The Democratic Defect
No matter what you think of democracy during peacetime, it has never been well-suited to deal with emergencies. This fact has been acknowledged by advocates of democracy from the classical to the contemporary. Unfortunately, we are currently experiencing this issue with democracy, particularly in the UK.
There are reasons why the UK has been more damaged by this pandemic than most countries. For instance, we are a global hub, we are a net importer and we are an incredibly dense little island. However, this does not justify the horrifying numbers.
A democracy, understood as rule by the people, is only as strong as the people themselves. By this I do not mean the government. Of course, governmental issues were made prior to the start of the crisis, including stockpiling levels with PPE and NHS beds, though these are issues that were prevalent in all kinds of political systems such as China’s one-party state and Russia’s kleptocracy.
The particular grievance with democracy is that a lot of people were sceptical from the start, and are even still sceptical now, of the effects and the truth behind the existence of the virus. What’s more is that, believe in the virus or not, they take other people’s lives into their own hands when they decide to ignore government advice. If everyone headed governmental advice from day one of lockdown, fewer people would have died, the economy might not have collapsed so dramatically, and this would all be over sooner.
It is not the people who are going on 2 hour runs or those who need to escape the house for 10 minutes who are the threat, it is those people who believe that they are so infallible that they convince themselves that their actions do not have consequences. Coincidentally, these are the same people burning down 5G masts…
The current situation ought to go to show that we do not know everything and that is why experts exist. It is also why our own government has essentially become a mouthpiece for those very experts. One of the issues with democracy is that it is far too generous in deciding who is an expert. Unfortunately this will not be fixed because to suggest that some people do not know everything is, to quote Supertramp, The Crime of the Century.
We need to learn from what is happening at the moment, and a lot of us – hopefully most of us – will. Though, it is those people who will not learn who are destined to repeat the past, and it is to the detriment of democracy that those people are given the same respect as those of us who will learn.