Recently I awoke to find Dublin city once again covered in election posters.
Large plastic boards with giant faces on them telling me to vote for people I don't know so that they can form part of a government that dictates what I can and cannot do.
When ever we enter an election cycle I find myself in a constant state of irritation from having to look at their stupid faces plastered up and down every lamppost in the city.
There's no substance to any of these posters either. Just a face, a maiden name, a political party and a giant number '1'.
Some of them will have a little slogan, like 'public need before corporate greed' or 'fighting in your corner', but what does that even mean?
If I'm going to elect you to a position of power, to a position where you can literally impact millions of lives, then I'm going to need a little more than that.
Also if you're easily swayed by catch phrases like that I really don't like the fact that your vote is worth exactly as much as mine.
90s punk band NOFX summed up this inherent problem with democracy in their 18 minute song 'The Decline':
Or maybe, tear it apart,
Start with assumption
That a million people are smart
Smarter than one
Should my vote be worth more than another persons?
No, we should all be considered equal.
Should people that don't bother to educate themselves get a vote on complex matters with serious repercussions?
That one is debatable.
Of course this is why we elect benevolent leaders. People who are supposed to educate themselves on our behalves and make good decisions for the betterment of the people they represent.
But therein lies the problem - we give the power to the people that are good at convincing us of things, not necessarily the people that will do the best job. What we end up with is a circus of people trying their best to get our votes. That is the goal, not the betterment of humankind.
To make matters worse, this goal getting votes can effectively be achieved through manipulation, fear mongering and slandering.
The last Irish presidential election is a prime example of this (and was an embarrassment to the people of Ireland). It consisted of a bunch of seemingly unqualified candidates bad mouthing each other for months, until finally none of them were elected (the incumbent president retained the position having not taken part in the mud slinging).
So what's to be done? Is it possible to make this system better without tearing it down and forming a group of anarcho-syndicalist communes?
What does it all mean?
I definitely don't know enough about the complexities of global politics, economics or social systems to have an opinion around this stuff worth taking seriously.
What I do have is a vast array of uneducated opinions. So here are a couple of them.
First off, I think that election posters should be banned globally. I've heard that in France they have a system whereby each town has a central area where candidates can post information. One centralized location where all that crap can live.
Either way it’s hard to justify these posters in the internet age.
Second I think that there should be monthly 'town hall' meetings that happen in the run up to an election. All candidates should have to speak about exactly what their beliefs are, what their plans for their first six months in office are (should they get elected) and answer any questions that the people have.
I'd even take this one step further - if you haven't been to at least one of these sessions then you should not be allowed vote... But I can see how that might rub people the wrong way.
Finally I think all of these townhall meetings as well as any debates should have a strong moderator that blocks any candidate from saying anything at all about the various other candidates policies or their parties.
They must focus solely on their intentions and their plans.
It's easy to talk about how bad a job someone else is doing. What I’d like to see is competent leaders that can show, through data and statistics, exactly how and why their plan will benefit society, not why it is better than someone else’s plan or why someone else’s plan sucks.
I could push this one even further and say that any candidate caught up in mud slinging is removed from the race entirely.
Any studies they mentioned should be up for debate of course - but the point is that the political process should not be divisive by default.
That's all I've got.
A rant against the ugly election posters I'm having to look at during my morning commute. And a pre-emptive rant against all the crap that comes along with each election as it approaches its climax.
At this stage it feels like every election cycle is just helping to reinforce a general disillusionment with the political system… I can’t help but wonder what the straw that breaks this system’s back will be…