You Can’t be Trusted with Democracy

Pure, direct democracy is an unfeasible and unattainable aim.

 

The people have proved they simply cannot be trusted with it.

 

Like a big fat baby gurgling lumpy phlegm they throw the right across the room like a rattle in a fit of tantrum, not realising that the vote actually means something, that the rattle is made of titanium and can crack the wall.

 

Of course, the people could be trusted with direct democracy if they were properly informed. Perhaps they could make educated and tempered decisions en masse; perhaps national conversations would be possible without resorting to slogans and clumsy statistics recited into oblivion until the breath that gives utterance to them forms a giant swirling vortex and all forms of intelligence and knowledge are sucked down into it and we forget what thinking even is. Perhaps we could have a population all on the same page as to the best path for humanity to take.

 

But who has the time to get properly informed, to gain a comprehensive and explorative understanding of any given issue, let alone all of them? You do not have the time. And nor should you be expected to make the time. The majority of us were not put on this earth to contemplate philosophical, ideological or pragmatic ramifications of policy. We elect representatives because they do have the time; it is literally their job to be properly informed, to cut behind the media’s bullshit, behind misinformation and misunderstanding; to gain a broad and overarching view.

 

People want to enjoy their lives. They want to finish work and be allowed to zone out, to relish in their leisure time. They do not and, if the system was well, would not, be obligated to be as informed on matters of complex policy as politicians are so as to become de facto captains of our collective ship.

 

Of course, it could be that we enact ample media regulation, for instance, or campaign regulation, so that the people are well enough informed (because those informing them are prohibited under pain of penalty from misinforming them) so that they are theoretically capable of making the decisions required of them in a pure democracy – their personal prejudices notwithstanding (or made irrelevant through enlightenment).

 

The print media in the UK, for instance, is – you may be surprised to know (or not, having seen the bottom feeding content of the tabloids) – entirely self-regulating. It has established Independent Press Standards Commission of its own volition. The only sanction if a consumer complaint is deemed valid? That the paper publish the PCC’s finding, and/or a fine.

 

But of course, regulation of the media is a slippery slope. Even when proposals seem wholly for good, one must always question the loopholes they may give rise to for the regulators and the regulators’ influencers, and the motivations of those drawing up the laws. Perhaps statutory regulation would give rise to a maelstrom of complications.

 

So then, media regulation is without doubt a dire necessity. The abhorrent, despicable, retrograde, embarrassing, childish, stupid front-page reactions to the High Court Brexit litigation by the Daily Mail et al shows this. And so too is campaign regulation a necessity. The abomination of the £350 million lie, and how it went unchallenged until recently when a complaint was made to the Crown Prosecution Service under the Representation of the People Act 1983 (now it is too late) proves this. Although both are necessary, neither can be as comprehensive as each of us in our personal inclinations would perhaps wish them to be. Since thereafter bias has the potential to follow.

 

One may say the internet means that a universe of information has been opened up to us. We can draw one story from Breitbart, another from the Guardian, and yet another from Buzzfeed and we can be ensured that we are chewing on all sides of the fat. But unfortunately that just does not happen. The people cannot be trusted. They plop themselves in their echo chambers and scream and delight in hearing their intonations crash back to them a million times louder.

 

We must entrust policy and major decisions to representatives. But this comes with the crucial caveat that those representatives be accountable more so than they are now. To us. As it is meant to be. We decide the ideology we want our species to represent and we ensure that the policies of our governments are dictated within the boundaries of said ideology through the use and utilisation of proper laws, checks, balances and regulation.

 

Our representatives cannot, as a prerequisite, be allowed to be influenced by self-interested lobbyists or bloated financial or corporate interests.

 

MPs expenses, lobbying transparency and limitation, backroom trade deals like TTIP, MPs’ employment before and after Parliament, and campaign funding are all particular flashpoints of the battle over this dearth of regulation. But there are many others, all in need of tightening and reforming as part of a bolstering of the girders of our great political and legal system.

