Are We Living In A Fake Democracy?

On the 17th September 2011, the first protest of what was to become the international Occupy movement, took place on New York’s Wall Street Frustrated by the corrupting influence of corporations on the government, the Occupy Movement aimed to encourage political reforms to the policies contributing to the ever-rising gap between society’s rich and poor

Coining the catchphrase, ‘We are the 99%’, Occupy highlighted how the world’s ‘defenders of democracy’, such as the USA and UK, operate a political-economic system that disproportionately benefits the minority, at the expense of the majority With this increasing disillusionment with our governments and questions over whom they really serve, the question arises, are we living in a fake democracy? Whilst a key difference between a democracy and dictatorship is that political authority is supposed to be vested in the masses, our politicians are overwhelmingly from the elite in society In 2011 after the UK election, it was revealed that of the 119 Government ministers, 66% were privately educated, compared to just 7% of the wider population Meanwhile the US has a history of political families dominating government, suggesting that rather than power being shared amongst the population, it is overwhelmingly shared just amongst the 1% In the UK, more than 200 MPs engage in nepotism, that is the practice of employing members of their own family, to take on government roles

The democratic process of voting itself can be misleading as the popular vote doesn’t necessarily translate into leadership This is seen in both the UK and US electoral systems The lack of women and ethnic minorities within western governments also raises the question of how our supposed democracy can meet the needs of the whole society, when significant groups are not represented Furthermore politicians do not appear to act in an accountable way to the electorate that voted them into power This could be seen in the UK 2010 general election, when the Liberal Democratic party went against their pre-election promises to scrap University fees and instead tripled them once they gained power

Whilst being told that public money could no longer be used to subsidize the cost of education, the electorate also learnt that public finances were being used by members of parliament to fund extravagant lifestyles Western democracies are deeply entwined with capitalism It is argued that economic independence is essential to ensure political freedoms However, social anarchists believe that capitalism in fact undermines democracy, as the money of major corporations literally buys influence in government In 2013 documents obtained under the freedom of information act revealed the shocking extent to which giant energy companies were manipulating western democratic governments against their own citizens

In Canada, North America and Britain, intelligence services have been spying on anti-fracking and anti-capitalist protestors, and sharing intelligence with energy corporations and banks In the case of TransCanada, it suggested to the FBI and US Department of Homeland Security, that non-violent protestors could be deterred under criminal and anti-terror laws In the UK energy policy has been drafted by people transferred straight from UK gas corporations Whilst democracy is defined as government by the people, exercising our power seems to be limited to once every few years, when we get to vote Other than that we have little or no involvement in how we are governed, whilst non-elected bodies of the state such as the police are able to demonstrate real power that unquestionably oppresses certain people more than others

Even more concerning are reports that in some democracies, eligible citizens do not get a vote at all For example, numerous reports suggested that George W Bush’s mandate to rule was based on rigged elections in swing states Just before the 2000 election, Florida officials destroyed 100,000 registered voter forms, wrongly claiming that the registered voters were convicted felons or dead This left many unable to vote, even by the following election

Even when voter registration forms, haven’t been purposely destroyed, democratic governments fail to engage poor people in the political system In the US only 47% of eligible poor families voted in 2012, compared to an 80% of those with annual earnings over $100,000 This suggests that our perception of democracy is directly influenced by how comfortable our living conditions are, and so, as the gap between rich and poor continues to become ever evident, so might the reality that we are living in a fake democracy

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