Tuesday, 2 June 2009

A Brief Interlude Sponsored by A Coalition of My Principles

There’s a tactic called ‘confusion marketing’. The idea is that you bombard the consumer with so much information and so much choice, that they get confused and either decide to stick with what they’ve already got or make a choice which leaves them worse off than before.

Democracy is kind of like that. There are so many layers of government, so many elected representatives and unelected officials, so many parties, so many policies, so many fliers, so much bullshit. It’s no wonder most people don’t care enough to take an interest, and those that do have specific and narrow agendas.

British Parliamentary democracy goes all the way back to William the Conquer trying to consolidate his new kingdom after 1066. It wasn’t until 1969 that every adult over 18 got the right to vote. Just over 900 years. All that fighting, all that blood, all those wars, all that pain. We've grown up assuming the right to vote as one of our most basic rights, and so all that blood and tears seems like something of a foreign country to us.

I think we should listen to our ancestors and those 900 years of fighting. I think 900 years outweighs our few decades of saturation and disillusion with the modern political process and the people involved in it. No matter how ineffectual it is, 30 generations clearly thought it was better than the alternative. The ideal is bigger and far more important than the individual spinning it to their own ends on the TV.

And you’re right: Your vote isn’t going to make a blind bit of difference. One voice among the millions (or, these days, hundreds of thousands), all voting in a ‘first past the post’ system... each individual voice gets lost. Two points, though:
  1. It’s unfortunately true that, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. One of those narrow agenda parties will win because only those who have narrow agendas will vote. Then we’ll be building a fence around the UK shoreline and executing dissidents and wondering where it all went wrong.
  2. Secondly, in order to vote knowledgably you have to know your own views. You have to know where society is at the moment, and where you want it to go. When you know those things, how you live is going to change. Not much. You might just shop in different places and buy different brands. Or start growing your own vegetables. Or realise that money isn’t as important as you think it is, quit your job and live in a tent in a field. And, the changes you make in your life will make small changes in the world around you. By interacting with the macrocosm of greater society, you change the microcosm of your personal world.

So, go out and vote on 4th June. Or whenever else you have the chance. And if there’s no one you want to vote for, do something about it. Form your own party, drop out from society, start a revolution, buy a boat and live out in international waters. Not bothering to do anything is the worst of all options, because apathy leads to consent and to ignorance.

The European Parliament is made up of so many different parties from so many different countries, they’ve organised themselves into voting blocs. The blocs work together to push through or defeat legislation. Find a bloc who’s principles you agree with, and find a party in that bloc who’s policies you agree with.

The BBC has a guide to the voting blocs;
this blog has a fantastic entry on where the UK parties fit into them;
and you can find out the results of the last European election from the BBC here.

C’mon. A couple hours of your time verses 900 years?

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