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Munamania #8: Election Show

 
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Munan
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2006 8:51 am    Post subject: Munamania #8: Election Show Reply with quote

Last week, we had elections in the Netherlands. My ten years old nephew knew for who he would vote: the leader of the social democrats. Why? He had seen this main contester for the position of prime minister in a television debate with the current prime minister. They played a game in which they had to finish each other’s sentences and in the end, the social democrat had won by saying that the prime minister’s party could kiss his ass.

This debate, however, was a satire in which the makers had taken images of an actual debate and overdubbed them with funny remarks. My nephew’s confusion is telling of the way in which election campaigns have developed over the last few decades. The election campaign of 2002 was grim, culminating in the murder of would-be prime minister Pim Fortuyn. The next one in 2003, was one of utter confusion, following the fall of a government after only three months. But this year’s election was mainly burlesque.

The prime minister presented a showbiz program on television. The leader of the liberal party, a bachelor, was lured by two female journalists in wedding gowns into a photo session. During a ‘serious’ talk show, the leader of an anti-immigration party suggested that there should be a headscarfless day once a year, on which Muslim women would take off their headscarves – after which the journalist presented him with a headscarf and asked him to put it on. Never before was it possible to vote for so many celebrities – singers, television personalities – who had been given non-electable positions on the candidate lists of most parties.

All parties acted a bit like Hadjememaar (If-only-you-had-me), the alcoholic tramp who gained two seats in the city council of Amsterdam in 1921 by charming the people with his hilarious performances. But Hadjememaar was part of a plot thought up by anarchists who wanted to show that democracy was wrong – if even a tramp could be elected, why bother with it? Unwillingly, the participants in this year’s elections gave the same message with their burlesque behaviour, concentrating on the show and not on the issues: if we do not take democracy serious, why should the voters do so? The enemies of democracy are not marginal fascist parties. The bankruptcy of democracy will come when the people realise they are not watching a true election campaign, but a political version of America’s Next Top Model - and stop caring.


Last edited by Munan on Mon Nov 27, 2006 11:24 am; edited 1 time in total
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Munan
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2006 9:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know it's a bit local, but I also know there's just been elections in the USA and this show-element in the elections is something I've heard Americans complain about a lot (in Holland it's sometimes even called 'the Americanisation of the elections'), so I guessed there will be enough to discuss here. And now you know where my sig comes from.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2006 6:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ahhhh, politics. Pardon me if this post sounds cynical... that's because it reflects a viewpoint which is very cynical of politics in general.

Democracy is not all it's cracked up to be. It's only a pretty facade over the face of a principle that has been true of leadership for thousands of years.

This principle is that those who are best able to manipulate large masses of people take power.

The fundamental difference between the progressive governments of the post-enlightenment is that these governments have limitations on their power. Checks and balances. Term limits. Rights to privacy... which seem to dwindle as the days go by.

I don't think democracy is a shining bastion of beautiful political process... but I do think the limits to the power of the government are beautiful things.

The interesting thing about terrorism, these days, is that it's fundamentally succeeding. It's creating new and expansive powers for governments and police forces and prompting new restrictions on rights to privacy.

I suspect that our freedoms will keep dwindling until our fear of oppressive government reaches an equilibrium with our fear of outside dangers.

Then there's the whole issue of taking politics seriously. You have to question the motivation of people who actively seek power. Do they seek power for the sake of actually helping people, or to further their own agenda?

Generally, it's the latter. I don't trust politicians. I don't trust them to do what they say they'll do to get elected or re-elected. I don't trust them to act in a way consistent with their beliefs on what will actually help the country, no, I believe they're more likely to act in a way which will further only the cause of themselves, those close to them, and their own respective clubs (political parties).

I'm a registered Republican, but damn it, I don't know why. I'm non-religious, I don't think abortions are murder, I think expansive government powers are exceedingly dangerous, and I have no belief in the sanctity of virginity, abstinence, or restrictive sexual practices.

Of course, I don't believe in the incorruptibility of democrats, either. HAH!

Honestly, it's difficult to motivate myself to participate in the political process.

/rant.
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Simon_Says



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PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2006 8:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I never participate in elections or whatnot, because frankly, if it's for the leading club of the nation or which classmate to go for school council president, it simply doesn't matter. For example, a few years back the mayor of my city switched from a man named Al Duer (edited, thought it was Gore, cause of the first name) to Dave Bronconier. What happened to the city since then? Well, not much really. Just a lot more construction on every goddamn road, but I only realized that when I started to drive.

The Prime minister of Canada went through three different people in my lifetime, and not once was the situation of any real difference. Whatever they did was either of almost no consequence, nothing, or shoving a fist up our asses scrounging for green (ex. the Sponsorship Scandal, when the top brass of our nation payed themselves a few million of our quid while off the books). Just days ago Alberta got a new Premier, and people are like 'How are things going to change now huh? Huh? huh?'. I just keep telling anyone who talks to me about that to take a chill pill, 'cause if you analyze what eh actually said, you'll find he said nothing at all.

As Crotch said, people in power and who have what it takes to stay in power generally just exist to keep power and accumulate more power via manipulating the gullible, brainwashed, or desensitized public. In that sentence the entire system of human society since antiquity was based on.

And more to this threads original point: the democratic process falls to that on every level, even so far down as school presidency elections. Now that Munan has given us a high-level democratic process in action to criticize, I'll now demonstrate just how bad democracy is, even on a smaller scale.

