The people of Egypt are standing at an historic crossroad. But to hear other people tell it, Egyptians are travelling down the highway to democracy. They’ve been stalled for decades but now their engines are revving and they are all but on their way to western style democracy. First stop: free and fair elections.
To all those who died and sacrificed, it would be a disservice to commence this trip without fully examining the destination and any and all alternatives. Required reading before you embark on this journey is Animal Farm by George Orwell. Moral: If new people are put into any version of the same system, no matter how reformed, you will eventually end up with the same results. The problems may be to a lesser degree, more benign, but you will not have the freedom for which people died. And if you’ve read it before, read it again lest you start wearing clothes and walking on two feet.
As an American who dabbled in local politics, consider this my postcard from Destination: Democracy. I don’t wish you were here. Sure, I have a vote; I have a voice, but it is not heard. If you have a voice which you can’t use, are you in a worse position than one who can use their voice, unheard? What is the difference?
“Although Bahrain has a parliamentary system, many Shias feel elections have only served to co-opt them into the political system and did not improve their access to government jobs and services.” (Aljazeera English – 2-12-11)
So, apparently, no difference. Free elections only encourage those who would, to achieve power, do and say anything, those with no scruples, the lowest of our low. Anyone who says they want to run for a political office should be immediately disqualified from politics. The process of running for office does not appeal to anyone who is, at heart, a good honest person. Isn’t that who we need now, good honest people?
There should never be a political class, a group of people who make their living as politicians. The political class is insulated, protected from the very people whom they are supposed to represent. How then, can politicians represent people?
Is there another way, a different road to take? First, decide what your destination is. For the voices of the people to be heard. For the will of the people to be enacted. To be free; to rule ourselves.
Well, it’s clear that free democratic elections won’t get you there. I suggest the direct route. Fill all political offices by lottery. It works for jury duty. I haven’t heard of that system being corrupt, beyond people trying to get undeserved exemptions. It works for military duty except, again, people trying to get exempted.
This system is called lottocracy, sortition, or demarchy. It was used in ancient Athens. The people of Egypt could vote on the framework of the system. Who is included in the pool? How often can people from the same family be eligible for duty? Should eligibility for national positions rotate geographically? Should we have an allotted chamber which chooses individuals for positions?
Enough! of political intrigue and manipulation. Enough! of corporate interests instead of those of the people. Enough! of rule by the rich, for the rich. Politicians are a scourge and they do not represent people. We the people should start to begin to represent and rule ourselves. In this age of crowdsourcing we know that we can create, we can collaborate. Yes, WE can. Not ‘we can get him elected to change things’; WE can make change.
If you don’t take this opportunity to now try something new you will regret it. For the highway to democracy is actually a ring road. Eventually you will end up where you started and you will see your grandchildren in Tahrir Square. But, they will go home unsuccessful, unheard. Because, they will live in a democracy and they will have a vote.