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(en) Britain, SolFed*, DA #30 - Manufacturing Apathy

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 24 Nov 2004 08:42:30 +0100 (CET)

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Are those who criticise political apathy also to blame for its creation?
Voter turnout has been plummeting in most democratic countries
since the early 1950's. In the 2001 UK parliamentary
elections, voter turnout reached its lowest ever levels (59.4%).
This prompted some media speculation regarding the whole
process of democracy. America got only 49.27% participating in
the Presidential elections of 2000. What is the cause of this
decline? And how worried should our leaders be by it?

Without credible alternatives to choose from, what pressure is
there on the government to provide all it promises? And what
motive is there for people to vote when it is often perceived to be
non-consequential vote anyway? Even when farcical opposition
leaders such as Iain Duncan Smith are replaced, e.g. by Howard,
the repetitive and unimaginative style combines with a
self-portrayal as more of a media lapdog than anyone with any
integrity. Taking cheap shots at government policies which do not
stray wildly from historically held conservative ideologies hardly
seems conducive to an effective democratic process.

However, one of the main reasons the general public have
become generally more cynical and distrusting in the last decade
is the direct consequence of being misled by a series of unfulfilled
promises and blatant lies. The re-branding and rise to power of the
Labour party as 'New Labour' has led to it marketing
itself to the younger generation as the leaders of a new and radical
Britain. Seven years on, declining public services, race riots and a
highly contentious war have exposed it as the sham it is. The
widely opposed Iraq war becomes yet another in a series of
depressing incidents for the mass of unmotivated and disillusioned

But what can people do about it? Vote for Michael Howard? By
advocating gay rights and 'tough new measures' on
asylum, he hopes he and his party will be taken seriously. The fact
is that everyone knows these new found liberal views are
transparent attempts at vote mongering, which only further
alienate the public.

Meanwhile, the present government has succeeded in
exacerbating already high levels of public cynicism and distrust.
The divide between citizens and government has grown wider, as
political spin and outright lies have emerged to characterise the
government's time in power. The public are endlessly
exasperated by politicians who robotically spout party spiel, and/or
unquestioningly follow the US' lead.

Following the Second World War, Hitler's designated
successor, Hermann Goering, explained: 'The people can
always be brought to the bidding of the leaders\u2026 all you have
to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the
pacifists for a lack of patriotism and exposing the country to
danger'. Before the Iraq war of 2003, President
Bush's spoke of 'mushroom clouds' from Iraqi
nuclear weapons, which evidently did not exist. At the same time,
Blair supported the document which warned us our lives could be
over in 45 minutes unless 'we act now'. Both leaders
clearly applied Goering's theory of circulating fear in order
to manufacture public consent when making these statements,
and now, the lie is complete. Only last week a man was arrested
for wearing a 'Give peace a chance' t-shirt in a
shopping mall in Ohio, because it was seen as anti-American.

Some MP's have suggested that increasing voter apathy is
the result of growing laziness and disinterest amongst people in
general. The irony is, this only serves to further reflect a
government hopelessly out of touch with people. We live in an
information age, where access to almost anything is just a click
away. Yet, at the same time, young people are being fobbed off by
seemingly never-ending public inquiries and highly convenient
secret service acts.

To suggest a mass of people are not voting because of ignorance
is absurd. Many people are choosing not to vote for precisely the
opposite reason; because they are only too well aware. They are
choosing not to involve themselves in a system which fails to offer
credible political alternatives, and a government which fails to live
up to its promises.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that, in an era of image
over substance, power itself becomes commodified, as leaders
package false democracy for the public. Having marched into Ten
Downing street in 1997 with his guitar and apparent determination
to transform dowdy Britain into 'Cool Britannia',
Blair now looks haggard and dejected. His promises have
disappeared into the same Bermuda triangle Saddam
Hussein's weapons of mass destruction have fallen into.

Direct Action is published by Solidarity Federation, the British
section of the International Workers' Associations
* Solidarity Federation is of the anarcho-syndicalist spectrum

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