Of Expertise and Democracy

I wanted to post something about the current state of affairs in the UK and, indeed, worldwide. Rather than just tweet or post a long Facebook status, I thought I'd dust off the ol' blog and just get some stuff down.

(As an aside, I notice some half-finished posts that I should really get around to finishing and publishing, so do bear with me)


Democracy is a wonderful thing.

Well, unless you listen to Churchill who quoted others, saying "democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time..."

As an idea, it's a pretty good one. Everyone should have a say in what goes on around them. It seems like a very fair place to start and this is something I wholly agree with.

There are two main problems with it.

The first is that I firmly believe that opinions on subject matters should be weighted towards those who have expertise and experience in said matters. I'll give you an easy example.

When Leanne was pregnant, we were asked what our birth plan was. This was our first (and, to date, only) child. As such, we didn't know what our birth plan was. The options were plentiful and bewildering. There could be drugs or no drugs. Pool birth. Home birth. Standing. Sitting. Lying down. Episiotomy*. Cesarean. Gas and Air. There was probably even an option involving tame swans, rose petals and a lute player if we'd wanted it - I mean, this was Brighton after all.

We could have stated our demands and been an integral part of the decision-making process in a very democratic process between us and the midwife**.

What we wanted was as safe a birth as possible, resulting in a healthy baby and mother. To that end, we decided that it would be far better if we eschewed our democratic right in favour of doing whatever the hell the people who actually knew about this stuff told us to. We need drugs? Give us drugs! It would be better if Leanne were suspended from the ceiling whilst an album of ELO's greatest hits plays in the background? Okay, it sounds weird, but if you're telling us that's the best way, we're all in.

In short, we should trust you, the experts, to tell us what the correct thing is to do.

Trust. This is the second major issue with modern democracy. Not in the system itself, but in the way people are convinced or coerced to believe in a particular outcome. The people billing themselves as experts when they have, in fact, ulterior motives for taking their stance. Perhaps the outcome they require isn't the best outcome for all concerned but rather for themselves or their friends at the expense of everyone else?

So really, the issue lies with the trustworthiness of politicians.

Really, the two things that have prompted me to put finger to keyboard are the EU referendum in the UK and the frankly baffling events that have occurred across the pond in recent months.

Starting with the referendum, let me say that no-one really knows what will happen if we leave. Most people have postulated some scenarios, and that's fair enough. The problem for me is that this is exactly the sort of thing where we, the great unwashed British public, shouldn't have a meaningful vote.

We don't know. We're not qualified.

We should absolutely leave this up to the people that do know, or, at least, know more than we do.

Of Rocks And Hard Places

By that, I don't mean the politicians - by far, the worst thing about voting in this mess is that you're going to have to side with one bunch of shitehawks over another bunch of equally shite, er... hawks. And I'm certainly not taking the stuff the media is saying at face value. I mean, after Murdoch (who owns Sky, News of the World, The Sun, The Times, et al) has made his view perfectly clear on why he wants us out of Europe, it should be obvious that his outlets have all been tasked with skewing public perception in that direction.

It's like our own little version of the fetid demagoguery that we've witnessed in the US. Stir up hatred and whip up the ill-informed into a frenzy so that you can steer them in the direction you want, all under the guise of being good and democratic (small 'd').

The idea of Trump as president scares the living shit out of me. It was amusing at the start but only because no-one could really see it happening. I mean, surely America would work him out and realise that he would be a disaster. But then he's all but clinched the nomination (AIUI, the GOP still have to officially name him as their nominee at the convention even if, on paper, he has the delegates) and even if the polls (for what they're worth) have both Clinton or Sanders beating him in the general, if Sanders decides to run as an independent, all bets are off. I'm not saying he'd win, but he could take enough votes from Clinton to really put Trump in contention.

Fired Up

Actually, maybe it's just Republicans that scare me - solely on the issue of Gun Control. Full disclosure - my knowledge of US politics is derived entirely from mainlining all 7 seasons of The West Wing.

But it's not just me, right? The entire Rest Of The World can see the correlation between 'lax' gun ownership restrictions and the sheer amount of people over there who end up getting shot on a daily basis. So why don't they do something about it?

It's the Second Amendment. That bit about the 'right to bear arms'. An idea that represented the best perceived wisdom of its time***. A young country that was justifiably afraid of ever being under the yoke of a dictator ever again, sought to ensure that would never happen by allowing its general populace to arm itself so it could rise up and overthrow those in charge.

Because that's the way it was done back then, which is fair enough. But it's not the way things are done now. Things move on. Develop. Dare I say, evolve.

The people refusing to acknowledge that US Gun Control laws probably need a once-over are those with their own agenda. The fact that they like their guns. The fact that the NRA has power, money and therefore influence over politicians.

Decisions are being made not by experts but by those being coerced by people with ulterior motives.

In short, all over the world some people we can't trust are being told to make us do something clearly detrimental to our wellbeing by a whole bunch of other people we just can't trust for reasons of their own.

Now I've got that off my chest, it'll be back to your regular**** scheduling of game design philosophy and top tips for new parents.

* Don't look it up. It involves cutting... things.
** It's worth noting that the hospital staff will always try to accommodate your wishes up until the point where medical necessity takes over.
*** Another West Wing quote, albeit one from a different issue.
**** Not actually regular at all


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