Ten votes in a lifetime – Call that democracy?
April 11, 2010
The coming election is supposed to be our big opportunity to “exercise our democratic freedom” by voting for the next government. But general elections only happen about every five years. So if we live until we’re 70 years old, we’ll only get to “exercise our democratic freedom” about ten times in a lifetime.
When we vote, we vote for someone we’ve probably never met, who tells us, with absolute sincerity, that they know what is best for us. Our would-be leaders apply all their skills and ability to get elected, making use of their charisma and resources to sway the electorate. But once elected, what power do we really have to hold them to account?
Take Tony Blair. His government was elected by a mere quarter of the population. But then he ignored the clear wishes of the people and attacked Iraq. Is that really “democratic”? More recently, when did we, the people, have any say in the decision to bail out the banks or to introduce ID cards?
Clearly, representative democracy isn’t “rule of the people” and the mere act of voting does not mean that you have “played your part” in the democratic process. In reality, it’s not what you do every five years on election day. It’s what you do in that five-year interval in-between.
Never Mind The Ballots, Direct Action works
In Haringey Solidarity Group, when we talk to people about our ideas – of taking over decision-making in our local communities, or a society where people’s lives are more important than maximising profit – we often hear “ok, what you say sounds good but it can’t work in the real world?” Well, one of the things we push is something called “direct action”. This is where a group of people don’t just ask politely for something – together they take things into their own hands to get it.
In the Spring 2010 issue of our newsletter, our anti-election special, we cover a few of the many recent examples where ordinary people have done just this and got results for their families and their communities.