After the comedown of a ‘nothing-really-ever-changes’ election result, it’s easier than ever to lose a sense of hope about how the country is going. Yet now we’ve all had our chance to vote and that little bit of power has been snatched away for another five years or so, it’s important to remember that governments don’t really rule our lives: we do.
The images of VE day brought a sudden stop to a lot of the media focus this week on the grumbling, whining and moaning of what went on at the election. 6 months of noise made it feel like the destiny of many millions of people would suddenly swing on how many crossed in pencil on a little square box at a primary school. But when we remember that over 450,000 British soldiers laid down their lives across the world for the notion of defending our freedoms and the futures of our families then perhaps it puts a different spin on things.
Democracy doesn’t exist so that 650 bureaucrats can be in charge of how your life is going to go. It exists so that they can’t.
Democracy is the wall between people who think they know best for you and the choices that are yours and yours alone to make every single day. Whoever you voted for, or didn’t vote for on May the 7th should not be allowed to get their own way at the expense of the many who disagree. That degree of stalemate keeps things open. It keeps things fresh.
It’s the reason why the NHS won’t suddenly dissolve. It’s why contrary to recent news, the human rights act is unlikely to be going anywhere. No one is going to bring back hanging. Gay marriage won’t be repealed because one small minority of a party don’t like it.
The system doesn’t exist to make sure that you and your mates, your tribe, your family get everything they want from the people in power. It exists to stop it happening.
And if you can turn off the noise for a while, ignore the whispers as much as the shouts and screams, then you might notice that real life is going on around you. The things you can control are right in front of your face. At the tips of your fingers and the soles of your feet. You can be a better person, a kinder one, a smarter one, whatever it is you need to be. And the reason, by and large, that this is possible is that you live in a country where more so than almost anywhere else in the world, no one is going to interfere with what you want to do.
That’s democracy, and in that brief moment between striving to live your life well and moaning about the rulers who give you no help or stand in your way, it might be worth asking whether you’re really making the best use of all that power and space in your life that so many people died to keep free.