I mustn't be a very good lefty.
Well, sort of. I guess I am in that I'm all with the embracing the pinkos and hugging the trees (and I'm even a vegetarian).
But when it comes to waxing lovely about this wonderful representative system that we all call democracy, I'm a bit of a dismal failure. And not just because I adore communism or socialism (I don't, really). I really just think democracy's a bit rooted, to be totally honest.
We're an apathetic bunch, us Aussies. I hate to keep going back to Mark Latham as my starting point, but there's been little better analysis than his in recent times. In the Diaries he talks about politics today as rotten to the core with artificiality, "temporary, shallow and vacuous". The problem is that nobody really seems to give a stuff.
The public noticed the problem, raised a few complaints, then went back to watching Big Brother as the pollies all sat around on their arses laughing at the stupid voters and cashing in their governmental allowances.
People have been talking about the slow decline of social democracy, participatory democracy, for years now. The problem is that there seems no saviour, nobody who really wants to get down and dirty to do something about it. The politicians, as Latham so astutely and depressively announced time and time again, don't give a stuff. And the people don't either; that's the problem.
The general public seems to expect democracy to only take hold at election time. Vote in the people who'll suit you best and then switch off the telly (and the brain) for another three years. Everybody wants the chance to see in the government that they want, but nobody wants the continued responsibility once things start going wrong. And that's just the first problem.
There are further, deep, structural problems with democracy. At its core is a defence of selfishness rather than selflessness, despite everybody shouting otherwise. The flaws show up from the beginning, and when you couple democracy with capitalism, who can be surprised when the result is the most exploitatively selfish system imaginable? Democracy rewards those who vote to look after themselves and those closest to them; is it any wonder that the Liberal party keeps getting voted in?
Democracy is a hierarchal system of minute representation, where each constituent is given a tiny slice of the cake and told to hang on as tight as they can. It's no surprise then that those getting their hands on inordinately large portions all want to wolf it down as quickly as possible. In return, the rich get richer and the poor just keep on getting poorer.
And what about that tricky notion that we actually know what's best for ourselves anyway? Is it not an inherent contradiction? Sure, I know what's best for me, so I'll just vote in this group of bureaucrats to ensure that I'm told exactly what it is that I need to do.
I must have missed something, but it just seems a bit ballsed-up to me.
Of course, the whole thing raises quite a few ethical dilemmas: I know for a fact that I don't always make the best decisions for myself, but I'll defend my right to make those (sometimes misguided) decisions to my last breath. And I guess that's what democracy is really for: our chance to make the decisions that basically just fuck ourselves over.
But what about the others being fucked by our decisions? Those who can't stand up for themselves, or just don't know how?
When the system's skewed so far towards helping those who help themselves, what becomes of the helpless?