 

A representative democracy – as would a pure democracy – also necessitates fostering a culture of intellectualism. It means bridging the gap between the academy and the builder, between scholars and scaffolders; thinks tanks and warehouse workers. I call bullshit on the claim that the British people are tired of experts. What the British people are tired of is condescension. What people everywhere are tired of is condescension. And if 2016 has taught us anything, it is that condescension breeds populism, which rises like the perennial serpent to bite us all in the ass.

 

So no, the people cannot be trusted with pure, direct democracy.

 

But this is not to despair. This is not to render you an impotent observer watching in conscious paralysis as your betters carve up your beating cadaver. For a representative democracy comes with a crucial benefit. It means that you may holler and scream in favour of the cause you promote through whatever medium you choose in the hope people flock to you and the government hears, and when they do, you are absolved of the responsibility of making it work. It is up to them. They are your representatives; they must represent your interests.

 

So, if you reject being detached from democracy like this, then there are routes in to the fray for those so inclined. You need not run for Parliament.

 

You could write, for instance. Write and disseminate your views.

 

That is how policy should and usually is made. First the people stir; then the intellectuals write about the opinions and examine them, validate them if they are deserved of validation; then the active sea change occurs within the ranks of the population and opinion shifts and then, finally, the politicians enact the people’s will if it is sensible and has passed through the various filters and, fundamentally, they are pressured enough.

 

Take gay marriage for instance. The LGBTQ community owes no debt of gratitude to Cameron’s government for legalising it. Nor are any of the companies now cynically promoting LGBTQ rights as if they did all along deserved of congratulation. All they did was rubberstamp something the people had already decided amongst themselves. That is one of the government’s jobs. They are the final filter, the final legitimating force – legitimate themselves only because we trust that they will act as such.

 

Life is about balance. Populism belies that balance. Populism is a reaction to a detached political class and to gross inequality. But, though understandable – we are human after all – it is the wrong reaction. What is required is considered, informed, unified pressure on our representatives. This itself is dependent on a reformed system, which we can only achieve through revolution. A system built so that checks and balances are better placed. We cannot rid ourselves of representatives; they are what ensure our civilization.

 

Representative democracy also comes with a duty, because no checks and no balances are without corners around which psychopathic politicians can peer to find the boundless freedom of corruption beyond. This duty is eternal vigilance. It was said that every generation must have its revolution. This is the price we pay.

 

The necessity for representative democracy, as oppose to populism or direct rule by the many, is that if done properly, it makes ignorant reactionism impossible. Because policy is dictated by ideology arrived at by the process above mentioned, rather than ideology being an unfortunate concomitant of policies arrived at as knee jerk reactions by the majority, it means that a solid foundation is built from which to construct policy and sensible, informed decisions in response to contemporary issues.

 

Plato, after all, said that “Dictatorship naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme liberty”. Looking at the blonde-haired demagogue who got so popular so recently, and the state of discourse on our Emerald Isle after a vote, essentially, for isolationism, I would be inclined to agree with him.

 

Balance must be restored through understanding and being informed. Not despite being human, but exactly because we are human – the most intelligent and adaptable species we know of.

 

I urge you to get involved in one aspect or another, whether activism or contribution to the intellectual ether. And if you do not want to, then that is exactly why you cannot be trusted with direct democracy, and that is fine.

 

Pulling out is effective 73-96% of the time, so how effective could it be for Britain?

The concentric circles of society go outwards, more or less, as follows: the individual at the centre, who then hopefully forms part of a family (not necessarily nuclear), the cornerstone of society, multiple of which come together to form first the tribe, then later the city or region or province, which collectivise under one administration in the nation state and, after the nation state, the intra-national super-state – a cohesive collection of individual countries under one administration. Eventually, it seems logical to conclude, the one world government follows, notwithstanding the logistical practicality of such an undertaking.

 

Since 1973, we in Britain have been wrestling with the transition from independent nation state to being part of a collection of countries that together increasingly form something with some of the trappings of the intra-national super-state. And now, 43 years after our tried accession into the EU, we the British people are being given the say on whether or not we remain a part of this intra-national bureaucratic-commercial collective, or whether we pull out and hope there are no nasty consequences 9 months down the line.

