Has Government killed Democracy – Part 2
In part 1, I looked at how government stifles true democracy rather than builds on it. As I write part 2, I offer together with Part 1, an alternative option for electing a government and creating a people driven democracy rather than power driven. It’s not finite; it’s not perfect … but it’s my contribution to a start.
Power driven looks like this. It’s the 25th of May and the government of the day in the U.K. is in hot water. Boris (the U.K. prime minister) has chosen to support a top aide, “come what may”, and the electorate are furious because despite overwhelming support for the aides removal from office, Boris hasn’t budged.
It is not my intention to weigh in on the facts or to adjudicate that matter, but I offer it as further proof of why it is time to rethink politics, the idea of democracy and Government process. Honestly, if government are not listening to the people – what are they doing? And the rub is this … even if the majority voted for a particular outcome and are proven wrong – It still remains the will of the people. It still represents democratic process. We clearly see incidents were governments get it wrong. And clearly, substantive issues aside, in not listening to the people, in not being transparent, in not applying their own rules, and by instead trying to ‘ride it out’ Boris is wrong – It’s not democracy at work. The media have asked many questions concerning this incident but for me one key statement by Boris has gone unchallenged. At the end of his press conference the PM says “the Public must make up its own mind” – And it largely has, having heard the facts, it isn’t satisfied. And they’ve persisted in telling him, still the PM doesn’t listen to the public! He ignores them and in fact ignores his own directive. So how is that democratic? The facts of the matter are frankly unimportant. But the power afforded to govt. allows for two sets of rules. One for the people (many have been fined for doing what Dominic Cummings (the aide) did and many have suffered alone or died alone because family did what the government ordered and didn’t go to loved ones) … and one for the powerful government elite.
Boris has accordingly misread or worse ignored the room. In politics today this type of treatment of the public is happening more often than we care to believe. Politicians and Governments are not hearing (or ignoring) the will of the people, they follow a private party based agenda. They are elected by the people and for the people but that means very little any more … once elected! And this undermines the fabric of democracy.
Take the current scenario in Hong Kong. After many months of anti government protest by the people, which is both legal and collective, the Chinese Government has used the mask of Covid 19 to implement a harsh crackdown on the protestors. And to alter for ever, the fundamental rights written into the agreements when the U.K. gave up control of Hong Kong. China’s actions are blatantly unlawful until the 50-year time line is exhausted. But what will the world governments; the UN; and politicians who should oversee this policy agreement do? Nothing!! They will look at the “bigger picture” – which is code for economic benefits and make a calculated decision that benefits the power base and status quo but not the actual PEOPLE of Hong Kong!! So why fight so hard for an agreement in the first place you ask … this is a great question. They’ll write a few letters and offer up some bluster, but effectively do NOTHING. But they can and will hide behind that agreement and save face citing “Our hands were tied”. The old clanger – ‘Peace in our time’ is a phrase that springs to mind!
Compare this to say, the dismantling of Apartheid in South Africa. Again, freedoms were being taken from citizens of the country based primarily on colour. Totally undemocratic! The United Nations; Australia ; the U.K. etc. took a firm stance as did most of the world to restore “Democracy”. So why does one rule apply to that situation and another to democracy in Hong Kong? Why did the world intervene in South Africa’s sovereignty but won’t in Hong Kong’s? The simple answer is power and economic scale. South Africa could easily be crushed. It was a pimple! China … not so easily! So the UN will do nothing, and individual member nations of the UN will do nothing. In any case China has a veto right, which is exactly why I made my earlier point in part 1. The UN is powerless and the problematic countries are mostly the 5 permanent members anyway, so they can always ‘Protect’ any action taken. Democracy and governments are corrupt to their very core! It’s never about the people, only retention of power.
So as an alternative governing body I foresee a future as noted in many science fiction or futuristic movies. The introduction of ruling COUNCILS.
You might say we can’t use Movies as a basis for determining new world order or government? Governing is far too important an issue to be likened to movies.
