Twenty-twenty has been a heck of a decade and like many people I have found it all a bit disconcerting. The escalating culture wars and the widening Left-Right divide left me searching for answers, and the ease with which progressives would seemingly do away with all that is good in western societies astounded me. While there are valid concerns with how our ageing democratic models now function and are in many ways corrupted, the answer is not to burn the whole edifice down and start again from the ashes. We need to progress to better ways of doing things while conserving all which is already good.
Things like free speech, scientific enquiry and even our flawed way of doing capitalism have made western democracies some of the best places for human well-being to have ever existed. This is objectively true by almost every measure that matters. Yet all these things are threatened because some people want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. When you combine herds of people who’ve been let down by educators and can’t think for themselves, with disingenuous politicians and an increasingly untrustworthy and economically compromised mainstream media, it can all seem very bleak for those of us who’ve done even some basic reading about human history and how humans in crowds can behave. Especially when we see things burning.
One thing I did was step back and take another look at how I think about democracy and the way our electoral system works. I’m starting to think democracy itself is the problem. If ninety uninformed people vote for something and ten informed people vote against it, that vote will pass. It’s easy to see where this could lead in these times of decreasing teaching standards and increasing political polarisation. But I don’t want my rights and the way I live my one life to be given to someone else, by way of popular vote contested by people I don’t trust. So this time I opted out. I didn’t vote for any political party or candidate. It was liberating. In fact it felt so good I’m pretty sure I’ll never vote in a general election again.
The alternative to democracy doesn’t have to be dictatorship, nor would I want it to be. Instead I’m wondering what societies might be like if we just let our current ways of doing government and media and schools fall away, and if people just got on with living their lives and let others do the same. People running their own lives and societies, associating freely with other people and other societies in what is truly a great time to be alive. Most people are at their core good, I think, and since people with like-minded interests tend to organise and cooperate and thrive, perhaps in this wonderful technological age we could get along better and live even healthier, happier lives. Perhaps.
Either way the silver lining in all of this is: I’m no longer disconcerted. I’m starting to see positives and humour — remember humour? — in the current disorder. The more ridiculous and hypocritical politicians and governments of all stripes become, and the more mistrusted and run down our corporate media and public educators become, the better. The fragmenting of political discourse and the obvious contradictions which lie within extreme political viewpoints may well help us to see through all the nonsense and find better ways of doing things, and of being. So bring on the fragmentation, but not the flames. And let’s keep talking.