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Day to Day Politics: Do you feel good about our democracy?

Soon after the 2013 election I was greatly perturbed by the many “just get over it” comments that my writing evoked.

In the aftermath of any election there is a period of analysis when the media, the winner, the loser and political commentators voice an opinion on the result. I wrote written three pieces. ‘Why Labor Lost’, ‘Two Weeks with Tony’, and ‘Afterthoughts of an Abbott Victory’.

Some blog commentary interpreted the pieces as sour grapes. They were wrong. More important to me is the existence of, and the standard and maintenance of the democracy we live in.

I certainly never thought Labor would win and I said so. What however appalled me (and still does) was the flippant approach to policies that will have an enormous influence on the future of my children’s children. Specifically they were the environment, education and the NBN. The Coalition has shown scant regard for either since.

That aside, the fact is that our democracy – our political system – has been in decline, even decay for many years. Now because I am of the left it does not mean I cannot present an objective view on this matter. My belief in the democratic system allows it.

In one of my posts immediately after the election I said that:

“It would appear that a large portion of eligible voters no longer have any interest, or confidence in the institution of our parliament, or politics in general for that matter and have succumbed to Abbott’s negativity and Labor’s infighting. One can hardly blame them given the events of the past three years. It has done great damage to our democracy.”

A Facebook friend at the time, Metta Behavana commented:

“I am not so sure about your apathy thesis, John. Those who did not take part in the election by failing to register or by voting informal are possibly making a valid comment on the whole process. I would not venture an opinion on their motivations without more access to their voting intentions. Perhaps they were the vaunted “wipe-out” factor. If they had voted perhaps they were convinced enough of the decadence and corruption of politics to take it out on the then-government, seeing them as the most visible target of their disdain. On the other hand, perhaps they are a socially aware cohort who actually made a very sophisticated decision. They may be of the opinion parliament is a closed shop, run by Christian religious conservatives on both sides, an empowerment mechanism for monarchism and post-colonial hegemony, the plaything of corporations and secretive ‘think-tanks’. Listening to the scripted ventriloquist’s dummy Tony Abbott has become, the dark secret world he is invoking, their decision to avoid the whole process may seem naive, but it is not apathetic.”

On reflection, she made a good point.

As it turned out the 2013 election was the worst in my memory. On the one hand we had a party with a public perception of dysfunction although the reality was that it passed 585 bills – 87% supported by the opposition – and was never defeated on the floor. It took to the election some excellent policy reforms.

On the other hand, the LNP who never saw the government as legitimate brought very little policy to the table choosing instead to piggy back Labor’s and relied on the unpopularity of the government to secure victory.

From all this the public were the losers. There was no debate on the best way forward for Australia’s future. There was no exchange of ideas or credentials for government. It was an election devoid of intellectual integrity, discourse, ideals and honesty.

Despite an education system that educates our citizens to a higher level than most countries we seem to have sunk into an abyss of accepting mediocrity and popularism.

Engaging and challenging the electorate to become involved in the process cannot be achieved with ongoing unconstructiveness, pithy leadership and bullshit rhetoric. The trivialising of important issues and immature contemptuous loathing of individuals, personal gender attacks and the emphasising of distortions like we have a spending problem, not a revenue one. And the relegation of truth to obscurity as though it no longer matters.

Barry Jones during the last election said:

“There is an exaggerated emphasis on ‘gotcha!’ moments – Tony Abbott and his suppository, Kevin Rudd and the make-up lady, moronic candidates in swinging seats. In the last months of Julia Gillard’s period as prime minister, in two separate incidents, sandwiches (vegemite and salami as it happens) were thrown at her at schools, for reasons which have never been clarified. The incidents became big news stories, so much so that they crowded out major announcements about the Gonski reforms that she was planning to make”.

“Often politicians acquiesce in the trivialising, for example Kevin Rudd and his availability for selfies, Tony Abbott gyrating at a boot-camp, and his ‘dad moments’.”

A democracy should grow with the advancement that comes with an ever-increasing standard of education and should demand more. Otherwise it is doomed to a level of democracy that never prospers or flourishes for the betterment of society.

Our system is one in which politicians set the yardstick instead of one in which excellence is demanded by the people.