In response – Two things spring to mind:
1) Mr. Average Joe doesn’t seem to take his democratic right to vote seriously enough any more. It’s considered a tedious chore. Real leaders often extol the virtues of VOTING … it’s critical to a fair democratic outcome yet we don’t turn out and vote. (Example – compare the voter percentage in a new democracy like South Africa’s 1994 first fully integrated election (86.9%) with its most recent 2019 one (65.99%)). This after one of the largest and most well known fights for the democratic right to vote. In just a few short years the collective “value” of your right to vote is reduced by over 21%. Good and fair governance is about voter turnout. The vote is the voice of the people, the weapon of democracy. People no longer have enough belief in either government (probably) or democracy to bother voting. Furthermore, our voice needs to be heard more than every four or five years. If we are NOT heard, as in the Boris case noted above, it takes too many years to fix that. The world moves too fast now for a 4 or 5 year election cycle. The concept is outdated! The 2020 presidential election in the USA is a perfect example of this. Let’s pick the best of two awful options. That appears to be the consensus choice for Americans. And
2) you’d be surprised at how many things we take for granted today that stem from some futuristic movie theme. Flight; mobile phones; teleporting (quantum entanglement); bionic limbs; hover boards; space stations; universal language translators; holograms (3D); digital billboards; … the list is lengthy. The idea was first planted in some movie. Many from the Star Wars type genre.
So why not use the Council concept seen in futuristic movies as a governance principle. They had Councils … but with real power.
The Alternative Option
For those that haven’t read Part 1 – please feel free to familiarise yourself, but basically the notion is a direct vote from your home on a first past the post system, using modern communication technology such as sms/WiFi etc.
We would elect our public servants based on a referendum style vote and they don’t sit in Parliament, it’s unnecessary. They can communicate via FaceTime or a similar secure network. The elected officials (MP’s or Congressmen) remain in the constituency they were elected to and govern that constituency with a group of civil servants (town councils). But they take full responsibility for the constituency that elected them. Most local councils have limited power to affect change because they defer to centralised government. It’s not democratic.
Part of their mandate is to select from the body of elected Congresspersons or MP’s a COUNCIL of 12. If they are selected to the Council of 12, the next best candidate takes his position, or that elected MP nominates a successor in his or her constituency. Furthermore three further members are elected who are not MP’s or Congresspeople from the constituency vote but voted for directly by the country voters via online/SMS (as described previously) on a first past the post system. So you have 9 council members elected by congresspeople or MP’s who themselves have been elected, and 3 elected directly by the public straight into the Council. A sort of non-executive board appointment. This removes the power of the political party and allows the independents equal opportunity. All campaigning spends are capped. The candidates set out the issues that they feel are important and the public vote on issues, not party lines.
This Council of 12 run the national government. They elect a Prime Minister or President and Deputy amongst themselves. They debate motions or bills handed up (provided) by the constituency MP’s but bring no motions or bills to be voted on themselves. In this way there is no cross over or bias or personal agenda. All major national decisions are decided by an online ‘people’s vote’. A referendum style process where every citizen must vote. And all constituency decisions are debated by the council of 12 and ratified. Primarily to ensure that local laws don’t unduly impact National laws. Or where a motion or bill affects more than one constituency.
In the past, government’s considered a referendum as alien or that it surpassed parliamentary sovereignty, but the reality is that in this modern political landscape it represents the only true democratic option for reasons already highlighted. And further, it is amazing as with the 2016 UK BREXIT vote, how wrong the government of the day were. And if they got that wrong – how much more do they get wrong. How many laws and decisions are really representative of the people’s view. Sadly I think very few today. So many of the laws passed today are not even known to the general public and represent the will of the party, not the people. In the case of immigration for example this is definitely the case. Why is that? Surely part of an elected officials mandate should be informing his constituents of upcoming bills to be passed. Isn’t that the political contract when we elect representatives. It’s definitely not happening where I live!
Obviously a group of specialists would explain to the people the facts of the issue/s being voted on as experts, not political party representatives. We want the facts … not the party political “spin”.
The Supreme Court Justices (12) are elected by the Council of 12. The candidates are provided by a vote done by all practising legal professionals including Judges, who have passed the bar and who are currently registered practising legal professionals – on a First past the post system. They offer up a pool of 25 names from which the Council elect 12. This way we stop this right wing left wing sway of judges being chosen based on which political party is in power and we would have fair representation based on peer evaluation and not the passing of some pathetic means tested party political hogwash (Justice Brett Kavanagh)! It is said – If you control the supreme court – you control the democracy, so let’s make it fully democratic!
