The illusions of our democracy

I know we’re not supposed to be thinking about this stuff.. It’s not allowed.. but here goes.

Does democracy give us real freedom of choice, or just the appearance of it?

I’m fascinated at the moment with the question of legitimacy. Specifically in so far as it related to our democratically elected governments.

When you look at the vote numbers from the last few elections in the USA and UK you see that governments are being elected to power with less than a quarter of the population’s vote. They may have an overall majority of the votes that have been cast, but as so few people vote, then it means that in reality only 20-25% of the population actually wanted these people to be in power and run things for us. Is that truly representative? Is that legitimate?

Who are these politicians really? What skills do they have? Do they do anything? Are they talented or skilled at something in a way that qualifies them to be holding a position of authority? Does it all just boil down to a popularity contest won by the least bad candidate? The one that can weave the shiniest web of silk screen around them wins. A lot of us are cynical about it all – and probably rightly so – but in a way our cynicism just hurts us. Our frustration and rage should be turned into a voice, a call, a demand for something else. People don’t vote because they feel disempowered, like it wont make a real difference, and their largely right. The more cynical we are the less likely we are to actually get involved and the likelihood of change decreases.

When I’m asked to vote for someone they present a set of ideas, principles, intentions etc and I choose based on that. I can also contact them and ask them to take a stand this way or that on something but they are of course free to ignore me. The reality however is that even if I was that engaged to stay on top of what my representative was doing and lobbying for my preferences all the time, the chain of influence is so long and politics so opaque and intricate that it hardly makes any difference.

It looks good on paper but in practice almost nobody (except the already wealthy or powerful who can exert obvious and immediate influence) get to do much to affect real change. The only exception is when enough people gather together that it embarrasses politicians or political parties into taking action. Their ‘public’ image (and thus re-electibiity) is threatened so they must respond or be seen to respond. It’s all about show, about the appearance. If 250,000 people marched for something and the media didn’t report it and no one else saw it except the government and the protesters.. how influenced would they really be I wonder.

So when it comes to having an influence myself, what can I do? What are my choices really?

I’m presented with a choice of two people in identical suits with almost the same ideas convincing me that their flavour of cola ┬ábeverage is the one and only – the alternative being dangerous ad untrustworthy. So my choice boils down to essentially Pepsi or coke. Now as they are both saying this we can conclude that if this is false then one of them is a liar, and if its true then both are. Not a great choice really. What if i don’t want either?When and where do I get to have my say? On the ballot sheet? That’s not a say, not a real choice, that’s Pepsi or Coke.

So standing back, what if I find certain legislation, a particular law, or even the entire system flawed, what can I do? More specifically, if I don’t want Pepsi or Coke (or anything like it), and find the whole idea that these clowns are in charge – and given the power and privilege that they are – offensive, and want to live in a completely different way, what are my choices?

I can leave, go to another country.. but then I have the same thing. Same set of problems, very similar limitations but a different bureaucracy run by almost identical set of clowns. It’s like being told you can vote for labour camp director, what a freedom! And of course if you absolutely cannot stand for the elected choice then you can change labour camps.. Right, is that really a free choice?

What if I fundamentally don’t accept that these people have any authority over me. They weren’t born better or with any authority over me and I choose to grant them none. I didn’t vote for them and I don’t want them, what then? Where can I go? Who decides the world is divided up into countries? Who gave them the right? Certainly no one I know. Why don’t I have the same legitimate right to say No. I don’t recognise your state, your authority or your regulations and I choose instead to live on my own terms in my own way by my own moral and ethical framework and take responsibility for my own actions. Where am I allowed to do that? It seems that if I was to really try I would be imprisoned for one thing or another – probably trespassing on land someone claims to own at the very least.

I think when you look at it from this perspective the choice we have suddenly doesn’t feel quite as free anymore. It feels a bit token. I’m not against the concept of participatory democratic forms of running things, but what we have? It’s not really what we think it is.

You have to accept what you’re given, bottom line. True independence, true freedom is not an option. There is nowhere to go. It’s their way or no way at all. Are we all political prisoners in this sense?



About defiantidealist

There are no rules save the ones we make for ourselves. We can have any world we want, and this one is what we have chosen. To change it we must simply choose differently. Remember the system is fragile. Every civilization is only three meals away from anarchy. We can make it better. All we really need is that powerful dream to aim for, and the courage to defy those that say it can't be done.
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8 Responses to The illusions of our democracy

  1. ryan says:

    If it really is idealistic why not head to unorganized territory? This is a real question. There is plenty of unorganized territory with few or no laws. Granted, the location might be something like western Maine where the winters won’t exactly leave you wanting more. But its a start right? A community of people living by what is right. Not because the government tells you, but because it’s the right thing to do. I’m tired of all the money grabbing and corruption in the very hearts of our people. I want a change. I want idealists.

  2. defiantidealist says:

    Where in the world can you go where you are outside what some state considers it’s authority? I’d be interested to know..

    I was fascinated to read about the ideas of launching a self sufficient floating city in international waters, that might do it perhaps, but short of creating your own Waterworld or flying to the moon – is there anywhere?


  3. dee says:

    Democracy is the most sinister control mechanism ever divised in that it pacifies and divides to population and in doing so allows itself to retain its power structure. People will not revolt because they’ll just vote for another political interface next time around. That’s all the american revolution was about too. It never had anything to do with “liberty” or “justice.” That is simply propaganda rhetoric. It was always about the convert transfer of power from king george to president george and the mega media and aristocratic empires of the day. They wanted in on the action. Just like every revolution in the history of civilization. They all follow the allagory of Animal Farm. Power transfers that always lead to a worse state than the previous. From Russia to France to China to the USA. You see, our new “leaders” were kind enough to give an grand outline of the liberty the ‘promised’ they wouldn’t take away… there’s no need to worry about it. Starts off great and systematically gets worse over time. King George could not have imagined in his wildest dreams of getting away with the mountain of shit we take from out rulers today. And all of it is enabled by the great scheme called democracy (or representive republic if you want to be technical about it).

