Kiss Your Democracy Goodbye (But Did You Ever Have One?)

Posted on Monday, October 24 at 13:03 by Diogenes
Contrary to popular myth, the democratic process, the universal franchise, habeas corpus, the ‘inalienable rights’ and so on and so forth that the pundits spout on about, far from being an "inalienable right" extending back to the Magna Carta some eight hundred years ago, our extremely limited democracy is barely one hundred years old and is something that is by no means "taken for granted" as events in Northern Ireland revealed; nor the raft of laws such as the infamous "D" notice which is no more than an "agreement" between the owners and managers of the media not to print or broadcast stories that might be embarrassing to the state, under the guise of "state security." With literally hundreds of laws that collectively the state paradoxically likes to call our ‘unwritten constitution’ and without recourse to a clearly defined set of rules that sets limits on what powers the state possesses over its citizens, until the UK — reluctantly and with all kinds of provisos — signed the European Union’s Human Rights Act, the state could pretty well do whatever it pleases. And now, under the guise of fighting the "war on terror," it wants to opt out of key sections of the Act. In fact, the UK is probably the most regulated, controlled and surveilled of any of the so-called democracies. With an estimated 6 million video cameras installed across the country over which there is no oversight, indeed, no controls whatsoever as to what happens to the footage, who sees it or who ends up possessing it, the state’s control over its citizens is almost complete. And if anyone has any doubts about the perilous state of our "democracy," the vote on ID cards on 18/10/05 had only 20 Labour MPs voting against it, and most of those on the grounds of cost of the project. Public debate on the issue is virtually non-existent. The government has consistently misled the public on the real nature of the ID card, hiding entirely the real reason, namely the creation of a national database on its citizens, an allegation it of course, strenuously denies. The vast cost of creating a national database on 60 million people, a database that will contain information of all kinds, not merely the kind that will allegedly stop "identity theft" or allegedly identify "terrorists," benefit "cheats," and those participating in "organised crime," but to add insult to injury, one that we will be forced to pay for. So what is going here? Nobody could deny that indeed the state is undertaking fundamental attacks on the limited civil rights we have won over the past century or so of struggle but firstly, why are elements of the legal profession and the media only now waking up to the fact? Could it be that as long as it was only "extremists" and other "fellow travellers" who were the alleged subject of the attacks, our "liberal intelligentsia" were not that troubled; but now that they see their own positions of privilege threatened, they have at long last spoken out? What is revealed here is something a lot more fundamental and a lot more insidious, for these self-same people who now talk of a “drift toward a police state” have seen the writing on the wall for at least past eight years, yet said nothing and indeed were quite content to accept the "drift" so long as it didn’t affect them. Moreover, it reveals the incestuous relationship between our so-called intelligentsia and the state; why else do they continue to peddle the line that what is happening is some kind of encroachment on these mythical "rights" that we are supposed to have had for centuries? The uncomfortable truth is that democracy, even the limited form we currently have, exists for only as long as it’s convenient to keep it. And it’s a "democracy" that is extremely narrowly defined, namely a two-party system that exists within a structure defined by an inherited and entrenched state bureaucracy that is, we are told, neutral and independent of the political process. [Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on October 25, 2005]

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