…they say we get the government we deserve, if this is true we must have done some terrible wrongs in our past lives?
Like all shared sayings the one above is held together by a thread of truth; yes of course we get the government that the most people vote for (ish), but we can’t actually get the government we deserve (one that seeks fairness for the majority) because the choice is limited and the system is flawed. We can only vote for what’s on offer from the limited range but we can’t propose that we should shop elsewhere.
And maybe things have changed so much that institutions like Parliament are simply no longer relevant for a modern democracy? I watched a film about William Wilberforce the other day, and whilst I’m not suggesting that all films are accurate depictions I was particularly struck by the scenes in the film that depicted the debates in Parliament; if you changed the wigs for, well different wigs, and the actors costumes for suits, you would have thought that you were watching the Parliament Channel on the BBC. Nothing had changed … and I suppose that’s because it hasn’t. Parliament is now a very obvious anachronism, no more than a museum piece in waiting, dressed up as something noble that must be kept at all costs because it somehow reflects all that’s desirable about democracy. Parliament and the buildings that contain it have taken on a hallowed iconic status, but the reality is that the current Parliamentary System and the mechanics of democracy that it contains are now no longer fit for purpose, not suitable to serve the needs of those they should be there to help.
I’m conscious that I used the word fairness above, and fairness can seem like a funny word in our busy dog-eat-dog society. Mention fairness in many circles and people will accuse you of naivety, they say the “world is not fair”, “life is not fair”…these throwaway phrases and more besides are readily at hand to rebuff anyone who dares to use the f word. But fairness is a great word, a fairer world is surely something worth working for. I often ask myself if the teenagers, and the twenty and thirty something’s of today will ask their parents what they were playing at when they were younger, will they ask them why they let the government of the time rob them of a more equitable (fairer) future … will they question the notion that a rising economic tide lifts all the ships and will they ask why their generation has had its hopes and aspirations funnelled into a virtual world of pseudo satisfaction in the absence of real opportunity; if they don’t then they should! Generations have been robbed and the rising tide that has benefited a fortunate few has drowned huge swathes of the population in debt and dead-end jobs.
What we need, and what we deserve, from a system of democratic government is a collection of the best brains that work for the common good, not a mahogany gilded playground in which the participants face each other from opposite sides of a room shouting thinly veiled insults while waving papers in the air; in fact the very idea that this pompous misguided clap-trap can somehow serve the population well is utterly insane. Perhaps we will look back in future years at the absurdity of Parliament in the same way that we now look in derision and disgust at the idea of the divine right of kings.
So if we accept that democracy is a good thing then the question is this, if there is a conversation to be had about what a good democracy looks like, then where can this conversation be had and how can it be started … asking any of the existing order whether or not they think democracy is broken will only elicit the kind of stock meaningless response that we have all gotten used to; and lets face it Turkeys won’t vote for Christmas!