Oh, democracy! The basis of our western world. The salvation in the face of tyranny. The power that lies in the hands of the people. Where would we be without darling democracy?
On paper, it ensures that those we elect can be held accountable if they step out of line. Democracy gives us both a voice and a choice. It gives us a chance to make a difference. Or, if you live in the United Kingdom in 2013, it gives politicians free reign to do as they please for four or five years and effectively ignore everyone who got them there in the first place, unless of course you lined their pockets in the run up to the election in 2010 and arguably before as well. I think the old classic line goes that our grandfathers laid their lives on the line so that we could choose who runs the country. At least, that was the line in my family. That’s why my mother more or less beat me all the way to the polling office to cast my vote.
‘It’s important! Your grandfather almost died bombing those bloody Nazi’s so you could do this! It doesn’t matter who you vote for as long as you vote!’
I wouldn’t find out till later that she was right. It doesn’t matter who you vote for. In the end they’re all the same, they just have different colour ties. I was one of the many suckers who got fooled into thinking that a vote for Nick Clegg’s Liberals would be a vote for change. I remember being giddy with excitement. Free university tuition, better green energy policies, a real adult debate about drug policy and how it could be changed for the better. Standing there between Brown and Cameron he seemed, you know, real. I’d go as far as to say even cool, in the way that Churchill was cool because he was always drunk and smoking cigars. Clegg revealed to the Guardian that he loved a cheeky cigarette and I was instantly sold. ‘This guy is real!’ I thought at the time. I couldn’t wait to tick his box and see our beautiful country hurtle into the future, lead by a man with a Benson in his hand and a real idea of what was right. On the way home I danced a little Ferris Bueller dance and smiled.
Later that night, as the results trickled in, like many others I watched in horror as Clegg effectively treated my vote like a public urinal. We all know what happened next. We ended up with an oxymoronic government. Liberal Conservatives. You couldn’t have two more opposing ideals if you tried. Dammit, just look at the words! They’re opposites! When I went to college the next day, I remember feeling for the first time a true sense of disdain. I’d been duped. Democracy? What democracy? I didn’t vote for this mutant government. Nor did anyone else I knew. It was clear then that the Liberals were never going to get another vote from anyone who got sucked into their crap in 2010, but what wasn’t so clear so early in their marriage of convenience was how much it would affect people’s desire to head down to the polling office. A recent Guardian/ICM poll concluded that ‘…40 percent of British voters were considering not voting for any party.’ I’m not really that surprised at all, are you? I’m sure this number has been helped somewhat by recent anti-vote poster boy Russell Brand, but even without his eloquent mouth I’m sure the number would still be that high. You see, people are generally pissed off. There doesn’t seem to be any correlation between what people read in a party’s manifesto and what actually happens once that party is elected. It’s creating what I would call a class of indifference.
This is a group of people, of all ages, who see quite clearly that politicians will always do the exact opposite of what they say, unless they say ‘We won’t do anything that we just said we would,’ in which case crack open the champagne because you’d of just heard a politician tell the truth. The class of indifference instead focus on themselves. They disconnect themselves from the political world and instead just live their lives. They don’t vote, they don’t watch PMQ’s, they don’t read Boris Johnson’s articles in the Evening Standard, they don’t know that the internet is being slowly censored, they don’t realise we’re fracking our way into dangerous oblivion. They’ve spent so long (or in some cases, just a couple of years) being lied to that effectively they’ve gone ‘Screw the whole thing, I’m done.’ The real problem is that they feel powerless. ‘How can I, one person, change anything? I can’t, so I’m just not going to try.’ That’s why the Government can get away with taxing disabled people on their spare bedrooms. That’s why the government can get away with flirting with human rights abusing Azerbaijanis’. That’s why the government can get away with all the awful things they’re doing to the NHS, because they’ve spent so long making the little man feel powerless that the little man has finally surrendered.
Some people wonder why the British people haven’t risen up in the same way that they have in places like the Ukraine or Spain or even Greece. Let’s for a moment forget the fact that the British aren’t historically a ‘revolting’ nation. The old stereotype sticks; we’re too polite, we don’t want to cause a bother, we’d probably say sorry a lot, that kind of thing. Put that to the side for the moment because these things can be worked over. There’s likely multiple reasons why we aren’t all at the gates of Downing Street demanding Cameron’s head, other than the fact that generally people don’t care anymore. Firstly, look at the fact that there are an awful lot of people in this country who are ‘comfortable’. Your parents, they’re probably comfortable. People living in Kensington, they’re ‘comfortable’. There’s a wild amount of people in this country who are happy the way things are going because they’re still able to live their lives and do their thing. It’s easy for them to ignore the fact that thousands of families are having to turn to food banks to feed their children. It’s also easy to ignore the desperate people getting themselves into mountains of debt because they needed fifty quid to meet their rent so they went to Wonga that month. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ – If I can’t see it, then it isn’t happening. You can skip over depressing stories in the newspaper and you can ignore the homeless child staring at your from an advert on the tube. It’s not so easy to ignore it if they’re at your doorstep, but then that’s why you live at the end of a country lane with a big gate at the front, so you don’t have to see that. We have a very comfortable class in this country and until they feel the squeeze, there simply won’t be enough people behind any sort of push for change. Believe me, if these cats went to Waitrose and there was no food on the shelves then people would start to get angry.
So this is where we are as we approach 2014. We have almost half the country considering sticking two fingers up to voting. We have a large group content because it’s not affecting their day-to-day lives. We have a small group that is angry and willing to march, but they don’t know what they want and they don’t have the organization to appear as a true unified force (this is an interesting point that I will have to come back to). We have the comfortable class and the class of indifference. While these two remain, the government will carry on being able to do as they please. They will continue breaking promises and we’ll continue taking it on the chin. So what do we do about it? This is by far the most important question of all, and the most difficult one to answer. We’re too deep inside the current political system to see any viable or real alternative. We’ve been blinded by democracy as much as we’ve been emancipated by it. What we need firstly is an open discussion: what do we want to change? How do we want to be governed? How do we solve the issues that are damaging our society? How do we please everybody and still remain a driving cultural force? We all just want to live in a just world, where each of us can be free and none of us are affected by forces beyond our control, but to do this, first we need to know that we can change things. We can, that’s a fact. The simple fact is that majority rules and it always has done. There’s more of us than there are of them, but that doesn’t mean that we should approach it in a violent way. Not at all. A collective voice will drown out even the loudest antagonist. Don’t be scared of speaking up and don’t believe that your ideas are silly or stupid. We must consider everything and everyone and then go from there. There’s no more time for a class of indifference, and the comfortable class, well, it’s your responsibility to understand that these problems can’t be swept under the rug. What kind of world are you leaving behind for your children? Hopefully one where they have the same opportunities as you did.