the problem of democracy

Earlier this week, I watched helplessly as two overgrown children fought over a very expensive toy; they were the terrifying, haunt-your-dreams figures of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and the toy was the United States of America. I’ve gone from cautiously optimistic about the state of politics in the Western world (a distant memory, honestly) to profoundly disillusioned, like many have and many will. Yet this disillusionment has shown itself in a variety of forms akin to the steps of mourning: denial, apathy, sadness, and now I find myself very, very angry.

As I see it, this election, this notorious election of 2016, is simply another failure of democracy itself–of allowing ‘the people’ to decide upon things that they simply have neither the qualification nor the dexterity of mind to comprehend. I include myself in this category: I like to think that I am wise enough to admit that which I do not know. While I don’t demand that everyone resemble Socrates, I do encourage people to have a sense of their own shortcomings. When I last voted, I was tremendously poorly versed in the issues and the qualities of the candidates; I felt obliged and excited about exercising my role as a voting citizen (a right deprived to many), exercising my civic duty, etc., but at the end it was all empty. I filled in the bubbles that corresponded to the party that I consider to be the lesser of two evils in a system that is, in fact, run by evil. If this is my experience, a person of reasonable university education and a keen interest in politics, then how does everyone else vote? Simply according to party, as studies have shown–halfheartedly, ignorantly, confidently, accepting the options with more convincing/appealing advertisements or connotations.

Even when the options are not complicated, like the referendum in the United Kingdom, democracy still failed. I use this term loosely because in many ways, democracy ‘succeeded.’ Brexit (correct me if I am wrong), was a truly poor decision based on a series of factors that perhaps one of us will go into one of these days, but ultimately it simply showed that ‘the people’ are unfit to govern themselves.

At times like these, this passage from 2666 by Roberto Bolaño repeats in my head: “they talked about freedom and evil, about highways of freedom where evil is like a Ferrari.”

AK