"...it is absurd for the will to bind itself for the future, nor is it incumbent on any will to consent to anything that is not for the good of the being who wills. If then the people promises simply to obey, by that very act it dissolves itself and loses what makes it a people: the moment a master exists, there is no longer a Sovereign, and from that moment the body politic has ceased to exist."
-Jean Jacque Rousseau
Something stinks in the state of politics... If this is "Democracy", then Democracy Sucks! Whatever political system it is that we have in place today, it doesn't feel like Democracy. The ideal of "government by and for the people" seems like a quaint but naive and unrealistic fairy tale from a simpler time. Perhaps the type of "representative democracy" practiced in most Western nations today seems so ineffective because it was designed for an era where mail was delivered by horse-and-carriage. In an age before telephones and automobiles, maybe the only practical option for citizen participation in politics was to cast a vote at the ballot box every four years or so. The best a voter could hope for was that the winning candidate would honor the promise to faithfully represent his or her constituents in the state, provincial or federal legislatures. A few hundred years later we have the same basic system, but I would argue that the situation is worse because nowadays very few people even believe that elected representatives make an honest effort to represent their constituents anymore. What really sucks is that even though many have lost faith in the current system, (a system which seems more like a dictatorship masquerading as democracy), we have to listen to politicians brag to the world about how we have achieved a truly free and democratic society.
"Listen, I can stand it if a man pees on my foot, but, by God, when he tries to tell me it is raining, thats too much."
Obviously, this dissatisfaction with the state of politics is nothing new: Like many of my "Generation X" contemporaries, I had concluded that politics was a farce a few decades ago. I suspect that most of us children of The Baby Boomers just decided to tune out the political nonsense to better invest our attention in careers, family and other cultural or artistic pursuits that wouldn't be nearly as frustrating and futile. But a lot has changed in the last few decades: Climate change is no longer merely a speculative theory. Immediate action is required to avert a global catastrophe which could threaten the viability of human life on this planet. But even though politicians have been gushing forth with much rhetoric about new environmental regulations and tough programs to address this emergency, very little real progress has been achieved. I believe that many politicians honestly want to tackle climate change and have even been trying to do so. But politics as it is practiced today has little to do with the honest efforts of individual politicians. There is a hidden agenda driving government policy-making which overrides any platorms publicly presented to the electorate. What is becoming more obvious to many is that political parties have evolved into a disruptive, negative force preventing the efficient functioning of representative democracies.
This point was driven home to me about a year ago: I was getting a ride back from the airport in a taxi listening to the driver give a very passionate and convincing speech - saying how the problem with politics these days is that the "political parties have hijacked the democratic process". According to him, the whole political game is rigged: elections are bought and the common citizen just goes through the motions putting their little "x" on a piece of paper every four years. He said that marking that "x" is a placebo and you know it, but it gives you some plausible deniability to calm your fears when presented with evidence that the real power controlling Western nations could be some form of corporate fascism. My initial reaction was: "Yawn... been there, done that..." It is probably the same emotional reaction that thousands of Gen X-ers with useless liberal arts degrees have every day: a flash of hip cynicism perhaps tinged with some degree of nostalgia and regret, followed quickly by that oft-repeated familiar Homer Simpson voice sample which chimes in: "Yeah, but whaddya gonna do about it?".
Well, thousands have tried to do something about it: anti-globalization demonstrations, occupations of Wall Street and public parks in cities throughout the Western world - and still the mainstream media can easily slough it off as cheap entertainment for jobless whiners and self-described "victims" of globalization who have nothing better to do with their time. Why is it that the Arab World can have it's Arab Spring, but the Western Spring gets pre-empted by "Dancing With The Stars"? Yes, our "revolution will be televised"... and it will also be edited, remixed, mashed-up and repurposed by the coporate-controlled media to sell chocolate bars and other consumer goodies: "Picture yourself in a Ford Maverick - breaking the mold to drive into your own independent future..."
But it is not my objective here to simply supply more evidence for why you have every reason to remain cynical and pessimistic about the possibility of any real political change in the Western world. I am here to tell you that around a year ago when I listened to the cabby's rant and the accompanying loop of Homer Simpson's voice in my head, I did not just chuckle and wonder what I was going to have for lunch. Instead, I also decided to ask myself: is there really nothing I can do about it? PartyWreckers.org and the accompanying Democracy Sucks! manifesto is the answer to that question.
Democracy Sucks! is based on a review on past and present concepts of participatory democracy and explains how increasing pressure and interference from massive global corporations makes individual voters little more than spectators in the high-stakes game of national politics. But a good manifesto should not just be a negative diatribe about all that is wrong with the current state of politics - so I have tried to draw on my experience designing network-based software applications to devise a possible antidote to the current status quo of oppressive party control, in the form of a project proposal for the design for a new system which could provide better communication between elected representatives and their electorate.