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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: June 5, 2009 @ 12:17 pm

    Get Out There And Vote

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    There’s an Anarchist poster around town to the effect that, If voting changed anything they’d ban it. Or maybe it was, Don’t vote – it only encourages them. I know the arguments: parliamentary democracy is fixed in favour of the privileged, there’s no point, etc.


    The alternative is anarchy

    These arguments are not without some substance. If you have money or, very importantly in this country, if you are part of a political dynasty, you generally have a much better chance of getting elected than the ordinary Joe or Jane Soap.

    There’s also the influence of big business over the parliamentary process. Property developers are generally regarded as having carried undue weight with the decision-makers in our own system, for example. Then there are the lobbyists, special interest groups and so on, who seek to push Government Ministers in particular directions. And the way our politicians and their British counterparts are milking the system is far from edifying.

    Nevertheless when you look at countries that don’t have a democratic voting system, the ordinary people are generally worse off. Free speech and freedom of the press are rarely on offer. And corruption, as bad as it is in some democratic countries, seems to be far worse in totalitarian dictatorships (in the absence of a free press, it is hard to be definitive, which is one of the reasons they don’t allow a free press). All these issues come forcefully to mind as we mark the 20th anniversary of the dreadful Tienanmen massacre.

    Who would argue that the democratically-elected Labour government in postwar Britain did not introduce many changes that were beneficial to the general public, particularly in education and healthcare?

    Sadly, it is harder to point to examples nearer home, but suggestions are welcome. One thinks of Noel Browne’s crusade against TB and Donogh O’Malley’s introduction of free secondary education as well as the more recent abolition of third-level fees by Labour’s Niamh Bhreathnach (fees are on the way back now, of course).

    The anarchist philosophy of grassroots democracy with no overarching state, and society being run by workers’ councils and community fora, is a very attractive one in theory. Anyone who reads Gerald Brenan’s The Spanish Labyrinth with its lyrical descriptions of  shopfloor rule in Barcelona will be an anarchist for a day or two afterwards.

    But the current and existing cultural and educational level of the general public – and I know someone will call me an elitist, but it’s  true – means that a social structure like that will ultimately run into the sand. Look at the way the Soviets in Russia, which were trumpeted as a superior form of democracy, ended up by paving the way for the worst dictatorship in history (even more dreadful than the utterly horrific and appalling  regime instigated by Adolf Hitler).

    So, put aside the cynicism for one day at least and get out there and vote. A lot of people died so we could have the privilege.

    • robespierre says:

      In a word, bravo.

    • Paul says:

      Ken Loach’s The Wind that Shakes the Barley was aired again last night, on Film Four.

      The political scenes – a kind of synopsis – are striking in the sense they reflect the clay out of which the Irish approach to self-rule and self-governance was moulded.

      From where I sit I observe several separate but related things of relevance: Gay Mitchell posters tied to not one, two or three but four streetlight poles on the roundabout outside our house, four of twenty posters in one little patch of Ireland; a YouTube video of Kathy Sinnott signing in at 7.30am Friday morning with suitcase in tow, warning a reporter, reporting on MEP abuse of expenses, of how he reports her, that she has already done seven hours work; stories about the Leaving Certificate botch-up as most read on your newspaper’s website. The country is coming asunder and people are interested in a state exam?

      In the film the landlord says something along the lines of, “God save Ireland when it’s ruled by your lot”. For the first time ever, I’m beginning to understand the value of that sentiment, which is quite frightening.

    • Phil says:

      What a load of dangerous nonsense. This is Ireland 2009 not Vietnam 1970. This writer should be selling coca cola, not advice. Anarchism is not scientific, it is utopian, it is taking your dreams for reality, not accepting things as they are.

      Shame on you Deaglain, get out and dance.


    • Deaglán says:

      Being an anarchist means you don’t have to spell my name right, I suppose.
      But seriously, whatcher mean, it’s not Vietnam 1970? And are we supposed to dance our way through the Recession (I suppose it would at least be fun.)

    • Pilib says:

      Dream on Phil.

      The reality demands real solutions, not utopian visions.

      None of which can be achieved through not voting anyway, so Deaglán’s point stands.

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