Democracy can only be advanced in three ways.

Firstly, by way of better, more competent politicians who contribute virtuous standards of behaviour and ethics. Who see politics as a noble endeavour. Who believe in better debate that does not cave into simple moronic answers to complex problems but acquiesces sophisticated solutions instead. By taking long-term approaches to problems. By increasing involvement of a wide range of people and skills in their parties. By enthusiastically trying other ways of doing politics. Including a concession that no one party has an ownership of ideas.

Secondly, and I hesitate to say this, that the media should take on the responsibility of persuading people that they deserve better. This can only be done with balanced reporting. Not with sensationalised unbelievable, exaggerated bullshit that is designed to sell newspapers but instead contributes to their decreasing circulation. In other words, we have to be rid of the Murdoch factor.

My hesitation was because the probability is that a more civil and enlightened social media detached from its current anger might in the future take on this responsibility. This means blogs like this one.

Thirdly, a better democracy can come from a better informed citizenry. One which can evaluate policy and understand ideological differences because he/she has been educated to do so by way of a comprehensive political syllabus in our schools. We have to teach our kids the function of democracy and how politics works from differing political perspectives.

Politics determines what happens in almost every function of our lives yet people know little about how it works or affects them.

Winston Churchill once said:

“Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time…

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

And that’s where the struggle begins. Otherwise we get what we deserve. My party’s loss in 2013 was not sour grapes on my part because at least it has taken the first small steps toward a true democratisation of itself.

Now of course people will say I am full of naive idealism. So be it, but I am hoping that this election might see a less combatant campaign that will at least address the fundamental requirements of a vigorous but profoundly transparent democracy.

My thought for the day

Ask yourself: Does the democracy we have make you feel good about your country?

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20 comments

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  1. Sir ScotchMistery

    No. Because I don’t believe that’s what we have.

    We appear to have something based on a balance between an oligarchy and a murdochracy.

    In our system the triumvirate making up the oligarchy; murdoch, the catholic church and the ACL, are all parts of the same disgraceful pact with the devil to keep Jesuits on the front bench, never mind which side of the house.

  2. Byron Williams

    Conservatives suck, Viva la revolution I say. Bring back the guillotine but only for those on the right and their politics, Let the intelligent, ethical, moral ,egalitarian people march the morons to the chop, that would make us all feel a little better. I have no regard for conservatives they have disowned their humanity for greed.

  3. susanai

    I loved this article – bittersweet though it is! You put your finger right on it .

  4. Michael Taylor

    John Lord has a knack of saying what we all think, susanai. Btw, that’s a very cute kitten.

  5. paul walter

    Awwwww!!!

  6. paul walter

    I should comment on the article. The (whimsical) quote from Mettha Behavana sums it up- pomo- but the underbelly is disillusion and alienation.

  7. Lee

    Yes I feel good about our democracy, but I’ll feel trapped in a glass cage if the conservatives win the next election,
    but I’ll accept the results of the majority even though I’ll think there a bunch of idiots or selfish individuals who voted for the conservatives, who don’t no which side their bread is buttered, but I’ll accept it because it is a democracy. But on the other hand I’ll think it’s being white anted because of the conservative side off politic.

  8. Stephen

    While I might accept and do that the other side won a particulate election I don’t see that I should regard it as a good outcome and that the fact that they won means they must be right because they won. The right mostly seem to feel that if they win we must all believe that they are right and we are wrong because they won and the best outcome was achieved for all, but strangely this only happens when they win, a loss is never earned or deserved by them and the winner is in some way illegitimate.
    It’s now got to the point where when Abbott got in to power that instead of accepting good and useful programs NDIS NBN Gonski etc and working with them after winning that they feel they need to tear down destroy and defecate on them to poison the achievements of the Gillard government.
    This is mindless hatred of the other that damages Australia and it’s future.
    The born to rule mentality seems to be innate and unstoppable in them.

  9. Mike Broome

    Whichever way that you look at it, we DO NOT live in a true Democracy !
    Just like the ” Ponzi ” scheme , the capitalists rule the world.
    What is presented from the Oligarchs who rule the world is all “Smoke and Mirrors”.
    Money ( FIAT ) is the “religion” that is followed aimlessly and unquestionably.
    Question often.
    Read Incessantly and search for the underlying truth that is hidden at the bottom of the pile of false/hoods and half truths and, in the words of Albert Einstein ,
    ‘ A foolish faith in authority
    is
    The worst enemy of the truth”.