Finally it is time to dismantle and overhaul the structure of the United Nations (see part 1) and apply the same Council principle to the UN. The UN must be returned to a position of prominence as a powerful world arbiter. No more veto right by five nations in perpetuity. Countries pay into the UN as a percentage of GDP and each country votes on the basis of a weighted scale, perhaps with the smallest having the highest weighting to ensure a level playing field, a Council of 12 that sits for 6-years at a time, on a first past the post basis, who in turn elect the Secretary General and two assistant secretary generals. One for economic and one for humanitarian oversight.
The elected Council elect departmental heads on a “business model” basis that work in specific areas of responsibility with budget caps and specific experience in that area. They must be evaluated in order to retain the position, just as CEO’s are. All ‘weaker’ or less powerful countries are offered a “Mentor” (which could be an ex head of state or senior civil servant of a larger or older first world country) who oversees the implementation of systems that do not clash with the sovereignty of that nation state but help build that country through their knowledge and experience. Surely that’s better use of experience than designing and having a library named after you. He and his team is remunerated by the UN only. As persuasive ‘capital’ they have a large say in any aid package to that country.
This may sound far fetched and idealistic. You may have improvements or alternative ideas, you may think this is total rubbish, but what I am certain of is this – we cannot continue watching our institutions fail us. We have never impacted the planet we live in as we do today. We are coming to the end of, and therefore the beginning of, a new cycle – as a species. Our Earth is full, overcrowded … as sentient beings, as humanity, we are moving from gangly teenager to mature adult, as a species we are maturing.
Just as teenagers do stuff without thought or understanding of future consequences and look back at things they did and say, “were we mad”!! So we too, as teenagers, ‘Ruled our planet’, but now we are maturing as a species and can look back and see first hand, the effects of each and every decision we have made to get to this time and space. We can see our mistakes and triumphs and we can better predict our future because of the experiences learned from the mistakes of our past. Sadly many of our current crop of politicians don’t want to see it though, they can’t say ‘We were wrong or we are sorry’! They rather choose to ignore the facts; the science and the reality because the alternative may erode influence, cost them votes and impact on there power base! So they do what Boris, Putin, Xi Jinping, Trump and other heads of state are doing – doubling down on denial and ignoring public opinion. Has this ever happened so blatantly in modern politics? Have the people or the facts ever been so badly ignored by politicians in the modern age. I can’t think of a time such as this.
It is predicted that in the next 20 to 30 years, that’s in the lifetime of most of our children, our population size across the globe will start to contract. We are no longer a numerically growing species … circumstance will dictate that we begin to reduce in numbers. (Vienna’s International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis – and many other scientific predictions – eg. Prof Lutz etc). It is predicted we will never reach 8 billion people. Currently we are at a little over 7.5 billion. It’s already begun in Europe. But even if that prediction is off by 20 or 30%, in both years (time) or population numbers, it makes little difference to the facts or the effect. What is also clear is that the population growth areas – India; Africa etc can not sustain the population density. They don’t have the financial / economic resources.
How does this impact democracy? It will shift emphasis and change the paradigm. Things that matter today, will no longer matter to voters tomorrow, especially young voters. Older generations can’t, won’t or don’t want to see it, but change is critical and growth of sustainable; green; a move away from consumerism; planetary protection etc. is coming. Power retention can no longer equal political capital! Our hard wiring knows something is wrong. We sense change is coming … and there is an excitement or trepidation (or both) in everybody. We grasp at things like plastic and agree to stop using single use plastic … I truly wish our issues were simply plastic! You feel it deep within you, but you don’t yet know exactly what it is. It’s like people who know it’s going to rain …. It’s just a sense or feeling. And I think our youth somehow sense it more than we do. Maybe they are less brainwashed by consumerism or they see the effects in loved ones (see earlier note) or perhaps you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but they’re more planetary mature than us ‘old dogs’ were at similar ages … and politics as we know it MUST alter and adapt to keep up. Democracy has to be better; more direct; more in tune; more robust. It must start with a clean sheet of paper. You can’t tweak this and get it right, and I’m not advocating Armageddon …. we can do this! This is not bigger than the Industrial Revolution and we are smarter today, more educated.
