Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Democracy Day: A Few Additional Thoughts

Today (Tuesday) is, by all accounts, Democracy Day. Whose idea this was I've no idea - I can't remember ever having been asked to vote on it - but let us not be churlish. In recognition of the great event I have reproduced an interesting article below by Paul Cartledge, taken from the BBC News Magazine.

I am sure there are many sound arguments against the notion of replacing the present party system with a pure Athenian model of government. But the one usually invoked, that being that our towns and cities are far too large for such a thing to be practical, has been effectively neutralised by the rapid advance of technology. As any X-Factor or I'm a Celebrity enthusiast will know, voting in large numbers very quickly is these days a surprisingly easy thing to organise.

Instead, we have a version of democracy which involves two large exclusive organisations and a handful of smaller ones who use their collective power to monopolise our political process in a way which provides them with total power over us as a society. As if this were not bad enough, the whip system ensures that no dissent can usually be heard even within these organisations. Our First Past the Post electoral arrangement means that, effectively, there are only two schools of thought to be considered amongst a population of some 64 million, and with the convergence of official opinion even those are so similar as to be close to identical.

Mention the prospect of replacing the system we have with something resembling a real, organic democracy and the squeals of anguish that emanate from that tiny chosen minority that is actively involved within our present system can be heard from miles around.

The Internet may lack the splendour of the Athenian assemblies, but since it arrived we have had no excuse for the continuation of the perversion of democracy that is the banker-sponsored, media-driven two-party state. Does Ancient Athens have something to teach us? You decide.

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