Friday, 23 October 2009

Democracy and democrats

This morning, anyone who walked into a newsagents was greeted with a barrage of print about last night. For a few minutes on national television, we had the leader of a legitimate party with elected national and local representatives on our screens. This morning, reading the papers, watching the television and browsing the net, you might as well think that we had had Joseph Goebbels on.

In the midst of all the finger pointing and name calling, people are trying to do something very strange, but in a way, very understandable. They're trying to ascribe 'blame' for this act. Peter Hain would have us blame the BBC. The protestors outside would have us blame 'the system'. Nick Griffin would have us blame his projection of Islam. Fingers point everywhere, names are being hurled and the whole thing resembles a great farce.

If we truly, however, wish to ascribe blame, then we must look no further than ourselves. We are the process that helped create this party that so many of us now turn against. We are its' genesis and its' continuance. How is this so?

We are participants in a democracy - yet many of us fail to participate. Barely 60% make it to vote at a general election - and never mind the 30% who go to vote at local and European elections. There are more members of the RSPB than of the three main political parties combined. Our democracy is in trouble.

The threat is not the BNP, however. The threat is ourselves. Mrs Thatcher worked to create a Britain where - rightly or wrongly - the individual was in charge. We are now consumers in this world, we are its' centre - yet, in our heads, we have never left the 1970's. We still ascribe responsibility to others, we still defer as long as possible on making crucial decisions. To a student of politics, like myself, this is maddening.

If we want to 'stop' the BNP, then we should look at ourselves. How have we allowed the politicians we elected to become the reviled figures they now are? How have we managed to disengage seemingly the entire white working class, leaving them to be chased by parties like the BNP? How have we failed to act as the responsible global citizens that are needed to address the problems that our lifestyles create? We should ask ourselves these questions, and engage in some real soul-searching.

Yes, this will require hard work. But we live in this individual-orientated society and we need to work to keep it. We have to work hard to keep our democracy, our economy, our way of life. Else, as the rise of the BNP illustrates, those who would take them all away, can rise and rise unchecked. All we do, in the meantime, is stand to one side, wringing our hands and decrying the failure of the others - the other politicians, the other voters, the other people. We must look in our mirrors and ask "What have -I- done in this process?" If the answer is "Not enough" - and for most people, it will be - then we must work harder.

This all sounds like so much preachy nonsense, and to merely reinforce the media feeding frenzy over the BNP. The BNP are not the be-all and end all of the problem facing our democracy - they are one symptom, one issue of many. I choose them because they are salient right now. As to those who think me preachy - before you decry my willingness to speak out against the wrongs that I see, ask yourself only this - how willing were you to speak out, never mind act?

We have a great tradition in this country - one of a liberal, trading, democratic country tied to the sea and the world that that sea carries us to. It would be a shame to let it go to waste because of pure indolence.