The Demise of the Demagogue

In fifty year’s time, people will look back and laugh at us for a lot of reasons. Apart from the fashions (“d00d, those jeans, like WTF!!!1!1”), what gets the biggest chuckles will surely be the hopelessly outdated concept of representative democracy.

How can I knock democracy? How can I criticise the thing that allows me to live the free life I have? Because it’s a lovely idea, but the implementation is hopelessly flawed. Imagine explaining it to an alien ambassador:

“Well, I’m an enfranchised citizen, you see. So, once every six years or so, I get to choose between two or three career liars who have been carefully selected by their respective political organisations for their ability to say what I want to hear. Once ensconced in the system of government, they will vote on my behalf in ways that they (or their party) consider will be in the best interests of myself and the other people in the region they represent. Of course, I may not always be aware that their decisions are the right ones, largely because I’m not a politician – it’s all very complex, after all. Ultimately they’re under my control, though, because my tax money pays their wages … what’s that noise? Is that the equivalent of laughter on your planet?”

We currently have this strange habit of gleefully putting people on pedestals – people who, for undisclosed reasons, have a great desire to be placed on pedestals – and then being astonished when they fall headlong from them. I forget the source, but there’s that old saw about those who most desire power being the most unsuited to wield it. Of course, we’ve mistrusted our politicians since politics first came to be, long before there was a handy Greek word for it. But it was hard to get the real low-down back then.

Nowadays, we actually have the tools to see the Wizard of Oz behind his big green curtain: citizen media; web2.0; blogging; [insert your favourite buzzword here]. They all allow us to share around that most precious of commodities – the truth. And the truth is a light that is starting to dissolve career politicians and demagogues like vampires.

Those same tools will develop into the framework for what will replace representative democracy. Centralisation is a dead scene – the future is local, ad-hoc and community based. In half a century, no-one will complain that their voice isn’t heard – if they care about an issue, there’ll be a forum where they can say their piece, and be exposed to different opinions. Ignorance of an issue will be no excuse – if you care about it, you’ll take the time to get the full story. It’ll be easier, in some ways – there’ll be no overpaid liar with an airtime monopoly shoving his party line down your throat. It’ll be tough, too – making decisions and thinking for your self almost always is. But if something is worth having, it’s worth putting some effort into getting it. True freedom fits in that ‘worth having’ category.

[This piece was commissioned for a Huge Entity web time-capsule – link to follow when available.]

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