Anne Marie Waters
Sunday 16th January 2022
Anyone who reads this column knows how many of our freedoms we have lost. Covid accelerated this loss, but didn’t create it, our liberties have been steadily reducing for some time.
Under the Blair government for example, ‘hate speech’ became a reality. People can be prosecuted for expressing an opinion. Even when a person holds what most would consider to be heinous views, in a free country, they must still be free to express them. Free speech is the backbone of democracy, and without it, we are not able to hold those in power to account. That’s why its erosion is so important.
Without free speech, we can’t talk openly about problems or solutions. It is utterly vital, but it’s gone. British people, and people across the Western world generally, are terrified of saying the ‘wrong’ thing. We are paralysed and stuck. We must do something urgently to regain this and other vital freedoms. The question is: what do we do?
I know from speaking to people across the country that many of us have given up on electoral politics as a method of regaining our liberty. I can understand this, but I respectfully disagree. We must not give up on our democracy.
Let us look at the alternatives.
Protest is absolutely crucial and it has been at the heart of our democracy for eons. But what is it that protest aims to achieve? It is to demonstrate to our leaders that we disapprove of their decisions on a specific matter. It is to tell them we want them to make different decisions – in this case, to restore our freedoms. It is, in other words, a message to our elected politicians that we want better. My question is this: why ask them to change? Why don’t we take their place instead? Why don’t WE stand for election and make decisions in our interests, instead of relying on the very people who took away our freedoms in the first place? Why don’t we take power and restore our own freedoms?
Again, this is crucial, but again, its purpose is to tell the powerful that we want them to exercise their power differently. Once again, why leave it to the people who took our freedom and trust them to restore it? Why not take power ourselves?
There are some people, sadly, who believe that violence is the only way back. Some people even want it, but to those I ask, what if your children are victims of that violence? I understand the anger, I really do, but we all must try to keep a cool head and consider the real world consequences. I understand also that violence can be the only method left, but that isn’t the case for us (yet). We still have elections. We can still use them. Let’s say for example that we did descend in to years or even decades of violence – what would happen at the end of it? People will become weary of violence and want peace, they would then return to democracy as a method of governance. So, why engage in violence if we will end up utilising democracy again afterwards? Why not just use our democracy now and avoid the bloodshed?
The fact is that we have at our disposal an effective method of restoring our freedoms, it is the ballot box. Even if you don’t think it will work, surely its worth aspiring to. Surely we owe it to peace to really give the ballot box a go before resorting to violence. We must. We owe it to those who fought and died for our democracy, and we owe it to future generations to pass on a world of peace and freedom.
It’s worth a try…
Below, I’ll describe a hypothetical conversation, created from real conversations I’ve had. I’m ‘A’, the person I’m talking to is ‘B’.
A: We must stand for election and take back our power. It’s the only way to peacefully restore our rights and freedoms.
B: Politics doesn’t work, the politicians are corrupt.
A: I agree, but that’s a problem with the politicians, not the democratic system.
B: We need something new, Parliament has had its day.
A: What would you replace it with?
B: Local power.
A: We have that, we have local elections. How would you choose who exercises that power locally?
B: I suppose by voting for them.
A: But that’s what we have now. The problem is we keep voting for the wrong people, we vote for the very parties that take our freedoms. That’s the heart of the problem.
B: Politics doesn’t work.
A: What would you like to happen?
B: We must rise up and take power.
B: We should kick them all out of Parliament and start again.
A: But how?
B: Go to Parliament and kick them out.
A: We could do that, and I understand wanting to do that, but the fact is many people will get killed if we do that. There is a peaceful method available to us that will kick them out of Parliament and nobody needs to be killed. It’s our ballot box.
B: It doesn’t work.
A: Then we just accept that the powerful will continue to take our rights and freedoms?
B: No, we fight back.
B: Civil war.
A: Ok, who will go to war with whom?
B: The people against the state.
A: Let’s say that happens, how many people do you think will die? Realistically speaking, how many people will fight the state? Where will they get weapons? How will it start? Do we kill people or destroy property or both? How long will this violence go on for and how will we be bring it to an end?
B: I don’t know…
A: If we use violence, we’ll have to end it at some point, so how will we end it? How will we decide how we’re governed? History shows us that we will return to some kind of democracy. So why not just use our democracy now?
B: Elections are rigged.
A: That may be true, but have we really tried? Have we, as a country, really made a concerted effort to take our power back at the ballot box? Until we do, we can’t know if elections are rigged or to what extent. Surely we must try first.
B: We need direct democracy or some other form of democracy.
A: I’m not against a new form of democracy, we can institute that, but we must have the power to do so in the first place. How do we get that power? Force, protest, or by using the democracy we already have?
I’ll leave that question open for you to consider for yourself.
Have a wonderful Sunday.
Anne Marie Waters
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