  10. John

    Seems to me the problems with the system you have articulated above relate to the idea of representation and leadership and the power these grant to the elected to make decisions that don’t carry the sanction of a national consensus or the integrity of the interests of the domestic population.
    It would appear then that what is needed is a form of popular direct participation in decision making, and that would need to extend to all levels of public and private discourse. The Swiss manage it within the ‘democratic’ framework by enabling citizen initiated referenda, and there are interesting developments in Europe (Podemos, Pirate Party) for direct democracy.
    An interesting model is developing in ‘Liquid Democracy’ and the kind of open democracy where decisions are made through co-intelligence problem solving committees proposed by Tom Atlee and Robert Steele among others. http://www.tomatleeblog.com/archives/175327489
    http://www.phibetaiota.net/2016/04/2016-robert-steele-open-source-everything-engineering-osee-creating-the-academy-economy-government-and-society-of-the-future/
    It is time to recognise we will not get the results we want by continuing to have faith in a top down decision making system. We are reasonably well educated and able to make decisions at community and national level that are responsive and wise. We need a system to enable us all to propose solutions and participate in the decisions that affect us.

  11. Backyard Bob

    I should comment on the article.

    You probably did when it was posted on March 1, 2016. Consigned to oblivion, it seems.

  12. Deidre Zanker

    I agree out democracy has been turned into a triumvirate. How do we resurrect our democracy?

  13. Michael Taylor

    Deirdre, I would have hoped that voting in Labor might do that, but it’s not that simple. I think the world has changed too much, and the Labor Party is changing with it. We need a Bernie Sanders or a Jeremy Corbin. Desperately.

  14. ImagiNation

    Perhaps if they put a ‘None Of The above’ checkbox on the ballot slip we might get a change of government.

  15. ImagiNation

    The way I see it, Labor have three distinct problems.

    1. When war criminal John (read my lips, there will never be a GST) Howard destroyed the unions he successfully severed the link between the Labor party and the people. It was from that moment Labor became much like a ship broken from it’s mourning and adrift on the seas of uncertainly.

    2. The dedication and lies Howard’s puppet (Abbott) used when leader of the opposition to discredit Labor at all costs has had a lingering negative impact on the perception of Labor. His me, me, me, I want, I want, I want tantrums and his belief in ‘if you though enough mud some of it will stick’ mentality has, to a degree, been successful.

    3. Over the decades Labor has introduced far too many positive initiatives to list in the short post. Over the years I have noticed Labor rarely sing their own praises and remind voters of their achievements. In a land where politics is taboo, voters have an extremely short memory and think only of the rhetoric at hand.

  16. RosemaryJ36

    Have any of you noticed the emergence of the Online Direct Democracy? Maybe that is the way to go.

  17. jamess

    I believe government in all forms have passed their use by date. Community would do a far better job. The despots who represent these corporations are void of responsibility, compassion, integrity, or love.

  18. wam

    dear lord loved the use of dysfunctional (although the lemon and his pals like joel the long arm monkey made certain the perception was reality)
    What a imagiNation, great trinity and labor needs great sets trinity top 3 rabbott’s lies top 3 robb trip ups the top 3 national compromises the top three 457 rorts the top 3 handout to companies top 3 helipad rorts top 3 farm sales
    ps subs etc to south australia, dump bullock and laugh at the copperman.

  19. ImagiNation

    wtf?

  20. margcal

    Unlike your FB friend, John, I think there is a lot of apathy out there. I inwardly cringe when dear friends make comments which show they haven’t got a clue about politics, what’s happening, who the MPs are and so on. They don’t watch or listen to the news, read papers, look at sites like this. I dare say that in their apathy they become the turkeys that vote for Christmas. These are good people, doing good things in their jobs, neighbourhoods, etc. But it doesn’t cross their minds that knowing something about the issues and who they’re voting for can and will impact on their lives, their jobs, their local community.
    I do what I can but there’s a limit before you ultimately risk losing otherwise loved and valued friends.

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