It’s been said before, I suppose.
Everything has. Bit of a challenge for any creator to know how to keep on creating, when everything’s apparently been said and done. Done and dusted. Dusted and dispatched. Dispatched and returned. Returned and refurbished. Refurbished and dished out as if new again. Dished out as if new again and bought as if never seen before … and so on … and so on … and so on. The thirty-nine steps of liberal democracy as it hits a middle-aged spread of depressing impact.
So from 19th and early 20th century robber barons who create fine philanthropic foundations to their greater glory, and thus manage to rewrite an extraordinary popular history, we move to an utter corporate rewriting of the rules of democratic engagement – a rewriting which leads to a savage carving up of a welfare state we thought once ennobled us so but which has actually only served to pit the strong against the weak in weak and wicked discourse … and then, in a whimpering finale, to an ultimate reversal of everything we used to believe in.
For that’s what’s happened. It’s not that we’ve come full circle. It’s not that the robber barons of yore now rule us all over again. In truth, they never stopped ruling us. What’s happened now, however, is that the killing-fields of besuited boardrooms have unabashedly come out into the full glare of public perception: and you might think this is incredibly damaging, and you might be right – but not in the way you think.
It’s far worse than you think.
The Rockefellers of the world are now the Putins of the world: emboldened by the adventures of our very own Blair and their very own Bush, walnut-tabled meeting-rooms of such wizened power no longer content themselves with earning vast concentrations of monetary wealth, piling as they used to wads of liquidity, millions on top of millions … no, it’s now much more than that. They’re now fascinated by seeing how much pain they can exert; how much control; how much bloody change … how much change bloodily imposed.
The thirty-nine steps of liberal democracy which lead so directly to a weakening middle age; a grasping middle age. A middle age where they know all too persistently well that on the horizon lies a downward slope towards decay – a downward slope which they resist evermore forcefully in the full knowledge that it is as unavoidable as it is unhappy to their dominating souls.
Us believers in liberal democracy need what we’ve currently got in the same way that a second-hand car salesman of dubious repute needs an out-of-date motor insurance.
That is to say, like a hole in the head. And I don’t mean a motor-mouth.
What I really mean is we need renewal.
We need it fast.
Just reeling off what’s happened of late – as well as not so late – provides us with a litany of miserable realities:
- Big Government spying on business, citizens and the criminal fraternity alike
- Big Government subverting the interests of the ordinary citizen in favour of Big Business
- Big Business spying on citizens, probably each other and almost certainly on Big Government
- Health data becoming wealth data, quite before and instead of it being personal data
- Doctor-patient confidentiality being violently tampered with for years
- The consistent and continuous demonising of the disabled, sick, poor and unemployed by government ministers and department
- The ignoring of Big Business tax shenanigans by government ministers and departments
- The abusing of power throughout so many levels of our public and private office for personal and organisational gain
Not to speak of decades of manifest media interference with the long-term outcomes of democratically-framed elections.
A case of me, as a left-winger, bleating futilely about the treatment of the discourses I favour by what I should accept is a free press? A free press? No. Don’t make me laugh. Don’t make me cry.
I love my liberal democracy. I love the idea I was brought up to love as a kid. Imperfect. Incomplete. Unfinished. But striving, all the same.
Now that word – “striving” I mean – is a dirty dirty word. And so – thus – is liberal democracy. It’s been replaced, savagely, by words like “winning”, “coming out on top”, “victory”, “market penetration”, “surrender” and “total destruction”.
So does no one value enough the concept of a free market in both products and ideologies to want to recover its equilibrium; recover its weight; recover its efficiencies, its sharpnesses and its refreshing clarities? Are we all so resigned to a materialism of such heavy crudeness – of such brute force – that we’ve given up even the intellectual, the technocratic, battle to hope for anything better?
Where has liberal democracy gone?
And how did we get to this place we now find ourselves in?