I’m here watching as the brilliant pallet of hopeful colours democracy once painted for us in vivid penetrating hues of bright reds, warm oranges, sunny yellows, soft airy blues which so mesmerized the eye that some of us had to squint just to see the picture clearly; begins to fade.
The dazzling ideal which democracy once hung in front of our eyes is grey now no longer black or white. Bold or striking in crisp sparkling white or deep saturated blacks – the colours have bled into each other so much that while we are too petrified to pronounce the words describing what this image is fading into – we know for sure that it is not what we once hoped for. It is not about freedom, equality or justice.
The grey clouds in our democratic winter accomplished something remarkable – they have removed the illusions and pretences which we are so desperate to cling to.
It is about money
The tragic election of Donald Trump as the president of the United States has done us, the global public, a favour. In Trump, the true nature of the political system which has been governing our lives has been unveiled in all its raw-callousness.
American prof of Linguistics Noam Chomsky spoke about the construction of a political system which is “moving towards a real articulated expression of contempt for the general population,” 30 years ago. In the interview on dissent and democracy in 1988, Chomsky observed a trend in which the political system run by the elite including the intellegencia – increasingly operates without public participation, “where elections have been almost removed from the point where the public takes them seriously as involving a matter of choice.”
In the interview, Chomsky describes a system which we are all too familiar with by now: A political figure (democratic or republican/ liberal or conservative/ right-wing or left-wing) who represents something, is supported by certain interests, has certain commitments comes before us produces and says things which the polls and his advisers tell him will increase his chances of gaining office; after which he will dispense with everything he has said before to gain office and then proceed with his own commitments, interests and what is demanded of him by those who supported him and those who provided him with resources. Chomsky noted that while this has always been true what is interesting now is the extent to which it is recognized to be the “democratic system.”
The election of Donald Trump has caused an uproar among the ruling elite precisely because he has let the cat out of the bag; the political system exists only to protect privilege and power at all costs. Not only has he revealed that the ruling class does not care at all about the so-called ” people” or “general public” – he has made it clear that it is not in the interest of power for the public to be well-informed, empowered or participate meaningfully in the decisions or choices that government makes. They don’t want that; dissent is a crisis for democracy and since they can’t force people through violent means to do what they want, they have employed sophisticated ways to control what people think; through media propaganda and coercion by pure charm: saying everything we want to hear and then doing the opposite.
While democracies who have bought into the American political ideology of Democratic Capitalism are still pretending that the public has a “choice” – Donald Trump has pulled the hat out of the rabbit.
Even as our politicians continue to say one thing and do something else, we can no longer pretend that the ruling party or opposition parties in our parliaments are there to serve the interests of the public. We cannot pretend that the newly elected president of the ruling ANC in South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, is representing the publics’ interest. No matter what he says in eloquent well-crafted speeches. He is only representing the interests of a privileged class the private sector of which he is a high-ranking member.
It is not a conspiracy
We know now from the events of Marikana where at least 34 striking miners were killed in order for Lonmin to continue production – whose side Ramaphosa is on. We know that he ordered government officials to end the strike by any means necessary. We know whose interests the police served when they opened fire. We know whose interests Ramaphosa will serve once he is sworn into office in 2019. We can’t pretend that he has not been obvious about it. We also know from the incidents surrounding the publication of his sex-scandal story who the mass media in this country will support.
Patrons of Power
The elite class including the media exists to serve the interests of power. Chomsky observed that in this deck’ If you want to be an expert or part of the specialized class you have to be able to serve the interests of objective power – that’s an institutional role that has to be played and if you do it, if you’re able to articulate the interests of people with power, you’re in ‘
The same applies to journalism -if you want to be a journalist he said, you have to accord the needs of the institution; imbibe its culture and values. Mass media are major corporations (monopolies) and like any other business, they have to make a profit. It doesn’t matter what you say to the people, as long as there’s a profit at the end of the day. In this context then the primary function of mass media is to mobilize public support for the special interest of the dominant class.
The role of the government in a capitalist democracy then is also similar; to make laws which protect the property rights and interests of a minority who own and control natural resources, industry and transport.
So, while we continue to live under an economic system where a few private individuals control the means of production and distribution of an entire country – democracy will remain what it has always been. Just a Mirage.
It’s not real
We are free to the extent to which our freedom serves (profits) the interests of those with power. That’s the reality.