Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Democracy and its Discontents

Democracy is a strange one, isn’t it? The idea that the majority of people aren’t too thick to decide who should run the country is pretty odd, isn’t it, given that ‘popular’ basically means vulgar, soul-destroying trash.

My hero Edgar Allan Poe got a bit of flack for saying that ‘democracy is a good system… for sheep’. I entirely agree with Edgar Allan, though I would add the caveat that democracy is a pretty good system for switched on people, like the Ancient Greeks.

But they weren’t that keen on democracy mind. Plato realised that people were basically a bit thick and the ideal system would be to have philosopher kings running everything. Plato had some pretty good ideas. Not all his ideas were good. He wanted to delete the good bits from the Odyssey, and goodness knows what he would have done with my beloved video nasty collection. So I’m no slavish admirer of Plato.

Yet it does seem to me that his Philosopher King idea has been sadly attacked. Ironically enough, this has been attacked by our very ‘philosopher’ class. The only snag is that their work loses revenue by default and are floated by the free market: in other words they are chosen by rich people who have grown rich by feeding the vulgar and subsequently our ‘philosopher class’ are thick as pigdirt.

Not a nice observation, I know, but we have to be realistic, which brings me to Timothy Garton-Ash, the smirking double-barelled creep whose response to Mikhail Saakashvilli’s bombing his own people was to say that Suckers was a top bloke and well worth supporting. Because 'Vladimir Putin' was ‘anti-Democratic’ (and not in charge of Russia at the time, but hey, facts are silly things).

Anyway, why is democracy so wonderful according to Timmy? Because if your leader is crap then someone else can get the top post.

Think about this for a second. David Cameron's top credential for becoming Prime Minister is that he's not been in charge yet. He'd still be the same melon-headed plutocrat who supports New Labour's abysmal human rights record and voted for war in Iraq, but if he had already been in charge we'd improve the country by not voting for him. That's why we're engaged in horrible conflicts and could be engaged in an even more horrible one if Timmy had his way in the Caucuses (not that many Garton-Ash's would be in the firing line), just so that if a politician is crap someone else who hasn't been elected can take charge.

And that indeed seems to be a part of Russophobia: the fact that under Putin the United Russia party actually did things pretty well and got re-elected. That's not democracy: democracy is messing things up and then getting someone else to mess things up. The Russians actually WANT a good opposition party, but unlike our 'wise' journos, they aren't thick enough to support Kasparov the Magnificent's travelling freak show because it claims it will not do the successful things United Russia has just done, but will do the unsuccessful things that United Russia did earlier. Plus ca change.

Yet, if I were to say that democracy is a stupid system because it lets oafs vote for whatever demagogic crooks want to line their own pockets (and who're probably fibbing anyway) rather than letting wise men like me* tell everyone what to do, I'd be attacked as a bit of a maniac who HATES FREEDOM.

This despite the fact that I would instantly legalise guns and cannabis, drop the war on terror, the CCTV state, harassment of photographers, and do lots of other things that our parties with the greatest numbers of voters wouldn't do.

Yet people vote for security, not for freedom. Doesn't stop politicians pretending that they've been elected to make people free and people pretending that's why they've elected politicians.

*Speaking philosophically of course, as my friend's 3 year old daughter says 'Gwegwy, you ah vewy silly'.


  1. YOU HATE FREEDOM!!!!!!!!!

    Seriously though, I think more and more people are beginning to look at democracy in a more realistic and critical way, rather than treating it as a sacred cow.

    You can see this not only in low turnout in the UK but also in countries like Poland which only 20 years ago were enthusiastically embracing the ballot box. Now, elections here are carried out in an atmosphere of apathy and cynicism.

    Of course, this does not mean that people are against democracy per se. 'Democracy' is a fairly vague word. There are many types of democracy. Even shining examples of democracy (Athens, the early USA etc.) appear more like ogliarchies to modern eyes as they exluded women, slaves and the poor.

    I do not know enough about political philosophy to say whether democracy in its present Western guise is the 'least worst option' or not.

    What I do know is that people want and need more in life than just the right to choose from a list of names every 4 years or so.

  2. 'Seriously though, I think more and more people are beginning to look at democracy in a more realistic and critical way, rather than treating it as a sacred cow.'

    It's difficult to tell in a sense. I feel a bit daft saying that I'm apathetic because I realise the political establishment is intellectually empty and neo-liberal to the core, which makes me different from someone who's just apathetic because they're more interested in Pete and Kate than what's happening to the world.

    But sometimes I think that Britain is becoming ripe for a dictatorship.