Democracy should be the ultimate satisfaction survey.
The principle seems simple: a government is elected by the people, in order to govern the country to their benefit. The people expect this elected government to make sure that some basics are in place and well-managed. Things like infrastructure, education, health-care, policing, courts & jails, as well as the defense of the country’s borders. And so that the elected government have the resources to do this job, the people give-up a share of their income for the collective good.
In a more spiritual sense, the people expect the government they elect to maintain ‘freedom’, allowing them to live peacefully, earn a living, enjoy their family & friends & build a future for the next generation.
Governments are, in this sense, a service provider.
Elected to provide a service to a people living within a specific geographic area.
Glancing at today’s journalistic contributions, here in South Africa, it would seem ‘consumer satisfaction’ is at an all time low.
William Gumede speaks of the dissonance between people’s dissatisfaction with corruption & service delivery & the results at the poling station.
Phylicia Oppelt is honest about the fact that she just does not trust the government to educate her children, rather opting to pay exorbitant fees for private education, as she believes the country’s educational system to be in a shambles.
Which it is, in many ways, with teachers going on strike (setting an exceptional example to our future generations) and a mere 2 out of 5 learners starting school, ever completing their schooling successfully.
Redi Tlhabi is somewhat more direct, asking how it came about that people who have no regard for the welfare of the people (who put them in power) came to rule, with only an interest in their own advancement & wealth?
This off course is not a South African problem, or even an African problem, as white South Africans who reminisce about the meat-pots of their own aparthied-Egypt will be quick to suggest.
It is a global problem.
In the United States of America the ‘Occupy’-movement has been going on and gaining momentum for months.
In Tunisia a young fruit seller sets himself alight, sparking weeks of riots.
In Greece citizens, spurred on by local officials, are refusing to pay new taxes.
And in Italy the town of Filettino declares its independence from that country.
Across the globe, people are dissatisfied.
With democratically (and sometimes not so democratically) elected governments.
The global pot is brewing.
A new soup.
Democracy has been invaluable in bringing about stability, but it has never, in the history of mankind brought about change.
In India it was civil disobedience that brought them freedom.
In Poland the same.
In South Africa, it was civil disobedience that rid us of Apartheid.
Yet, we return to voting stations, intoxicated by advertising & PR-campaigns, we draw our cross and happily hope the tide will turn.
Our financial contribution (through taxes) will be utilized for the greater good of the group of whom we are a part, because we choose to live in this specific geographic area.
I do not think this world as ever before seen such a mass migration of people.
Britons come live in South Africa.
South Africans move to England & Australia & Canada.
Nigerians, Somalians, Ethiopians & Kenyans move to South Africa.
We ‘vote’ with our feet, it seems.
We’re unhappy with what is happening in this geographic area & so we move to another area.
Crime is too much.
Education is falling apart.
Health care is non-existent.
Infrastructure is collapsing.
And we move.
And we settle.
At great financial & emotional cost.
And we find a new government, as inadequate.
It was Henry David Thoreau who said, ‘that government is best which governs least’.
Governments govern excessively.
It was Arundhati Roy who reminded, ‘Colorful demonstrations and weekend marches are vital but alone are not powerful enough to stop wars. Wars will be stopped only when soldiers refuse to fight, when workers refuse to load weapons onto ships and aircraft, when people boycott the economic outposts of Empire that are strung across the globe.’
I imagine the same is true of schools not functioning properly.
And billions of tax-money inappropriately spent.
And hospitals not providing health-care.
It will only be when we all, seize to support the service provider, that the service provider will be out of business.
Perhaps the question is this: when will we reach the critical point of no return?
That point at which even the privileged cannot afford to buy their children private education & private healthcare & private security & private entertainment & private transport?
For it is when we reach that critical point that we will see the service providers challenged through civil disobedience.
Martin Luther King believed, ‘I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.’
Perhaps the issue is that we do not recognize evil anymore?
That we prefer to be lulled into comfortable ignorance, for as long as the evil’s effect affects me only marginally?