 

For something that represents such a fundamental turning point, not only in the British trajectory, but in that of the world – for if we reject political globalisation in this manner, what does it mean for everyone else? – the debate has been thoroughly mediocre.

 

‘Britain stronger in Europe’ say on their website that “almost half of everything we sell to the rest of the world we sell to Europe – and we get an average of £24 billion of investment in Britain per year from Europe”. In retort ‘Get Britain out’, on their website, state firmly in rebuttal that “less than 5% of UK businesses trade directly with the EU” and that “EU Regulations cost the UK economy a staggering £33.3 billion per year”. The IN campaign note that the Confederation of British Industry estimates that “3 million jobs in Britain are linked to trade with the rest of Europe” while the Outies say these jobs aren’t reliant on EU membership and “not 1 job is at risk from Brexit”. And back and forth and back forth it goes ad infinitum.

 

So how can the suits at either side of this tug of war both be so assured of facts in direct contradiction to each other? Well, it’s because either side uses different figures from different sources using different methods of arriving at their figures. Each side will quote the CBI, for instance, until it doesn’t suit them, in which case they’ll ignore what the CBI says and go with another source. Both the Office of National Statistics and the Treasury publish figures for the same things, and both of them differ.

 

The debate is mediocre at best, and insulting at worst. When the opposing campaigners trot out their tired slogans on leaflets and website front pages – “Protect out heritage, control our borders, believe in Britain” versus the admittedly less catchy “The government believes that voting to remain in the European Union is the best decision for the UK” – they are banking on you looking no further. They are banking on you taking their and only their numerical milk and honey or dark numerical water of the River Styx, depending on the strategy.

 

The integrationists and isolationists are just as grasping when it comes to celebrity endorsements. In October 2015 the Innies opened their campaign by wheeling out June Sarpong, some TV head with an adorable gap in her front teeth but who has no qualifications to be waxing lyrical about the EU aside from chatting inane shite on Loose Women. Similarly, Nigel Farage was delighted when national treasure Michael Cain came out in favour of coming out. Yeah, he’s really good at telling you how many people know his name in a cockney accent but what relevance is it what he thinks?

 

For every figure on one side, there is a different figure on the other. For every claim a counter-claim. And why? Because neither side knows what’ll happen. There is no truth in this debate, there is no right and there is no wrong. Neither side can tell you what money we’ll lose and what we’ll win, who’ll get fired and who won’t, which countries will desert us and which won’t should we leave or not leave. All we can know for certain is the amount of money the EU costs us and how much it makes us right now.

 

But even that we don’t really know. For instance, ‘Full Fact’ state that our membership of the EU isn’t “nearly £20 billion” a year as ‘Vote Leave’ like to regurgitate. This is because we get a £5 billion rebate immediately on our payment, as well as £4 billion being spent by the EU on British farmers and poorer regions in the UK, and upwards of £1 billion to the private sector for things like research grants. And this needs to be added to the money we get back in trade, investments and jobs, for which it’s “far harder to be sure about how much comes back in benefits”.

 

The House of Common Library has said in a briefing paper of February 2016 “there is no definitive study of the economic impact of the UK’s EU membership or the costs and benefits of withdrawal. Many of the costs and benefits are subjective or intangible and a host of assumptions must be made to reach an estimate. If the UK were to remain in a reformed EU, assumptions would need to be made about what the reforms might be. Any estimate of the effects of withdrawal will be highly sensitive to such assumptions.” So don’t listen to that bellend at your dinner party when he pipes up with a figure he’s learned by rote from either some liberal think piece or the lungs of Farage, because he doesn’t have a clue. He’s regurgitating what seems plausible to reinforce an opinion he probably held anyway but was insecure about because he had no factual way of validating or justifying it.

 

The underwhelming nature of the debate is compounded by the fact that all parties involved are trying their hardest to reduce a quandary of major constitutional and politico-philosophical significance down to paltry numbers and un-nourishing sound bites.

