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Democracy and politics - The illusory elections

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This article is an excerpt from the book Colliding Worlds: An arising will for change by Mats Sederholm and Linda Bjuvgard.

Politicians are our greatest hope for change, they want to be perceived as people with knowledge, responsibility and with a passion for their vocation. Many politicians take their job seriously, they are honest and want the best for people but, for at least as many, politics has become a means to earn a living, a career and an identity. And in some cases, politicians are even corrupt and self-interested.

Democracy speaks of an open society where people's opinion counts; it offers freedom of speech and open debate. At election time, we are presented with a political menu upon which many important issues are laid out. Health care, the economy, education, employment, the Federation or Union to which the country belongs, foreign policy, and, in recent years, the environment. And yet ... most people know that their votes will not bring about any major change - they never have done.

At most, an election leads to a change of power but not to any basic change of direction.

Despite this, the belief in our democracy is a crucial aspect of the judgements we in the West choose to impose on other countries. Our presumption is paralyzing. With our self-image of moral superiority we use violence when it suits us. With our ownership of the pretend money we reign supreme over the world's financial markets. We export our most revered commodity, the EGE (Economic-Growth-Engine = treadmill of labor and consumption) that grinds down cultures and turns them into consumption-driven circuses in something resembling an economic colonial empire.

The concept of democracy is the backbone of our secure self-image when we judge other countries' possession of, for example, chemical weapons or when we suspect them of having weapons of mass destruction. All the while our own stores are filled with these materials and -- we have used them. Historically, we have been the most anti-democratic, dictatorial group of countries on the planet and have also started world wars. We grab most of the earth's resources and are the ones who most eagerly destroy the environment.

Why do we not get any change?
In June 2015, a poll of the electorate [1] by examined Americans' confidence in different parts of society's institutions. On the question of whether the respondents had a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in different parts of society's institutions the result was:

- Military 72%
- Police 52%
- US Supreme Court 32%
- Presidency 33%
- Newspapers 24%
- Big business 21%
- Television news 21%
- Congress 8%

The result, not least the disastrous lack of confidence in Congress (the worst since records began in the 70s) and the presidency, ought to be a sensation, a blow to our whole society; but neither the media nor the politicians have taken much notice of it. Politicians, the media and business live in a world of their own and seem happy to do so.

We maintain that people really want a different world, but why do they not just vote out the old world's politicians?

1. The media, politicians, culture and business jointly launch a handful of acceptable political alternatives. Common to these options is that they support the old-world framework and the illusions that sustain it. It is extremely difficult to infiltrate this alliance. It is protected by society's belief system; government, business, media, culture and so on which maintains its stronghold by not admitting alternative political views for debate, attention or analysis. And when alternative political views persist in having strong popular support and the old world is forced to openly respond to them, this is rarely done with analysis or objectivity. Trusting that the current consensus together with its intrinsic authority will prevail, the mainstream reaction to alternative policy options is rhetorically reinforced with immense skepticism. New players in the political arena are thus fairly easily suppressed, removed and regarded with strong suspicion. Alternatively, they are forced to relinquish any radical beliefs so that they better fit into the salons, such as in the cases of many environmental parties.

2. Voters do not dare to vote for new options. They choose to vote tactically, or they are afraid to explore unusual political currents because of the strong consensus on what is established, civilized and "right" to vote for. To vote from the heart sounds good but the standards of society often take the upper hand. Self-preservation, acquisitiveness, the thirst for easy money and other short-sighted human traits created by the norms and foundations of our world shape the priorities. Believing in a different world seems unrealistic, irresponsible and above all, something we should never dare to contemplate. The fear of having "thrown away one's vote" is great.

The third and most important reason why it is so difficult to vote for a different world is the fact that our democracy simply does not have enough influence in society.

The illusion of democracy becomes evident if we reflect, for a moment, on why you, as a voter, for example, cannot:

- Vote away stress and the economic wage-struggle.
- Vote away the gap between rich and poor.
- Vote away money or achieve any decisive changes in the economic system.
- Vote away affiliations to unions or federations.
- Vote for another power/ownership structure in society.

We mentioned earlier the Cre'dit Suisse Global Wealth Report 2010 and the fact that 1 percent of the world owns half of the resources.

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Mats Sederholm and Linda Bjuvgård are writers, speakers and chroniclers. They are system critics living i Sweden who, for the past 20 years, have been analyzing the power structures and standards of the West - their driving force a strong (more...)

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Democracy and politics - The illusory elections

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