A Conversation

The USA will soon have a President elected by people who voted for simplicity over complexity. The kind of simplicity that harks back to 20th Century Germany and Italy, Spain and Japan, Austria, Chile and Brazil. The list unfortunately goes on. Those years of fascism created neither happy times nor happy nations but they began as a response; a call from those that believed they weren’t being heard. Sadly it is this belief that brutally propels democracy towards despotism. And fascism is just one of its forms.

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Fascism discourages engagement suggesting that you leave democracy to the experts. But they cannot give the consent that democracy requires. That’s what politics is, the process of elected representatives gaining consent to make decisions on our behalf.  These decisions are made in the public arena of parliament not behind closed doors. That is why it’s noisy and messy. If the polis does not engage then that consent has not been given. But that doesn’t mean that decisions won’t be made. Engagement is essential if the widest variety of voices are to be heard. There’s little point in lamenting a decision after it’s been made (as in the case of Brexit and the US election), particularly if you reveal that you didn’t participate in the making of it, didn’t fight it with everything you had.

Fascism beguiles us with simplistic, easy solutions. ‘Build A Wall’, Keep Them Out’. Slogans targeted at our simple fears, our childish selves.  They are designed to stop us stepping up to the plate as adults and taking the responsibility that differentiates us from children. Voting for someone that promises to solve all your problems without you having to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty is at best a fantasy and at worst a con that makes us all worse off.  Believing that democracy is what you do once every few years at the ballot box and not every day, is a sure fire way to gain the status of a child. But children don’t vote and they don’t pay taxes. Adults do. And what is politics, parliament, government but the activation of our taxes – the decisions about what to do with our money. Why wouldn’t you want a say in that? As Thomas Jefferson once said, “eternal vigilance is the price of democracy.” That’s the job of adults who are allowed to stay up late.

Fascism uses terms such as the ‘political elite’ to deny that we live in a democracy, deny that there is anything we have to do to keep it vibrant and alive. Believing that there is an us and them, and that the us is powerless, simply gives consent to the people who’ll do whatever it takes to get what they want. It also give us an excuse to do nothing. But that’s the fundamental problem with life, and democracy. It’s impossible to do nothing. Those people in Britain and the USA recently who decided that the best decision was to do nothing, to not make a decision by not voting, still ended up doing something. Something rather big. We have to be informed. We have to be active. We can’t bury our heads in the sand as much as we may want to. And it’s not enough to just have an opinion. Anyone can have an opinion. It’s what you do that matters.

Let’s all pledge to reject fascism.  In my own case I need to be better informed and braver about putting that information out there. And I need to make sure I don’t run away when bullies with loud opinions disagree with me. I need to not be afraid to say something different to what many around me may be saying. Democracy is a conversation. A conversation that doesn’t need a perfect solution. A conversation that has room for compromise. A conversation that isn’t just about winning an argument. Being an adult is not our opportunity to make up for not getting into the high school debating team. Being an adult, who is lucky enough to live in a democracy, is about taking the opportunity to make a satisfying dent in inequality across the planet. It’s about breaking down the simplicity that harbours fear, and celebrating the complexity that opens up the world.

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Image 1: Guernica by Picasso (Photographed by Papamanila) via Wikimedia Commons

Image 2: By Auguste Migette (Reproduction de tableau) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

About sagesomethymes

Daniela is a writer, theatre producer and civic educator. She has had poetry and short stories published in 'Prayers of a Secular World', Inkerman & Blunt; 'Blue Crow Magazine', Blue Crow Press; 'Knitting and other stories', Margaret River Press and Radio National’s '360 documentaries'. Her debut play, 'Talc', was produced in 2010. Her short play, 'Sicilian Biscotti', was produced for the launch of “Women Power and Culture” at New Theatre in 2011 and shortlisted for the Lane Cove Literary Award in 2015. Her second full length play, 'Friday', was produced by SITCO at the Old Fitzroy Theatre in 2013. 'The Poor Kitchen' was produced in 2016 as part of the Old 505 Theatre’s Fresh Works Season and was published by the Australian Script Centre in 2017 (https://australianplays.org/script/ASC-1836). She co-wrote 'Shut Up And Drive' with Paul Gilchrist and it was produced at KXT in 2016. In 2019, her new play, 'Seed Bomb' will be produced at Old 505 Theatre as part of the FreshWorks Season. She is the co-founder of indie theatre company subtlenuance (www.subtlenuance.com) Her published short stories can be read via the Short Stories tab on this blog.
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4 Responses to A Conversation

  1. G~ says:

    The conversation is what needs to always happen. It needs to be open and in full view, inclusive, and honest. There is no room for complacency, as was evident in the US and Britain elections. Apathy holds strong and is too rampant in the mindset, and one should never assume anything.

    Well said!

  2. lauramooney7 says:

    You’ve got me thinking again Daniela – and you’re right – one of the key principles of democracy is participation. I think it’s true that fewer and fewer people are engaged. It could be apathy, it could be laziness, but could it also be that for many people the demands of daily life leave little time or energy for it. I’m thinking of those people working double shifts or combining work with study. I worry sometimes that “activism” might be the privilege of the financially secure. But I can also think of students and pensioners I know who must be happy to make some sacrifices in order to be actively participating. Good role models to remember.

    I think Trump has claimed he is mandated by “the silent majority”. Was it Nixon who coined this term? Anyway, I think we should be very wary of it. It goes along with the notion that the voices who make themselves heard are only those of minority or vested interest groups who don’t represent the views of the general population. It validates silence. The silence, perhaps, that is assumed to be consent.

    So maybe those who voted for Trump and Brexit were people who felt more that their views hadn’t been represented, rather than their voices not heard. I think it’s a good bet that they hadn’t actually exercised their voices – or only to their neighbours and friends. They just exercised their vote. And everyone else was taken by surprise.

    The big question is – was that vote informed? It was said the most googled question in the UK after Brexit was “What is the EU?” And does anyone – especially his voters – really know what Trump plans to do? Uninformed participation is pointless, even dangerous.

    But how easy is it to stay informed? Once, most people probably just read one daily paper and took in the evening news. If anything, we now have a surfeit of ways of getting information but we know that much of it can be slewed or possibly somehow pre-selected to reinforce our pre-existing tastes/opinions. That’s why we need to fight for independent journalism. And that’s why, as you say, we need to keep having the conversation. A civilised conversation. Because if the 2nd of the 4 key elements of democracy is this – The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life* – it is our duty to be model citizens.

    [*Stanford Uni has a nice answer to the Q What is Democracy?]

    • So true Laura. It’s very complicated and very hard not to generalise about why people may have voted a particular way. Thanks so much for reading and talking about it! Will check out Stanford Uni.

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