• Tanweer Dar

Illusions of Democracy

A lot is made of the act of voting. Once every four or five years, millions of people head to the polling booths or ballot boxes and cast their votes. They can, of course, only vote for whoever is on the ballot. Whether that individual, or the party to which they belong, truly cares about them or represents their interests is another matter entirely.

Representative democracy has actually resulted in a very small group of people, many of whom are intensely disliked and generally considered unscrupulous by most of the population, making very important decisions which affect all of our lives. That these people are often supported, financially, by particular lobbies, companies and interests, is also something that should not be overlooked. They aren't in it to serve the public, they're in it to line their pockets.

So is this really democracy? Do the people really have power because they get to vote for representatives every few years?

Moreover, when the corporate media which delivers the messages of these representatives, and the parties to which they belong, has its own interests, can the demos really be certain that it is always sufficiently well-informed to vote?

This same media, which has such a powerful part to play in the very fabric of our societies and cultures, tells us that people don't like politics. Indeed, many people will tell you they stay away from politics. Casting a vote every few years is more than enough for them. They're quite happy to stay out of politics the rest of the time. And yet, in the interim, how many of those people also complain about their lot? How many of those people are suffering because of the decisions the representatives they elected have made? Of course that very same media is there to point the blame in the direction of a scapegoat, usually foreigners in one for or another.

There is a world of difference between representative democracy and direct democracy. In the former, the people only get to vote for those who will hold, and wield, power. In the latter, the people actually hold and wield power themselves. It is telling that when people are given the rare opportunity to make a decision, they often rebel so strongly against the establishment that it causes a proverbial political earthquake. The Brexit referendum in the UK in 2016 is one example of this. That the consequence of so much pent up resentment was destructive should not have come as a surprise...

In the rare instance when a politician with scruples and a genuinely progressive vision does make it through to challenge the system, they are inevitably crushed between the hammer of the corporate media and the anvil of the establishment. Big power and big money move heaven and earth to ensure such individuals cannot succeed.

So, what is the alternative?

Well, what do people actually do when something matters to them? They don't go to the ballot box and put a cross on a piece of paper. They take to the streets. They protest. They march. They agitate and boycott and make a lot of noise. They are active in pursuit of their goals.

Activism, then, is the only route for ordinary people to wield power in a world were democracy is little more than illusory. When your vote doesn't count for much, your voice, and your feet, may.

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