 

Gideon has said that leaving the EU will effectively leave every British household £4,300 per year worse off. But do you really think it would? Do you really think leaving the EU will mean you have £4,300 less coming into your bank account? Inversely similarly, Leave.EU say we would be £933 better off if we left. Again, do you think you’ll see a grand more pop up on your statement each year once we leave? Do you think these figures that get tossed around mean anything? They don’t. Each side is trying to tell the future and the fact is they can’t. The only purpose these figures serve is for people to quote in an effort to sound like they’ve put some thought into the question of Brexit.

 

But ‘Brexit question-mark’ is a question far more meaningful than ghostly numbers. And the majority of people know this, really. The basic impetus for leaving seems to be lust for sovereignty lost. UKIP and the right promise control of our borders, an end to “open door” immigration – the benefits and costs of which are hotly debated, as is whether or not leaving the EU will do anything to it. They also promise that no more will 75% of our laws be made in Brussels. It should be noted that this statistic is another illusory number that is by no means true. Business for Britain created a “definitive” study in which they found that “EU rules account for 65% of UK law” (I guess they don’t realise that there is no such thing as UK law). While they do admit that “not every EU regulation will impact Britain[,] such as rules on olive and tobacco growing”, the number is still misleading. Some measures take into account legislation with only a passing reference to the EU. However, a large chunk – anywhere between 15% and 50% – of laws around the UK have Brussels’ fingerprints on them, but the majority of those laws are regulations that you never even notice anyway, or they are Directives that force our government to create legislation, such as the Employment Rights Act 1996, which codifies a minimum period of maternity leave and notice, and the Employment Relations Act 1999, which covers things like collective bargaining: legislation that wholly protects you, the worker.

 

But the right’s appeal to sovereignty is muddied and confused. We are the descendants of warring barbarians and proud Saxons; the British are brawlers, imperialists. We are the sons and daughters of an Empire over which the sun never set. We are the saviours of Europe – the scrappy, innovative fighters. We are the moneymen of the world, the bankers and shopkeepers and the stoic council estate tenants. It is hard to reconcile such a proud heritage and such a powerful personality with horror stories of a Britain now the cowed Bulldog under the shadow of the mighty Alsatian’s dripping fangs.

 

If you define individual sovereignty as pertaining to your self-determination, your power over your reality, with the minimum of interference from third parties, then leaving the EU won’t grant you the individual sovereignty you think it will. It is Theresa May seeking greater powers to watch your social media activity and your phone calls through her Draft Investigatory Powers Bill. It is the Tories cutting disability benefits, not only robbing the wheelchair-bound of their right to self-determination through a lack of means, but so too, perhaps, the right to any meaningful life at all. As for national sovereignty – the independence and self-determination of the nation as a whole, not subject to “Brussels’ bureaucrats” – this vision is out-dated. It forgets one thing – the world has changed. Sovereignty is not sovereignty in the way it used to be. Not being part of a political trading bloc does not automatically render Britain an independent, sovereign nation again. In this age of globalisation, one cannot equate sovereignty with isolationism. In the age of lobbying and massive multinational corporate interests, of Facebook getting away with paying £4,327 in corporation tax and Google striking a ‘deal’ and paying £130 million settlement to HMRC, the concept of self-governance is wobbly.

 

Meanwhile, those on the left of an outward persuasion charge the EU with being an undemocratic institution run by unelected bureaucrats. It is a charge hard to deny. According to Europa.eu, it is the European Commission (composed of 28 nominated commissioners) that proposes and enforces legislation “in the general interest of the EU”. Albeit, said legislation has to be passed by the European Parliament, which is composed of directly elected MEPs, but they can only vote “yes” or “no” or to “amend” legislation. The Council of the European Union is the second chamber of the European Parliament, made up of ministers sent from the member states depending on the area of policy who we haven’t elected to act in such a capacity (but… y’know… we didn’t elect the House of Lords either). As well, the Council of Europe – I guess the guy in charge of naming things took a day off when it came to those two bodies – is made up of heads of state of each member state and decides the EU’s overall policy and direction, and negotiates on difficult and sensitive areas of EU policy.