The current “old politics” trend is still to get around tables and fight to retain a power base. I literally ‘hose’ myself laughing whilst listening to the EU and U.K. negotiators argue about literally nothing (especially when stacked against the worlds issues), it’s really old school thinking and honestly, there is zero space for that any more. Barnier / Tusk / David Frost and all those Brexit negotiators are part of the (let’s politely call them) less planetary mature section of our population. The ones still intent on power – and old paradigms. They’re not able to see the reality and cannot be consultative, or adopt collaborative processes. It’s still a “them Vs. us” mentality. If you want to resolve this, pick 4 people on each side, who are around 30 years old (as they have the most to gain or lose here), and it would be wrapped up in 2 weeks. And a better job done. That’s why democracy has to change. The current crop of BREXIT negotiators are a throwback to our political structures and are still trying to achieve a Treaty of Versailles type agreement …. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now. Collaboration is the order of the day. Posturing has no place. But most importantly, as mentioned at the beginning, these agreements are not worth the paper on which they’re written … look at Hong Kong. And there are many such examples …. Russian invasion of Ukraine; China v Tibet; Palestine; Chechnya etc. So what’s all the fuss about! Our global leaders don’t enforce the agreements anyway ….! The EU are not looking to release the U.K. … they are focused on ensuring that any other EU member sees the difficulty in trying to leave and is trying to make them think twice about going a similar route. And because of this pathetic old world thinking, the EU has shot itself in the foot and covid has brought forward the timeline of the inevitable. The demise of the EU. Italy is talking of leaving; Greece and Spain too – they were not supported with Covid, just as they were not supported with immigration assistance starting in 2015. At the end of the day, these old world thinkers say “union” but operate nationalistically. A recipe for disaster.
We can discuss ad nauseam why this is happening or more importantly how it’s happening, but be sure of two things – Coronavirus is the start of many new life altering threats and changes to come and secondly, mass migration is here to stay. And the Brexit bunch are arguing about settled status and fishing rights. How quaint!
And none of these things are as bad as apathy … history has shown us that. Show me historically when migration has been negative or a major pandemic or (natural) threats or issue has caused irreparable damage. But apathy has caused huge problems. We cannot be apathetic!
Priorities are moving. Chaos is the new normal … “one must face chaos to give birth to a star” – Nietzsche
We cannot continue to stand up to weak countries while large “rogue” states with power do as they please. I often wonder if the war on terror is any different to the crusades against Jerusalem? What did that crusade achieve. I equally wonder what would happen if we asked exactly what these so called terrorists want? My limited knowledge tells me they want a country and self determination. Yes it’s not that simple I know, but it is simpler than we make it out to be. Is that too high a price to pay, to sit and listen or should we just keep counting the body bags of amazing young people who die for a war that cannot end while saying – “ we don’t communicate with terrorists”! We have to talk to one another, nothing has ever been achieved without dialogue. Trust will follow. Haven’t American (and other allied countries) paid enough now. Haven’t the civilians in terrorist occupied regions had enough ‘collateral damage’? Haven’t the terrorists themselves had enough? Or is the equation – so many have died already for us so to honour them, we will just send more to die! Neither the Brookings Institute or CATO Institute or any one of the recognised think tanks believe the USA objective has been or will be achieved and suggests the war is not being won. It further suggests the USA is losing credibility when the war on terror is compared to other nation states (Chechnya) being obliterated but here just the Muslims are being targeted. And yes, it was Muslims who flew into the World Trade centre … we get that, but that mastermind has been taken out! Wasn’t that the intention? To find and destroy the perpetrators. It wasn’t a country guys, it’s a terrorist. By nature you can’t have a terrorist also be a country. Thats an oxymoron. Afghanistan invaded – check; Rawalpindi of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed – captured – check. And yet it continues! If you back anybody into a corner what’s the likely outcome?? They must either ‘fight or flight’ … and they’ve got nowhere to ‘Flight’ to … is that terrorism or self determination/preservation?
And for the record I despise violence of any description. I abhor what happened to America in 9/11. And I hate civilian death in reprisal attacks. I make it a duty to read each and every report of Medal of Honour recipients as a duty to humanity (and I am not American) and I tear up. I despise the very concept of terrorism but I equally think the history writers are always the victors. I watched as history was re-written in the last 20- years in South Africa. Amazingly terrorists became freedom fighters at the stroke of a pen. The vilified became the hero’s. Perception and propaganda is a powerful weapon in the hands of the powerful. We have to find a solution because the current process self actualises war, no not just war, it self actualises and self perpetuates terror and terrorism. A proper democracy would see this AND ACT ACCORDINGLY !
We either revert to the law of the jungle whereby it’s the strongest survive and it’s eat or be eaten … or we adopt a new world order in which democracy is real and the people have a say. In truth, I don’t trust a politician to represent me – especially a powerful one, do you?