Democracy – government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system [http://bit.ly/YEF92i ]
The above definition is but one of the things that people think of when they start to picture what a democratic system might look like. Freedom, equality, and the ability to choose their own systems of policy and justice. What people fail to take into account is that democracy also requires the consent of the people enacting and living within these systems; so when this consent fails to be obtained, can a true democracy still be upheld?
During the last election in British Columbia voter turnout fell to 51% – the lowest it has ever been in recorded history. Various reasons ranging from saturation of negative election coverage to candidate mistrust have been cited for this drop, but the take-away is simply that voters in BC are not interested in participating in this system anymore. Going back to the original definition, when people don’t vote can we really say that power is being held by the people? It seems to be that power is truly being held by half the people and exercised on behalf of the whole population. In a system where we were all truly free to vote this would not be a problem, but this is not a system where we are all truly free. When attack advertisements demoralize you to the point of uncaring, is it freedom to abstain due to disillusionment? When lack of available information drives you not to vote for fear of ignorance, are we free to overcome our misgivings?
Information, or Lack of…
A professor in my first year of university once told me that democracy involves the informed consent of the electorate involved. Informed. And information relays on both the access to facts and the ability to absorb them. When we live in a perpetual state of systematic inadequacy due to both flawed political process and coverage, both of these avenues become compromised. We are only truly free to exercise our democratic rights when our minds are just as unconstrained as our bodies in their ability to make a decision.
Now this may seem like an ideal world I’m talking about, because of course not everyone in society will be able to act with the same clarity and freedom as others. Some of us have depression, or drug addiction, or seventeen energetic kittens constantly prancing around taking up all of our mental energy because if we stop looking after even one for even a second they’ll knock over a candle, light the house on fire, and burn everything you hold dear straight to the ground. But the point is that even though we cannot create a perfect atmosphere for political participation, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Especially when a current system does not work, and friends… it is clearly not working.
Participation Involves People
Part of the problem is that it’s not just the ability that inhibits our participation but the variety of participation available. Despite living in a place where we are told that we can vote in any way we want, this mode of thinking is an untruth. Party platforms have erased the pathways of variety we should be enjoying and we are left to choose only the options which are presented to us. We pick the politician and party which most closely resembles our ideology and are forced to take all their deficiencies with it. We vote for things and people we don’t believe in… That’s not power, it’s complacency; and it limits our interest and engagement when we’re constantly having these disbeliefs shoved down our throat.
At its heart what Ethelo hopes to address is the idea that we are voting for things that we don’t actually want, both explicitly through campaign promises and implicitly through hidden agendas. The BC Mandate Campaign seeks both to inform voters and gain their consent for issue solution through a variety of online avenues; to combat the un-informing, nonconsensual party system currently in place. Party X doesn’t hold a monopoly on this agenda, there are many ideas and avenues out there which could work equally or collaboratively as well as the one that we’ve chosen, and we would encourage you to send us your criticisms or comments. What we mean to start is not an idea so much as a dialogue; a discussion surrounding inadequacies in our politics, since constant evolution is nothing more or less than what is required to adept to our cultural definition of what it means to be free.
Note: Party X is now Ethelo Democracy.