Friday, 28 December 2012

In praise of democracy

Like everything else in this life, we expect too much from democracy. Like children who believe their parents can make everything better, we think politicians can solve all our problems. And like parents who tell their children soothing stories to get them to sleep, our politicians whisper in our ears that everything will be all right. And we believe them. Or we pretend that we do. At a certain point, children stop believing that Santa brings their Christmas gifts, but they don’t want to give up the sweet notion, so they try to stay as long as possible in a state of belief-unbelief, knowing-yet-not-knowing. And parents, too, can see when this has happened, but they play along, trying to keep the illusion from dissolving, trying to keep the innocence of childhood for just one day more.

And that’s what we’re like with politicians. We know they can’t really deliver us to the Promised Land. We know that half of them don’t even really care, just so long as they get to enjoy that sense of being important, that sense of being someone who matters. As if they matter any more than the rest of us. So we know they are whispering empty phrases, meaningless phrases, phrases as hollow as a hangman's laugh, and they know we know, but we all go along with it, just to keep the illusion going a little while yet. But not to worry, we’re pretty good with illusions—and delusions—so democracy isn't going to come unstuck any time soon. We’ll just keep right on believing—and not believing—and all will be well.

Oh, and those sad saps who don’t vote because they think it’s all just a vile cesspit of corruption? Pity the fools, for they also think that Santa doesn’t bring them their Christmas gifts.

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