experience the mass media feeding me a diet of: celebrity to keep me stupid; terrorism and recession to keep me scared and advertising and consumer credit to keep me in debt, it does annoy me. Now go back and read that quotation from Tony Benn at the top of this post. (Oops is that repetition, deja vu or a glitch in The Matrix?)

There are people who are talking about how fucked-up the world really is. How the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer and everyone else is a slave on a hamster wheel. It's just that their viewpoints are harder to find in a mass-media controlled world. (Check out BBC5...not heard of it? Not surprising really...)

More and more people are thinking outside the fucking box...and waking up.

V for Vendetta is a graphic novel examining the world around us in an interesting way. It was turned into a film by the Wachowski Brothers (The Matrix anyone?) The exploration of anarchism (anarchism is NOT chaos - contrary to conventional wisdom) provides interesting food for thought.

So I chose to do something interesting when going to vote.


Now the idea of putting on a Guy Fawkes mask and black hat to emulate a comic book hero is not the normal way of behaving.

Neither is spoiling your ballot paper.

Turns out a few people around me didn't know about spoiling ballot papers...and would have done if they knew about it...

I think of it like this. Currently, only 35% of the people who could vote actually fucking bothered. Imagine if 95% of the people who could vote, actually did bother.

But then - what if - from that percentage, 60% of them spoiled their ballot papers? It makes a fucking joke of democracy.

The character V in the graphic novel and film provides a symbol for the people to rally around. He provides an idea.

The mask and my photos just add an air of defiance and eccentricity (or is that stupidity?) to make it memorable and provide a conversation point. I thought I'd spice things up a little...

Part Two is here...