There are a couple of questions Alicia, Ian and I get over and over again by those people man and woman enough to face us to ask about our #OutDaBox campaign. I’ve dealt with them in comment threads on Facebook and also on the radio, but as the election nears, emotions rise and hype gets hyped, I think I’ll try and outline the answers here. They are, in no particular order:
- What if you get a government you don’t want?
This is the simplest one to answer. No matter what we do, whether we vote, spoil our ballots, go to the beach, register, don’t register, we will get a government we don’t want.
Admit it. When you ask us this question, you’re really asking What if your spoiled ballot helps elect the government we don’t want?
My answer that question: each of us gets only one ballot. It’s not up to me to vote your government in. My ballot’s mine. If by spoiling it I mess up your plans: Sorry.
- What good will spoiling the ballot do? Someone will get elected anyway.
This is a tougher question to answer because it’s a pragmatic question and our position is not at all pragmatic. We’re not looking for short-term results here. We’re dealing with matters of principle.
pragmatic men of power have had no time or inclination to deal with … social morality — K. B. Clark
The principle that matters most to me is that a representative democracy depends upon representation of the needs of the citizens at the levels of legislative and executive decisions. Individuals who are placed in constituencies at the last minute after closed-door deliberations without the consent or the agreement of the constituents and without the possibility of their being removed over the next five years are not the citizens’ representatives. Rather, they represent their parties’ machinery to the citizens.
- Why don’t you offer yourself as a candidate if you don’t like any of those on offer?
From my perspective, this hides a couple of assumptions which I reject. The main one is the idea that no change can happen unless one gets involved in front-line politics as a candidate. In other words, if I don’t like the candidates (or their parties) on offer, the only acceptable solution in their eyes is for me to stand as a candidate myself.
I reject this idea categorically. Beneath it lies other assumptions that offend me. One is that we, the citizens, have no inherent right to demand better representation from those people who have set themselves, with no real current mandate, up as our overlords. The other is that we, the citizens, should simply resign ourselves to the fare that these wannabe overlords offer us. I reject both ideas. I’ve said it before again and again: I do not need to be a candidate to be part of the government. I already am the government. Democracy is government of the people by the people, and in our system it is effected by representation. I should not have to withdraw my consent from those purporting to represent me; they should have sought my consent before anointing themselves as “representatives”. Alas, they did not, and in fact they never do.
Representative democracy (also indirect democracy, representative republic, or psephocracy) is a type of democracy founded on the principle of elected officials representing a group of people, as opposed to direct democracy.
The other assumption is that only those individuals who are elected representatives can bring about change. No, wait, this is the same assumption looked at from the other side. Never mind.
I reject this idea categorically as well. It assumes and accepts the status quo, which places the citizens at the centre of government only when it comes time to vote. It is a passive and helpless position, and it allows our elected members of parliament (I cannot call them representatives) to get away with all manner of slackness and corruption, no matter which side they sit on. It assumes that as road-pavers, as fishermen, as taxi drivers, as doctors, as professors, as teachers, as bankers, as defendants—as citizens—we have no involvement in the government of the day. It accepts that we are the passive victims of whatever transpires in the House of Assembly. That the only contribution someone who rejects the status quo can make is to join the status quo. Ummmm …. No, thank you.
So what is it that we’re advocating here? What are we trying to achieve? Very briefly, because this deserves a lot more thought and discussion, we are rejecting the entire system of governance that we currently have. Each of us has our own personal position on this, and I can only speak for myself, but:
I am seeking the dismantling of our flawed system of representative democracy and the reconstructing of a new system which is more participatory.
I accept that the twenty-first century is a century of revolution. That our print-based, elites-centred models of representative democracy have run their historical course. That the model of society which gives a small group the exclusive right to rule over a large one, with minimal checks and balances which can be activated by the large group, needs to be re-examined and remodelled. That the tools we now have at our disposal—tools for public education and public participation—have opened the door for more participatory forms of governance, and that we must move with the world in that direction.
And so this election, I do not consent to participate in this old, flawed model. I know it’s a crazy idea. I know it’s illogical. But I don’t believe it’s wrong.
Think #OutDaBox on May 10. Vote with your conscience. Imagine the revolution.