A few years back in Junior High, there was a school election, who would be 'school council president' 'chair member' 'treasurer' and all that jazz. There were quite a number of people running for all sorts of positions, promising longer lunch hours, better Halloween dances (a thing that by its very nature is irredeemable), cleaner hallways, and/or mp3 players in the classrooms, and all sorts of other stuff. So then there's the big debate, where every man and woman states his/her position and debates all the blah dee blah da blah blah. One man, forgot his name, let's call him Pedro, introduces himself with huge fanfare (really, he had two friends blow trumpets as he stood up) and had a little toy car zooming around with a 'vote for Pedro' flag attached to it, and makes a really sweeping speech about how he will not let The Man get to the school. He leaves the stage with a huge fanfare, despite practically making his points and promises but side notes to his speech. He didn't debate, he just made jokes and insults at everyone (sometimes amusing in fact). He had shiny posters with full photoshop glorifications pasted all over the schools, and came to school dressed in business attire. He even had a song for his campaign.

Guess who won that year.

Despite the fact that some of the other groups, consisting of better students who actually identified and promised to fix numerous issues with the school (most prominently freedom to eat wherever inside the school during lunch hour, which was currently restricted to eating in the gym, and forced to go outside afterward even in blizzard conditions), the man who most charmed the masses with shine and pizazz won the vote. Of his promises, which included reintroducing 'unhealthy' snacks to the vending machines and reinstatement of the game room (a place where students can go to play card games, board games, even computer games which was scrapped that year), none were carried out. Not one. Zip nada zilch. To make things worse, lunch hour was shortened from 60 to 50 minutes, and the school got rid of the playground (a great place to hang around and eat, not to mention to bomb people below with snowballs and the occasional water balloon.) Yes, The Man definitely didn't take over the school.

I have no doubt that some of the other contenders would have actually done what they promised (a close friend was among them), but they didn't have jackass friends or photoshop, so they lost. And what happened after that election? Absolutely nothing, in fact the situation went from not too bad to bad. I hear things got even worse after I left (I mean worse as in prison conditions now. People can only enter school during or just after school hours, when before the school was crowded just before the first bell during winter.)

Of course the whole school election thing was just something with which to pacify and appease the student mob. The 'school council' probably would not have any real say with the principal, except by using Spartacus tactics (something which would earn swift retribution from the staff). Even so, when anyone looks at the vote itself, it's hard not to see the striking similarity to national elections. Who really wins? The guy with the most posters and best commercials.

Democracy is like pyrite. It might look like gold, but it's really worth jack shit. At least as Crotch said, democracy generally has numerous checks and balances, and those are beautiful things to have. But as Churchill once said "Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."
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Munan
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 09, 2006 6:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I must say, I find both your reactions a bit unsettling. In my column, I was mainly criticising the big show that elections have become in the Netherlands, not democracy.

I must say, I do believe most of our politicians are not in it to enrich themselves. They are genuine and do believe in what they say they stand for. Maybe this is because we have representational democracy here in Holland and not a two-party system like in the USA, so people have really a lot of parties they can choose from, and through coalition governments, even smaller parties can influence the governing of the country.

When we elect our parliament, the people we elect represent an ideology, not a state (like in the US), so they really must be 'ideologically sound'.

Also, there are numerous examples in the past and present, where it really made a difference whether we had a right wing government, a left wing government or a liberal government.

I would almost say, that the last line of my column has already come true for your respective countries (USA and Canada), crotch and Simon.

And that is sad. Especially (excuse me for saying so) for a country with a president that called it 'the brightest beacon of freedom and democracy in the world'.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 10, 2006 1:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Munan wrote:
I must say, I do believe most of our politicians are not in it to enrich themselves. They are genuine and do believe in what they say they stand for.

Maybe power just corrupts, then? Hm, I admire your optimism, in any case.
I always thought that the best politician would be somebody who didn't want to be a politician.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 10, 2006 4:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

here are some things to think about.
at one point or another, everyone is an asshole and an idiot. not nesecarrily at the same time, or all the time, but it happens to everyone, even govermental people.
like today, for example. my phone had stopped working. i tried everythin i could to fix it, but i failed. i eventually took it to the shop, where the guy, in one movement, opened the back, flipped out the battery, and put it in the other way up. from the moment i turned the phone on, i was an idiot. a similar thing can happen with assholery.

also, to me, there seem to be three possible reasons that polititians do so many things that are against the law.
1) the polititians start off good, bt end up breaking the law. (power corrupts)
2) only criminals become polititans.
3) all of us are criminals, but polititians get deeply scrutinised by the media.
as for 1, i don't think that power is strong enough to corupt everyone who comes in contact with it. 2 seems highly unlikely, as criminals are unlikely to evade capture to the point that the end up working in the government.
so that just leaves 3. i think this is the correct one, as this little experiment will show.
at the end of a day, think back aty all the illegal things you did. not big things, like robbery, but small things, like speeding, or littering.
if you feel like it, look in a big book of law, or even just *at* one. think about how many lwas there are in place. just how hard is it to go through a single day without breaking one of them? Pretty damn hard.
since people like the president have media tailing them most of the time, little incursions like this are snapped up and blown out of all proportion.
and thats my (estimated) 1.02480 pence, given the current echange market.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 10, 2006 10:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think the issue here was not so much anything that a politician may have done in the past, but abuse of the office. Anyway, I think that we have gotten a bit off topic.
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