The Fragile False Hope of Representative Democracy
"Millions of people relying solely on the tenuous chance of victory of a single man in a single rigged contest is NEVER a recipe for liberty." - Tyler Durden, It Is Time For The Ron Paul Revolution To Move Beyond Politics
Yes, Tyler is talking about US Congressman and would-be US Presidential candidate Ron Paul, but it's interesting that this statement would be just as apt applied to Obama. While tin foil hat wearers leap to blaming red herrings like Obama's national origins for his failure to deliver the change he promised, the very fact that Obama won the primaries, let alone the Presidency shows that he was surrounded by careerist sycophants who were willing to compromise any one of his supposed values to get the ball between the posts. "Yes We Can"? Turns out, "No We Can't", at least not by relying on politicians to change a hopelessly corrupted meatgrinder from the inside.
According to Durdan though, Paul is surrounded by a similar bevy of self-serving bureaucrats, who are desperate to drive a wedge between his image and his more radical followers. In order to win the Republican candidacy, Paul, like Obama, would have had to compromise most of the values and policies that distinguish him from cromagnons like Newt Gingrich, and Mit Romney. In order to win the Presidency, he would have had to distance himself from the constitution thumpers, the libertarians, the banking reformers, and the conspiracy theorists who, for whatever reason, see him as a beacon of hope.
What's this got to do with New Zealand? Things are not so different here. Durdan's quote could equally apply to the radicals who have placed their faith in men like Bruce Beetham, Jim Anderton, Winston Peters, Nandor Tanzcos, Peter Dunne, John Banks, and Hone Harawira. Like their US counterparts, these men (and any woman who ends up in their shoes) can only assume any real state power once they have been thoroughly comprised. First by their own party apparatchiks, then by the mass media and its reduction of complex issues into Tweet-sized soundbites, then by the parliamentary process, which further reduces any issue into a chest-thumping popularity contest between two simplifications.
In Orwell's '1984', Winston Smith says "If there is hope... it lies in the proles". Anyone who is paying attention will realise we now live in the uber-surveillance nightmare Orwell feared; cameras are everywhere, and thoughtcrime, doublethink, and newspeak abound, on both "left" and "right" - categories which are increasingly meaningless. As we can see from the uprisings of the Arab Spring, the Greek and Spanish indignados, and the mass consensus General Assemblies of the Occupy movements, if there is hope, it does not lie in trying to reform dictatorships (elected or otherwise) and their parties. It lies in ordinary people hacking around the political gatekeeper class, learning to speak each other's political language, and creating a new democratic politics. Not from the inside out, nor from the bottom up (why would we want to keep an "up") but from the outside in.