    There is a good reason that at the same time the ancient greeks were developing the concept of democracy they were also developing the foundations of propaganda. (ethos, pathos and logos)

    Edward Berney’s, the grandfather of public relations and Frued’s nephew said “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”

    It was bullshit then, it is bullshit now.

  4. dee says:

    The two systems go hand in hand is what Bernay’s is saying here. Democracy itself it totally dependant on illusion, hearts-n-minds campaigns, and double-speak.

    Government at its most fundmental level is a means of resource control and allocation through aggression ultimately. Plain and simple. All wealth and all life comes from the land. That is what it is all about. If there is no government, human greed will take over land resources and defend it with force. Any opposition must become organized and therefore the resource hoarders must become organized. That is why anarchy (real freedom) cannot last. Someone will always come in a claim the salt mine for himself and take it away from others.

    That leaves us with three fundemental choices in the modern era. Anarcho-capitalism, communism or state capitalism. The first says let everyone fight and dominate in a survival of the fittest. The second attempts to set up a militia government to guard against anyone claiming land rights and resources so they are available to all as they should naturally be, and the third is what we have now. Set up an organized system of physical and intellectual property rights and lease the resources in exchange for judiciary and malitia enforcement. Let the capitalist lease the land and harvest it in excess for exchange of direct or indirect labor (government backed currency).

    But this is the also the most sinister choice of all, like democracy, despite the propaganda that it is the best system. When the government uses its militia dominance-by-volume to enforce property rights it creates artificial resource scarcity. If a capitalist buys a salt mine only that capitalist has access to that salt which drives up the value drastically because the only way for a human being to get salt is to barter with the capitalist now or face government caging (jail). Secondly, it makes land artificially scarce and therefore expensive and capital intensive. Now the common man cannot choose to harvest his own food and build his own home and must rely on capitalist land owners to exchange his labor at a loss for his very survival. In other words he is forced to work for a living. Modern propaganda has not only made us okay with that, but willfully choose it over a natural self-sufficient life as we are addicted to consumerism. It intentionally creates dependancy of man on other men. It’s indirect, even willful, slavery. Just like democracy itself.

    We are better off when we actually realize we are slaves because then we can organize a revolution. But when we are given the illusion of freedom we become passive. It’s brilliant in its utter evil.

  5. defiantidealist says:

    Thanks Dee for the excellent comments. I think I largely agree with a lot of what you’re saying except for a couple of points.
    1) You say: “If there is no government, human greed will take over land resources and defend it with force.” This is a common and (I think) flawed assumption about human nature upon which so much of dominant paradigm rests ie “We need state control because otherwise we’d have chaos, and it would be some sort of violent ‘Lord Of the Flies’ survival of the fittest/most violent scenario”. I can understand why people think this – I mean just look around. But what almost no one asks is if this greed, fear and cruelty we see around us really human nature or in fact a reaction to the world we are brought up in – the capitalist one where one human is pitted against another in a battle to compete for the tools necessary to survive. It is this point that I am fascinated by. There is much evidence that suggests that we are not born this way, but must learn it. Anyway, rather than simply looking back to our past, or at our animal cousins we should also be looking forwards to what we are capable of as humans now and in years to come. We don’t NEED to be greedy and compete to survive with each other. It’s the transition that’s really hard, but maybe more on that in a future post.
    2) Anarcho-Communism isn’t as you say “ let everyone fight and dominate in a survival of the fittest” it’s actually a system where we have no need of money, or state control and where all people work together to mutual benefit, living in a self policing, self regulating society that incentivises communal long term good over short term individualistic acquisition. A word where people take personal responsibility for their actions and lives rather than abdicate to a state or higher authority. It’s a bit more than that, but in a nutshell that’s the gist of it. I highly recommend reading Kropotkin’s ‘The Conquest of Bread’ and ‘Mutual Aid’.
    With all this in mind, the fundamental choices are very different. Do we allow ourselves to remain enslaved by our own apathy or do we start laying the necessary groundwork for something better? Start educating ourselves and others to exactly what is important and what is what. What we need and what we don’t.

  6. dee says:

    There are more than a few experiments to test the assertion of man fundemental nature. You have to account for not only foreign or outside interests, but also generational paradigms outside the original intentions.

    Look to native Americans. They are a classic example of anarcho-cmmunism. They worked within their societies, but eventually outside interests destroyed them. We have governments today specifically because of the fundemental reality of human selfishness, will to power, and social organization.

    The mennonites of today are about as close to a functional anarcho-communist society as we can get IMO. Also the 1960’s commune experiments. The first has a strict hierarchy and a strong religious organization and it works over time. But they create an insular, small scale government for themselves. It may be small but it is still extremely strict which serves to supress human instictual drives.

    The 1960’s commune experiments were essentially morally nihilistic. When you study them and talk to participants a common theme unfolds. The commune quickly divided into class structures. The women ended up doing the lions share of the work, while the men came and went, allocated to themselves the cushy jobs and mostly say around pontificating. Practically every one of them failed precisely for these reasons within 3 years.

    A treatise on human nature and tendancy to organization must be taken into account. The most damning flaw of revolutionary action has been idealism or even inconsideration of human nature. A good example is the struggle between the Menshevics and Bolshevics particularly post WWI.

  7. dee says:

    By the way there are still well functional communes today and nomadic anarchist societies if you are interested. Your goal doesn’t have to be to overthrow government, just live as you wish as much as possible right now.

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