Do we really know what we want? Should the will of the people be utilised for important matters that could affect the country and all it’s population? How many of us are conversant with current affairs and could make an objective decision based on their understanding of any given subject? Is a true democracy too dangerous to even contemplate?
I tend to have these deep and meaningful thoughts as I sit, dwelling, during the night while the rest of the country sleeps. Not because I am concerned or even interested but just because I’m an insomniac with an over active brain and I can’t play World of Warcraft any more!
In all seriousness, though, how many of us truly know what is the best course of action for our country? This question is fairly apt considering that in less than one year Scotland has a referendum on independence. Not only that, the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) have managed to ensure that 16 year olds get to vote in the national referendum. That fact alone makes me cringe. I know that as a 16 year old, my main concerns were how can I get some alcohol and who do I get drunk enough to sleep with me! In essence, although there was a cold war going on, the country was mired in debt and recession and the British Army had just won the Falklands war, my mind was on other, more important things. I didn’t really have an interest in the current affairs of the time, they were boring and for ‘old’ people.
I’m not just talking about 16 year olds, either. I doubt that 90% of the population of Britain have any real understanding of current affairs, political awareness, political astuteness or even a basic understanding of anything that does not involve the locality they live in. I don’t mean this disparagingly, but in complete frankness as even those that are supposed to be aware of these things are worryingly ignorant or misinformed.
For my American and Asian readers, I am going to use my country, the United Kingdom as the basis for argument, observation and comment. I will state honestly that I am not a great fan of the UK. Don’t get me wrong, I have served Queen and country for nearly 23 years and will always support the Monarchy, but our government and the resulting policies have made me want to live in another country. I can’t wait to get away from the UK and I think all those that are trying to get in are completely mad (unless you are leaving an impoverished country or a war zone).
That said, let us think about the will of the people and if we know what we want insofar as world politics are involved.
It is often mistakenly stated that the countries in the ‘West’ are democracies. We’re not and we never have been. Democracy was an idea the ancient Greeks came up with while we (in the UK) were still swinging in the trees and picking fleas from each other’s fur. Democracy basically means one person, one vote. In principle it is a great idea and when the local population is less than 100 it may even work. However, in a country of 65 odd million, half of which have the IQ of a paper fireguard, it’s not so simple. It would be anarchy if we even tried it.
So we have a parliamentary democracy in which we trust people, who have spouted nonsense we all wanted to hear, who are elected to represent the good of the common man and the country. In fact, the average man on the street (or woman, don’t want to appear as a misogynist or anything. Although, unless the woman is out shopping, why isn’t she in the kitchen?) will have little or no say in how the country is governed. That’s left up to big businesses who lobby our elected representatives in order for the government to ensure that their interests are looked after. I doubt very much that Joe Bloggs (or Joanne) from 64 Arcacia Drive in Telford will have any opportunity to lobby the person that was elected to represent them.
So, we leave our fate to people of no discernible expertise except that of false charisma and political savvy. Each of these chooses a party to represent and then they sit in the palace of Westminster arguing, bickering and name calling like a bunch of six year olds. This is how our country is governed. Scary, isn’t it?
However, to get back to the original theme, do we really know what’s best for ourselves and our country? Although the kindergarten of Westminster is a place of childish behaviour, they do try and keep abreast of what’s happening in the world and in the country with a view to doing what they believe we would want them to do with our best interests in mind. It may not seem like it and there are plenty of comments about how ‘out of touch’ the politicians are with the common people.
Unfortunately, us common people, or those of us who actually take an interest in current affairs and the politics of the various parties, can only form our opinions based on the information we are fed. Depending on your needs, education, class, occupation, social background and a myriad of other factors, that information is processed in a different subjective manner in each case. This inevitably leads to a multitude of opinions which are further moulded by those seeking to gain power and a seat in the large kindergarten in the middle of London. Or, if you are a member of the SNP, you want to twist and shape the opinion of those that are susceptible to your own agenda.
But, you may argue, those in the mighty pre-school have access to information that helps them form better judgements and thereby, by default, are better suited to make decisions and inform us of the truth. Do you really believe that? Really? Has the debacle and the lies that led to war in Iraq been forgotten already? The fact that our politicians lie to each other as well as us is still the same today as it was in 2002. Let’s face it, a politician will tell you exactly what you want to hear in order to get your vote; that applies to us and their fellow politicians.
This brings us neatly back to the fear that stops me sleeping at night as I dwell on the potential ramifications, both nationally and internationally (as well as watching reruns of Stargate Atlantis). In one year the Scottish people are going to have a vote on independence. In that year they are going to be fed information by both parties, the SNP telling them how awesome it will be and those opposed to independence telling them how not awesome it will be. For the first time in our history, 16 year olds are going to vote. Not only will they vote based on how they feel, what they believe and what they have been told but as 16 year olds they will also vote the same as their mates, be influenced by their parents, teachers, girlfriends/boyfriends and whoever will give them a tenner to vote one way or another. They may think that they are ‘all grown up’ as they are legally allowed to have sex and get married but in reality they know feck all about anything. They have no experience of life.
I’m a few years older than they are (!cough!) and I have a little more experience and knowledge of the world we live in and yet I am the first to admit that I’m not sure what I really know. I know certain facts and with those facts I can form a basis for opinion but my grasp on current affairs is dictated by the news I read, watch and listen to. Depending on what I read will depend on what information I learn as each news publication or channel has a political slant and is therefore biased in one way or another. I have had years of experience within the world of information and yet this doesn’t help me as far as the world of politics and the half truths that we are fed.
At the end of the day, we must admit that we don’t know half of what we think we know. I’m not talking about academics, I’m talking about life.
What do we really know?
Only what we think we do and that’s probably wrong anyway.