 

So the EU might be relatively undemocratic, but it would be hard to have an international organisation, governing aspects of the lives of around 508 million people, be entirely democratic. Thus far, the EU acts in the best interests of its population. The problem comes, one supposes, when it begins not to, since if there is one solid lesson history has taught us, it is that we can never ever rely on the openness, truthfulness and perennial honesty of those governing us.

 

At home, if the machinations of Parliament become far too audaciously mendacious and corrupt for us merely to stand on the sidelines watching them on the BBC, we can take to the streets. Although 60 million people is a lot, they can still unite within the bounds of one nation state rather effectively against their Government should the need arise. The suffragette movement shows this, as do the Police Strikes of 1918-1919. Can we guarantee that we can retain such self-representation and self-determination through direct action on such a grand scale as that spanning 28 countries? Well, the current massive protests against the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership are putting that issue to the test.

 

The furore surrounding the utter bastardry that is TTIP is something that should figure into your Brexit calculations. Although it is ostensibly an EU-driven trade agreement, leaving the EU doesn’t guarantee its stymying. In fact, it might speed it up. Yannis Varoufakis, the unfortunate but immensely qualified and immensely intelligent economist and previous Greek Finance Minister said in an interview with Owen Jones that it is only as a collusive, entire whole united across the countries of Europe that we can stop TTIP. Add to this that it was Cameron’s government that actually demanded one of the most controversial and destructive aspects of TTIP – the inclusion of investor-state arbitration dispute clauses in trade agreements. These basically give private corporations the power to sue countries if they find their local laws – laws that are there for the protection of the people – to get in the way of their profit margins. This isn’t some far off nightmare, it’s already happening – look to Australia, Canada and Argentina.

 

The reality of the EU referendum is that where it matters, it is largely meaningless. Neoliberalism is still our serenading song, the same multi-national corporations hold the power, the same bankers rip us off, the same Governments trade the will of the people for the will of the financial sector and the same lands get fracked. Really, reformation of our institutions of power is what’s needed, not deciding whether they break apart or not.

 

If you want to cease our immigration obligations under the Schengen agreement and bring all legislative power back to Parliament and the parties in control, and you don’t want undemocratic, out of sight, multi-national institutions making decisions that could affect your small business, then I suggest you vote out. But if you want to be sure your Easyjet flight to Benidorm will stay cheap and passport control simple, and you want to ensure Vodafone don’t up their charges when you’re in Crete, and you reject isolationism, then I suggest you vote to stay in. At the end of the day, the choice is yours, but remember, the result of this referendum is piss in the wind without anything to follow it.

Bullshit

This is odd for me, this is my second post on my blog in three days. I usually post very infrequently but I just can’t keep my mouth shut (or my fingers from punching keyboard keys) over the torrent of bullshit that has recently flooded the British political landscape faster than a pyroclastic flow vomiting from the gaping mouth of a violently explosive volcano.  This week has been wonderful for British politics. Wonderful in the sense of being highly entertaining for someone who takes a keen interest in politics but is so disillusioned with the status-quo that they couldn’t care less what happens.

During the process of this political furore a number of beautiful things have happened, three to be exact, that highlight the extent of politicians’ bullshit. This week the intolerably chirpy Nigel Farage and his nauseatingly tacky yellow and purple covered UKIP bandwagon have rolled through Rochester & Strood on a wave of political alienation and suppressed racism. Mark Reckless, a man with more forehead than sense, has taken off his blue rosette to slip into something more comfortable – the poundshop-looking rosette of the anti-Europeans.

