Feb 25, 2011

Democracy Is A Sleeping Well-Fed Pig

In a couple of months the struggle for democracy and freedom in Arab countries has changed the map of politics and leadership. Although facing an unsecure future in both Egypt and Tunisia, there are no return tickets for long surviving leaders like Mubarak or the corrupt presidential family of Tunisia. Emotions are still intense and the young people in other Arab countries fight for rights which we in the West takes for granted.

I am a Scandinavian, living in a part of the world known for its welfare and wealth. Still I am getting worried as we are taking too much for granted.  When I think of our democracy one image comes to my mind: A sleeping well-fed pig, which just slips its eyes when food arrives.

Democracy is freedom, justice and all the principal human rights any civilian society should be build on. Still, democracy is also very much about politics and politicians, and of course the freedom to vote and thus be a participant in the democracy.

Did I write participant?
Well, this is one of the topics I should like to discuss with you.

As I said, democracy is politics - and politics is very much about political parties. All these parties have paid members.  Although the number of members falls and the state and supporters are giving out fat checks to keep parties alive and floating, they still have paid members. These members are the people who decide for instance the nominations of those who shall present the party in various bodies, community councils, regional councils, parliament and in the end the government.

Do you think all the members turn up at the meetings? 
No, that would be too naïve. Let me be concrete:  In a Norwegian community with a population of 10 000, which is rather normal in my country, only a handful will in fact turn up and decide the names on the nomination list.

The nomination committee, which has set up the list consists of three or four men and women, sitting around a brown table and under a dim light. Usually, they would not let new people in,  if the “elephants” want to continue and they would not nominate anyone the “old guards” does not like. Selection is done in a small circle.

This is going on, without any notice from the general public.

When the nomination is finished, you can go and vote at the election day. But as we vote on parties, the people on the list are secondary. We do not really know if we elect smart people, incompetent people or plain stupid people.  

Does any care?
I am not sure.

In a hectic and organised life as ours, we usually only put focus on politics when it happen to influence our budget and standard of living – or some times when important environmental issues are on the agenda. The politicians of higher levels, in parliament and government, are elected to manage our wealth. Politicians on lower levels, in community council, are elected to take better care of the community services like health stations, care of elderly people, schools etc.

Few people are in fact in charge of the destiny and development of our community. As long as it works, the politicians can live their own life in their small fish bowl. If you start to ask questions, the politicians will do their best to ignore you – as they are not use to involvement or engagement from out side.

Are we given wealth and welfare, but less involvement in politics and in the fabric of society?
Sorry to say this, but I think the answer is yes.  This is what worries me. We have few spokeperson who put attention to democracy in a welfare society. We need someone who could put a sharp and critical eye on the weakest link in a system build up, like a take away restaurant: The people vote. Politicians brings us the goods.

This is why I return to pigs.
Did you got the picture and the point?
What could really engage us, make us angry? What could bring emotions to our mind?
Of course: Lack of freedom and democracy.

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