Talking about democracy and voting… I said in the first “Real Life” essay that I wouldn’t be voting in the upcoming local body elections.
Because it is a pointless exercise, whatever the Radio ads may say.
In real life, the system is a lock. Meaning it is all locked up comprehensively.
And here is why – Because there are barriers, or hurdles to participation.
In theory that is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact a decent argument can be made that it is even a necessary thing. It suppresses the lunatic fringe. And anyone who has had even a passing connection with politics will know that there is most definitely a lunatic fringe. Who let them out of their padded cells one shudders to think, but they turn up with distressing regularity at political events. Some of them are even in the crowd.
However, leaving that issue to the side, lets take a look at the practical real world effects of the hurdles that exist in politics. And the real, actual, on the ground effect is that the people and organisations that already exist and are part of the food chain and ecosystem of the whole body-politic are the only ones that get a look in.
Whether it was designed that way, or has been consciously manipulated that way, or has just evolved over time that way, it is all now a closed shop that serves the purposes of those on the inside. It is systems capture and status quo maintenance for The-Powers-That-Be (TPTB).
In a purely mathematical sense, you can have a spectrum that spans from completely open to completely close. Therefore if you had a half open system, half the aspirants can enter.
But not in real life.
In real life, the bar just needs to be set high enough. (ohh and it so is)
As it happens that isn’t really that high at all in generally. In order to win an election there are some pretty basic and simple rules to follow. If you do X, Y and Z, then you are pretty well home. That is in fact what the various political parties do with their candidates all the time. But it is also trickier than it looks.
The typical democratic scenario is you have two parties competing for Office. They(x) stick up bill boards. They(y) put letters in your mailbox. And they(z) have a few public meetings. Depending on where the electoral cycle is at the time, you then either get Tweedle-dum or Tweedle-dee elected.
So what is to stop an exciting and brand new face popping up and taking this tired old game by the scruff of its neck and injecting some much needed vim and vigour, some radical new ideas, and changing things for the better?
So don’t even start to deceive yourself that it can be anything different.
Look at the whole Barak Obama situation if you want a for-instance: “Change you can believe in” …Riiight.
The real life answer to why it always works out this way is this:
1.) Whatever the level that the hurdle is set at, it is definitely too high for one person to do alone.
2.) Talking a bunch of people into being your election team is super difficult – unless you co-opt or otherwise utilise an existing team and structure.
3.) That is why people join political parties, because the team is already in place.
4.) But once you join the team, you are instantly constrained by the dynamics and imperatives of that team. You become a functionary of that team, not a force for change.
5.) 99.9 percent of the population has Zero interest is politics. And by that I mean they either tune out the instant it is mentioned, or they tune out the instant you ask them to get involved.
6.) For all the sound and fury that you might hear around the water cooler or on talkback radio, pretty much nobody will actually get off their arse and do something practical and active in pursuit of a political objective.
7.) It costs – in time, energy and money to be involved in politics. And there is always that certain random element involved which means there are no guarantees. If you do actually put in the time and money, that is the minimum requirement, you can still lose the election and then you have done your dough. Most people are simply not willing to gamble on that sort of investment.
8.) The random element comes from the human element. You stand up on your soap box and proclaim your agenda and platform. And then you get to see it ripped to shreds, misrepresented, and ignored. The electorate you are talking to is asleep, braindead, or deranged apparently.
9.) Which is why the old parties know that none of that stuff matters and they actually only pay lip service to it.
10.) What they do is that good old Public-Relations and propaganda stuff that has been around since, well probably forever, but definitely since Goebbles. On that note, it is enlightening to see what his guiding principles were: http://www.quotesdaddy.com/author/Joseph+Goebbels
11.) There is no vital exchange and competition between contestants in an election, there is only the same old trite and meaningless pap wheeled out time after time
12.) Why? Because it works. It manages to offend no-one and it sounds like a reasonable facsimilie of intelligent conversation and debate.
13.) Actually – the electorate doesn’t want change. It wants things not to change. It doesn’t want bold new ideas, it wants to be confirmed in its habits and prejudices.
14.) If some-one actually came along with a radical agenda, they would certainly never make it passed the candidate selection process in an established party.
15.) And if some-one did have the money and wherewithal to come in as an outsider and buy their way into a position of being a serious contender, then one Party or another would proceed to cuddle up close and welcome them as the epitome of everything they believe too. Once that lethal embrace happens, it is only a matter of time before they are neutralised.
16.) More to the point, to be elected into the system is to become part of the system. You become obliged to work within its norms and conventions.
17.) What many a radical has found, is that to get elected as a bolter, is to find yourself in a committee structure of governance that is completely under the domination of the established parties. They hold every other vote at the table and your lonely one is completely irrelevant.
18.) In order to have power in the committees means to have a team of your own all dedicated to the same objective. In theory, the structures of democratic politics limit the potential for abuse of power by diluting the power of individuals. But in fact it just means that a clique or cabal ends up dominating the power instead.
19.) If you wanted to sweep into power as a brand new cohesive team, then the cost and organisational power needed increases exponentially. Suddenly the apparent hurdle to entry is revealed to be orders of magnitude harder and higher than is commonly imagined. It isn’t just one person that needs to get elected, it is 10, or twenty, or more. Just for the hell of it, join a political campaign sometime and see what is involved. The scale of it even for a small election is impressive. Now multiply that for a whole region and add the complication that for every new person you want to have elected from your Ticket, the job gets exponentially harder.
20.) It is not just a minor foible that in national elections the two main parties are so evenly balanced. Even when one party is swept out of power in a “Landslide”, when the dusts has all settled what you find is that around 90 percent of the incumbent go straight back to their regular seats, save for a little bit of minor shuffling about. The new faces wouldn’t push past about the 10% mark. Unsurprisingly, they aren’t going to be changing anything.
21.) Getting more than 50% of the electorate to vote for you is staggeringly difficult, even with an experienced and dedicated party machine behind you.
22.) Probably that just comes down to Norm Curve sorts of things. You can’t beat the maths. If you stand up and say X, there will be just as many people stand up and say Y. So… people are ornery and contrary and fill the spectrum in all directions. So regardless of how brilliant your position is and how stupid theirs is, you are only ever going to win by a slim margin even in the best of circumstances.
So. Add it all up and what do you get? (besides 253)
You can’t beat the maths. You can’t beat the establishment. And you can’t reform it from the inside, because the inside is a firmly established network of interlocking interests and obligations. It has huge mass and momentum dedicated to maintaining the status quo, because that is what all the players involved want it to do. Changing anything would threaten existing privileges and perquisites – there WILL be pushback.
As Sharon O’Neill sang – “nobody has ever taken the whole world on and won”. (0:55)
You may not be taking the whole world on by trying to enter politics to change things, but the whole machine is a lot, lot bigger than you think it is – and you really are just one small little person.
Even big rich people aren’t rich and big enough to change the system. If you enter into the system you are already lost, you will be co-opted and compromised. The system is fixed and locked, and has been for a long, long time. Far longer than you have been around.
If the system is the problem, then the only solution is to break it. You wont change it any other way.
And voting certainly won’t change anything.
If anyone comes along and tells you to vote for “change”, or that they will be “an agent of change”, throw rotten eggs at them. They are either a liar or a fool – and someone, either them or you, is being conned.
My vote is to break and destroy the system. Yes, that would be a seriously painful process. But I also believe that to leave things as they are, to continue on as usual, will turn out to be even more painful and destructive.
The status quo must go – or it will destroy us.
It is destroying us.
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