The sorry state of democracy

Democracy is failing so it’s ironic that Muslims feel the need to vote when the majority are disenfranchised and disillusioned

The reactions to Jeremy Paxman’s Newsnight interview with Russell Brand, comedian and actor, have been as revealing about the state of democracy as the interview itself. The political class attacked by Brand as “narrow” and “elitist” have come out to defend democracy with none other than David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, declaring that “I’m a democrat. If Russell Brand’s got a better idea, he can let us know.”

What has really touched the nerve of politicians and many broadsheet commentators, who despite knowing all too well the inherent flaws in the democratic system continue to extol the public to keep believing in the system, is Brand’s defiance in not voting. “I will never vote and I don’t think you should, either.” Such a stance clearly says that positive or real change cannot come from within the democratic system which is the exact opposite of what democrats will have everyone believe.

In a particularly interesting exchange a fellow actor and comedian Robert Webb wrote an open letter to Brand warning of the dangers of Brand’s calls for a revolution and encouraging young people to abstain from voting. Webb argued, “We tried that again and again, and we know that it ends in death camps, gulags, repression and murder.”

Webb’s warning of the loss of democracy blindingly fails to see that today’s democratic governments of Britain and the US are primarily responsible for extra-ordinary rendition of suspects to secret prisons Eastern Europe, detention without trial in Guantánamo Bay, the financial, economic and military support of dictators that repress and murder their people.

Alternatively, Paxman’s interview with Brand has had over 10 million hits on Youtube so the message about the failure of democracy clearly resonates with significant numbers of the public. Following his interview, Paxman also admitted that he once did not vote. Further Paxman wrote “At the next election we shall have a choice between the people who’ve given us five years of austerity, the people who left us this mess, and the people who signed public pledges that they wouldn’t raise student fees, and then did so – the most blatant lie in recent political history. It won’t be a bombshell if very large numbers of the electorate simply don’t bother to vote. People are sick of the tawdry pretences.”

Clearly, democracy is failing western societies. It is plainly ironic then that Muslims, as a minority in the west, feel they need to vote in every election when increasing numbers of the majority, who democracy is designed to serve, feel so disenfranchised and disillusioned by the system.

This is a debate that also needs to be carried to the Muslim world where western democracies unashamedly push democracy as the alternative to falling dictatorships having propped up the same repressive dictatorships for decades. With democracy a small, elite political class will simply replace a ruling family and corporate interests will substitute for family patronage. Only the Khilafah state provides an alternative to the current political malaise with representative rule (by Islam) absolutely and not in accordance with corporate or establishment interests (which are supposedly the will of the people).


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