Democracy, Oh Yeah!

Democracy has been the hot topic in the past week following the UK referendum and the victory of “Leave”. Since the voting on Friday, the major debate has been about if people can make a wrong choice – if they can vote wrong.

One vote per person, valued equally. That’s what democracy ultimately is about, giving everyone’s opinion an equal value. The problem is that people are not equal. People are not equal in their understanding of the issues, in their knowledge and capacity to evaluate and analyze what they want. What’s best for them, their communities or their country. And without understanding what they are voting about and what’s best for them, they might indeed vote wrong – against their own best interest.

With the EU vote, the biggest problem is that pretty much no one understands what the vote means. How does it impact people’s lives, what’s best for them? Mostly people voted based on how they feel about the EU, but that feeling has been influenced by a flow of lies, inaccurate information and threats. And so it may very well be that many people voted against their best interest, without understanding it.

That’s how democracy works. People, who have inaccurate understanding and knowledge are asked to decide on something that impacts directly their lives. With the EU vote, not even “experts”, or those on power, know what the impacts will be. No one knows what’s going to happen, how this will change the society, the economy – the future.

I developed a critical opinion on democracy in 2003, when an uneducated racist got elected to the Finnish parliament on votes by people who liked his sports career and had zero interest on anything else. He was clearly incompetent to have a say on how a country should or could be run but he was elected to represent people who apparently didn’t care. It was the start of the rise of the populists in Finland, who now have made it to the government. By now they have some better educated representatives as well, and I hope not all of them are racists either, but populists they have remained. Riding on people’s fears, they know just the right things to say but give no feasible solution. Realism is missing, but the populists know which strings to pull to get people support them. In England the leave-campaign’s promises on using EU fees for healthcare showed the same, a powerful thing to say with absolutely no intention on making it happen.

People buy from good sellers and in England the leave campaign sold better. Unfortunately I don’t believe the cost-value ratio  of the purchase turns out favorable. Of course I don’t know either what the future brings with it. I’m not an expert in EU or UK politics and I can’t predict how UK leaving EU will affect anything. But it’s not looking good. And I do know that isolation is not an answer to any problems. It didn’t work for the US prior to the world wars and it hasn’t worked since. The make-shift borders are not fooling anyone. We don’t need them. We need a world open for collaboration. A world built on togetherness.

Democratic decisions are not fair. People are not empowered by giving them a vote, but by giving them knowledge and skills. Democracy is not working, unless people know what’s best for them and have been given correct, accurate information which they understand and can evaluate. With the Brexit vote this was clearly not the case.

When it comes to choosing the decision makers, democracy at the moment is our best shot. Aristotle’s power of the wise is not practically achievable. But those decision makers, democratically elected, should then do their job. Gather information, listen to different experts, evaluate the situation and the opportunities and the options – and make decisions.

Yes, in England people voted wrong. Not because they voted to leave the EU but because they cast that vote based on lies they had been fed for decades. The people did not have the accurate understanding of what’s in their interests, what the vote might mean for them. If the campaign had been fair, based on accurate information that helps people understand the situation and get past their emotions, then I could accept the decision. But people are emotional, they develop certain feelings which are too often based on incorrect information.

People have spoken, and based on 1,3 million votes difference, UK seems to be on its way out of EU. It’s a mistake I hope won’t be repeated elsewhere.



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Outi Annala

A sustainability-enthusiast with a master's degree in social sciences and experienced working for public and private sectors and for an international Non-profit organization. Writing about life and all that matters in living a life to the fullest. Passionate about engaging the private sector to the development work, promoting partnerships between companies and non-profit organizations and initiating discussion and debates. Excited about life and living it to the fullest.

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