Well, while all this was going on, Labour, always the nose-picking spotty kid in the corner of the playground, have been in some trouble. One of their MPs, an Emily Thornberry, tweeted a picture of a house adorned in the flag of St. George with a white van parked on the drive. She tweeted it without comment. Now, for those of you who don’t understand the nuance of the situation, the English flag and, more importantly, its overuse, is associated with the working class, and more importantly, with an ignorant working class. In tweeting this picture Ms. Thornberry has done the cyber equivalent of snorting derisively in the faces of the proles. “Hah!” she sniggered implicitly, “look at this house and its silly poor people”. Anyway, she’s now resigned after it was reported that Ed Miliband was pissed as hell. The bit that I find absurdly wonderful is that while being interviewed, Ed was asked by a reporter – “what do you feel when you see a white van?” His response? Did he say “I feel nothing, absolutely nothing, when I see a white van because… its a fucking white van and you’re a silly little interviewer asking silly little questions now why don’t you quiz me on things I’m meant to know and do things about like, say, what we’re gonna do about climate change or overpopulation or sustainability?” No, he didn’t answer like that. Instead, Mr. Miliband with the pained and slightly gawky expression of a posh school prefect, said “I feel respect”.

“I feel respect.”

What an absurd, absolutely ludicrously, incomprehensibly, mind-boggilingly ridiculous thing to say. With the wide eyes of a small boy whose headmaster has just asked, “what were you doing behind the bike shed with that magazine and your flies undone”, Ed, with the muffled consonants of someone who has cotton balls stuffed in their mouth, said, with feigned and affected sincerity, that he feels respect when he sees a white van. This kind of whole and complete bullshit just sums up the flaky, disingenuous nature of our gasping politicians as they grapple around in blind panic like desperate little whores doing anything to get their head in our collective car windows. It shows how spectacularly they hold having a view point, or some ideals, or an opinion, in contempt. They will literally let noise fall aggressively and viciously out of their mouths.

Ed and his band of squirming, indecisive nitwits were not the only ones to feel fallout from the UKIP nuke. The right wing, namely the tories, is in disarray because, well, they’ve been out right-winged. This is nothing new. But of note to me was what one of Cameron’s cronies said was the solution to this insurgence. He said that the tories, to compete, would have to strengthen their stance on immigration.

This, you tory twonks, is not the reaction to be had. Perhaps in terms of winning an election, in clinging on to power and influence for power and influence’s sake, perhaps in terms of winning a competition and having to be willing to bite the other guy’s proverbial ear off; perhaps in those terms this is a good strategy. However, in terms of the purpose of politicians as being to espouse ideals and viewpoints in the best interests of the people and to achieve things to further humanity by sticking to ideas and policies because they seem to be the best solution, or even to change policies because another seems better; this tory reaction is a deliberately awful strategy. It is political pandering of the worst kind.

Whether we like it or not we live in a global society, politically, economically and morally, and we owe duties to one another – that is the legacy of dead empires and the burden of globalisation. To even contemplate a policy change with such ramifications as one concerned with migration is grossly irresponsible and entirely cruel.

However, the most poignant and, perhaps, appropriate piece of bullshit that has dripped from the gaping end of this week is Mr. Farage’s reaction to our quickly-aging chancellor’s defeat in the ECJ. Mr. George Osborne was rejected sternly and in no uncertain terms by the Advocate General of the ECJ when he implored our European judicial overlords to un-impose a cap on city-boy bonuses. The cap isn’t really a cap of any effect in the first place, bonuses are capped at 100% of salary going up to 200% with shareholder approval. However with salaries uncapped, bonuses are, theoretically, limitless.

And what was multi-chinned Nigel’s reaction to this development? He said that he hoped people would see, now, that we (Britain) never ever win in Europe. He smiled his face-creasing smile, his toad eyes all alight, and hoped people would see that he’s been right the whole time and this defeat would show people our place in Europe (presumably, in his eyes, that of the cajoled and timid maid who stands back from the banquet table while the real countries discuss things). This is the most insidious example of bullshit yet. If what Mr. Farage made you think resembled anything like the implications he hoped then, I’m afraid, you’re an idiot. The event and his statement showed us two things. Firstly, that the EU and it’s various instruments are still, for the time being, slightly less infected by the virus of City money, City greed and City motivations than Westminster. Our European overlords, at least, still retain some sense of sense, some fairness in their decisions and that, for all else, is a good thing and a factor we as people should not ignore when contemplating our place in the union. Secondly, rather than agreeing with the ECJ decision because it obviously reeks fairness and aims at reducing inequality (even if its only a drip of piss on a forest fire), Nigel chose to point out that we never win in Europe. Like that spoilt fat kid on sports day Farage sobbed, proverbial snot on his sleeve, whinging and crying that “ITS NOT FAIR! WE NEVER WIN!”

