So, democracy. That was a pretty smart invention, wasn’t it. I mean, it had to go through a lot of fine-tuning before the “demo” part referred to more than just white, land-owning men, but still. Good idea, ancient Greeks!
I find, though, that like many good ideas involving large amounts of people, democracy works well in theory, but not necessarily in practice. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I know of a better system of government. This one is working out pretty well for me, and the general population, overall. I’m not complaining. Much. (And yes, I understand the irony of bemoaning a system that protects my right to bemoan the system, so save your bandwidth.)
I’m only old enough to have voted in three US elections, and have only been in Israel long enough to have voted in the last two Israeli elections. But so far, in terms of the people getting to choose their leaders, I’m pretty unhappy with the available choices. What concerns me, in the words of the venerable Douglas Adams, is as follows:
“It is a well-known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it… anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.”
It is evident by the plethora of politician jokes making their rounds among people who won’t get thrown in jail for telling them, that my concern is not unique. Everyone knows that when a politician wants to get elected he’ll say whatever he thinks the people want to hear, with little or no intention of actually following through on those promises. Yet every four years, we buy into it all over again. Every four year, we listen to their speeches, we nod our heads in agreement, we argue vehemently with the supporters of the opposing candidates, and we march to the polling stations like good little citizens to exercise our rights on election day.
Because what other choice do we have? It’s like the game “Would You Rather?” in which one person asks the rest of the group to choose between two difficult choices. (Would you rather live forever and watch everyone you know and love die, or die young and, as a ghost, watch everyone you know and love mourn you, and then eventually get on with their lives without you?) Neither! I don’t want either of those things! I don’t want any of these people to have the power to make choices that will have significant impact on my life! And yet, I choose one. It’s part of the game.
This past Shabbat, there were three different articles, on one page alone, in the Jerusalem Post weekend edition decrying various political figures. One was entitled “Beware of Baba Arye,” referring to Arye Deri. Another was entitled “Ayalon is a scoundrel,” referring to former deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon. And one was about Yair Lapid’s proposed budget cuts, which hailed his proposed plan as well thought out and reasonable, but criticized Lapid for throwing the very same middle class, struggling families who voted him into office, under the proverbial bus.
These are the people who hold sway over our lives. Scoundrels, liars, criminals. These are the people who get to propose plans that are then implemented by our government. And we chose them! I’m not trying to play a victim-blaming game here. I’m mostly just wondering how did we let these people get into positions of power? And why do we let them stay?