02 May 2007

Democracy c.508BC-2007AD

As polling stations open across Britain today, it is hard to exaggerate the sadness that will be felt (outside political circles) at the death, confirmed today by a group of senior psephologists, of Democracy in Britain and America.

Democracy, or "force of the people", was born some time around 508BC in the Ancient Greek City State of Athens, where it granted power to all the people - at least insofar as those people weren't unreliable types like slaves, women, children or foreigners - to govern themselves. The Athenians established several important democratic traditions, including the practice of ballots, the separation of the legislature, executive and the courts and, during the Peloponnesian war, the tendency to try and suspend the whole idea of Democracy at the first sign of trouble.

Assailed on all sides by those who felt that letting the people govern themselves was about as wise as leaving your wife alone with Zeus for more than a picosecond, Democracy was to become distinctly unfashionable due to its tendency to fall to whoever could pay their soldiers the most. Throughout the Ancient world it was replaced by the rule of Emperors, who at least tended to dress in chic purple outfits and have the kind of social lives that could keep a whole empire's worth of people gossiping for centuries. Unfortunately for the togated-types, they too fell out of fashion. In Europe they were largely replaced by Kings, who were quite like Emperors apart from having much worse table manners, a tendency to go round in armour all the time and a preference for beheading and burning at the stake as opposed to crucifixion and throwing to the lions.

Despite such attitudes Democracy was content to bide its time, sure in the knowledge that the tide of fashion would turn once more in its favour. Gradually it crept back into the public gaze in such places as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Iceland's Althing. In England it gave rise to the creation of Parliament, for which all people were allowed to vote, at least insofar as they weren't unreliable types like women, children, foreigners, the landless, the poor or anyone the King wasn't keen on. Soon democratic institutions were emerging elsewhere, reaching their finest flowering in the institutions set up under the Constitution of the United States of America, whose aim of preventing the good people of the USA from being ruled over by dubiously-installed, hereditary leaders named George was achieved for the next 200 years.

It was at the turn of the twentieth Century that it became apparent that Democracy was beginning to suffer signs of ill health. The first of these was the fact that, despite its frequently proclaimed popularity, many countries continued to show no interest in it whatsoever, even when that interest was invited at gunpoint. The second was the realisation that, thanks to a combination of first-past-the-post elections, the ever-greater sophistication of pollsters and political machines and ever-greater emphasis on attracting so-called "swing voters" politicians had increasingly concentrated on ever smaller parts of the electorate. Indeed, by the early Twenty-First Century, throughout Britain and America Democracy found itself dependent on just two people. In Great Britain the one person upon whom it depended was a man called Dave who had 1.2 kids, had recently upgraded his Vauxhall Vectra to a BMW 3 series and bought the Daily Mail each day - despite being scared witless by Melanie Phillips's columns - because his wife liked the human interest pieces and faddy diet tips; in America, it was a guy called Bud from the Mid-West who drove an SUV, believed the best way to stop people killing each other was to buy more semi-automatic weapons and who watched anything with Ann Coulter on because his wife thought she talked a lot of sense and he had a bit of a thing about dominant blondes. Having realised the enormous power Dave and Bruce wielded, the pair were instantly crowned rulers of the Anglo-Saxon world, after which they dropped bombs on Canada, Australia and New Zealand just to prove they meant business.

Democracy will be buried at the Church of St Tony the Straight Kinda Guy. Bud and Dave have requested that no flowers be delivered, only oil (Bud) and Marmite (Dave). Democracy is survived by US Plutocracy, Russian Oligarchy, British Cronyism, Chinese Corporatism, Iranian Theocracy, Iraqi Anarchy and assorted Despotisms, Tyrannies and Kleptocracies.


Welshcakes Limoncello said...

You've done it again , Dodo! Love Dave and Bud! Keep 'em coming, please!

Ellee said...

You must be a professional writer, you certainly have some very impressive testimonials. I came over on Tom Paine's recommendation, and have not been disappointed.

Colin Campbell said...

I have sat in many American bars and listened to the many faces of Bud. He was especially to the fore after September 2001.

Unpremeditated said...

Thanks all. Glad to welcome you aboard Ellee! I hope we can keep up the standard.

james higham said...

My recent take on this was considerably more savage. Well done, boys.

Jeremy Jacobs said...

OK, so what's in store for us all?