Today the attempted “democratization of the world” has led to more unrest and violence than at any other time since the end of the last world war. Why, when it seems a laudable desire to empower the people, enabling them to have a say in how they would like to shape their own society?
Democracy has undergone a radical change in the West with the rise of a new style of government run by a new breed of “professional” politician.
This was experienced in Britain in 1997 when the traditional left of centre Labour Party was repackaged by a new leadership seeking power. “New” Labour was conceived by adopting many of the right wing strategies of the Conservative party, effectively distancing itself from its traditional support/elector base of blue collar workers and the trade unions.
Shifting the party’s support away from the trade unions, and increasingly towards the private sector dramatically changed the democratic balance in the UK. The Labour party had effectively transferred its traditional political allegiance from the worker to the employer.
With both main political parties effectively focused upon corporate considerations, and the electorate coming a pretty poor second in the ranking, a true democratic process has been considerably weakened. Indeed the only effective opposition that both main parties now face is the media.
What is particularly interesting is that in spite of this shift in allegiance, New Labour has been successful in maintaining the support of the electorate, for a decade. This has been achieved by not only seeking corporate support but also adopting corporate marketing disciplines to maintain credibility.
From the first day of gaining power, New Labour instituted daily opinion polls to elicit the mood of the people and then produced new policies and intents that reflected the results of these polls.
But as time has passed it has become evident that many declarations of intent, policy moves or political decisions have been ill thought out and inadequately resourced to succeed, because they have come from knee jerk reaction to opinion polls.
The sheer scale and rate of change of political initiatives makes it impossible for effective judgment or accountability to be carried out, lowering the credibility of the parliamentary process to a level that makes the democratic process inoperable.
Another mighty nail in the democratic process is the huge financial resource now necessary to mount a political campaign. It is even seen as a political “plus” to have such vast funds available, without thought to what those funds have actually bought.
These financial requirements also constrain the democratic process by making it impossible for someone with something to say from even getting heard, let alone mounting a credible campaign.
In business this monopoly situation would not be allowed, but at the very heart of the crucial decision making process that directly affects the quality of our lives it is sadly lacking, and we are the poorer for it as a society.
If you add to this the frenzy that the media are capable of generating out of even the most mundane of news items, let alone terrorism and global warming, and is it any wonder democracy cannot function effectively?
People can no longer trust the traditional establishment to provide information that is not spun to boost circulation, protect poor decision making, or even corruption. Time and time again sincere declarations of denial and accusatory headlines are found to have little or no substance.
It was the late Robert Maxwell who said that “Trust is like virginity – once lost it can never be retrieved”. Loss of trust alone is responsible for “voter apathy”.
What we are now witnessing in the growing civil unrest and changing climate, is as a direct result of the movement of the democratic emphasis away from meeting the real needs of people.