Nigel, the tweed-jacket wearing, beer drinking, cigarette smoking, blunt man of the people chose not to represent the proles he claims to, at least in rhetoric, by endorsing the ECJ decision. No, he implicitly condemned it. Mr. Farage showed himself as what he is; he is a City-boy, he is Cameron, he is Ed, he is Westminster.

Freedom From the Tyranny of Thought

The aim of the infrastructure of any Western democratic Government is to prevent tyranny. It is set up in a way that distributes power so too much isn’t vested in one person and they are left unable to abuse it. This is why Montesquieu so famously propounded the separation of powers between the legislature (law makers), the executive (Prime Minister/ President/ Chancellor) and the judiciary (the courts). The legislature is separated from the executive so that laws do not reflect, beyond what is proportionate, the motivations and, perhaps, selfish desires of the elected head of state. The judiciary is separated from government so that the courts may exercise regulatory scrutiny over it’s decisions.

Beyond this, the executive itself isn’t a permanent, unchanging institution; the set up of the system prevents it being so. In the UK the Government is mandatorily up for election after a 5 year term so the people are afforded an opportunity to express their faith in that self same Government by re-electing it, or to show their discontent by electing a newbie. The yanks take this a step further emulating a trend set by their venerated freedom fighter (the original terrorist as far as the English establishment of the 18th century was concerned) G. Washington, of limiting the amount of times a President can legally serve, to two terms.

Power needs to be vested in some institution for anything to get done. If it were left unallocated it would cease to be power and would just be a muddling tornado of competing views, debate, thrown fists and ‘harrumphs’ because the socialistically inclined Bertha wanted to share everything but predatorily capitalistic Quentin didn’t. The issue, or rather, the fundamental mission of democracy is to vest power in an institution, in a person or group of people, without wrenching it completely from the hands of the citizens. How to legitimate a ruler and give them the go ahead to make decisions that affect everyone. This of course spurred the anti-monarchic revolutions of the 18th century in the US and France when a mandate by God was no longer a sufficient credential for King George to tax the yanks dry or for Louis 16th to powder his face before shovelling fois gras into it while his people starved.

So the answer we’ve come up with? A Government of the people, by the people and for the people. A wonderful Ancient Greek motif personified in modern times by elected representatives. The people that form Government are put there by the electorate on the basis that they will represent the majority’s interests in line with the promises that persuaded the people.

Isn’t this all heavenly? We’ve done it; we’ve produced a veritable oasis of glittering democracy where everyone has a say, our leaders act in our best interests and tyranny is but a term of antiquity relegated to use in reference to Burkha’d foreigners and flag burning heretics in the sandy third world. Yes it’s all so beautiful. It is this set up and its continued operation that legitimates the American’s fevered flag waving and spittle specked protestations that the US is the “LAND OF THE FREE, MOTHERFUCKER!” It’s this system, with its checks and balances, that allows the English to rest content in their arrogant superiority because they are a well-informed and discerning populace who hold influence over their governance. It’s for this reason that the US proudly displays its constitution encased for posterity in plexiglass so its subjects may gaze upon that document of liberation and it’s why the British venerate the Houses of Parliament and the democracy they play host to.

Western democracy with its fabled freedom and exoneration of rights is, however, fallible. These checks and balances that are our birthright can be breached.

In Britain, every Prime Ministerial candidate is cut from the same cloth. They are all products of public schooling, Oxbridge graduates and City boys who will have invariably been involved with, in one sense or another, the Bullingdon club. It doesn’t escape notice that each and every one now sounds like a recording of the other: pompous rhetoric, empty words, and strong sounding nothings.

The UK at the moment seeks change from the ‘same old shit’. And so the rise of UKIP has pervaded British politics; a brilliantly tragic political movement that manages to veil its racism beneath moralistic assertions that its not about ‘Johnny foreigner’, its about the economic welfare of the UK. A party headed by the delightfully salt-of-the-earth, beer swilling little Englander Nigel ‘suspiciously-foreign-sounding-surname’ Farage. His straight talking, shoot-from-the-hip ‘no bollocks’ approach is refreshing for a lot of Britons whose eardrums are numbed from the incessant pounding they receive by repetitive political soundbites and vague, idealistic, crowd pleasing nonsense. Nigel Farage is an outsider, a political maverick, a rebel taking the system from within.

But what of the time before Nigel Farage became the face of suppressed middle-class racism? Well, he was a publicly educated City boy – just like the rest.

The doors to number 10 are fed by a conveyer belt upon which sit black tie and bowler hat clad old Etonians, each with the same upbringing, the same experiences and the same basic world view. While the political system has attempted to stop tyranny and the propagation of vested interests by installing checks and balances in the form of elections and the separation of powers, this is undermined when each new candidate is a clone of the one before.

In the US a rather more insidious state of affairs infects the well intentioned Government structure. Most politicians in the US have sat as members of the board, as advisors, or as lawyers for the bloated, burgeoning multinational corporations that course through the veins of that country. In a political arena defined by lobbyists and political sponsors and in which money not only talks, but screams and won’t shut up, there are no checks and no balances to limit the power of the corporation and the vested interests of the monied few. No amount of re-elections or term limits can rid the US of the tyranny of the corporations or liberate the Government system from its present purpose as an engine to achieve corporate goals.

The status quo has become accepted because we’ve been told over and over again by history classes which compare our utopian society to feudalistic hell holes, by politicians who compare our governance and culture to the fundamentalist religious despots of the middle-east and by our parents who tell us that we don’t know how good we got it. These points are valid, certainly. I would much rather live in the cosy three counties despite all its snobbery, materialism, vapid shallow concerns and infuriating distraction, ignorance and superficial idiocy than, say, be waking up in a gloomy North Korea, dejectedly picking out my Tuesday jumpsuit and going out to the fields to work in return for not being shot.

But this doesn’t change the fact that things need to change. We’ve lost our penchant for change. We’ve lost our drive, our motivation, our concern for things that actually matter. This society seems to think its reached the peak of civilisation and so it can sit back, relax and watch two inbreds argue about whose sister fucked whose dog on Jeremy Kyle, or watch pseudo-journalists discuss the ramifications of the thing that politician said, which offended a couple people, or discuss for hours, with consternation etched in every furrow of its face, how its awful that Brandon isn’t coming to the party and how the fact he performed cunnilingus on Jennifer and never called her is the worst thing to happen since the Rwandan genocide.

We are irresponsible citizens who, like michelin-man-fat drooling babies clapping and giggling on mummy’s living room floor, rely on the status quo, rely on the powers that be; we just assume that everything is fine, we are safe, we are cared for – its not our responsibility, its theirs. Certainly, like the podgy baby, we cry, kick and scream if we don’t get our favourite Furbie, but once we get it thrust into our grasping hands we just giggle, roll over and suck our thumbs, completely oblivious to mummy’s alcoholism slowly burning a hole in the family purse.

Revolution is a word that we don’t associate with ourselves, its a word that only applies to North African and Middle-Eastern dictatorships or to Eastern European Oligopolies. But this is wrong, entirely wrong. Revolution should be a word always on the tip of our consciousnesses. It needn’t necessarily be violent or conjure up images of militiamen fighting the redcoats or royal French heads on pikes, but it should be there. Revolution can take many forms and it is every citizens duty to always remain aware of the status quo, of the ‘issues’, of the trajectory of society and to act accordingly, rather than popping another beer, throwing some Pringles down our throats and getting irate over football.