What exactly was the point of Orwell’s Two Minutes’ Hate? It was to channel the citizens’ negative feelings at leading such a horrible, surveilled existence in a controlled manner. No-one’s life would change as a result of it; they would continue to go along in the same downtrodden state as before.
Then it occurred to me our elections follow the same lines. We go to cast our vote for someone we like, or, more often, in the face of someone we don’t like. For 15 hours we get to vent our dissatisfaction at the current incumbent (and demonstrate our stupidity for thinking this might actually change something). At 15 hours we get 14 hours and 58 minutes more than the citizens of Oceania. I suppose we should be grateful for that.
But, following each election, our lives remain pretty much the same. The name of the ruling party might change but all the same people are basically in power. Even the losing party, in becoming the opposition, remains in power in a sense. By being the opposition, they get to influence (or at least make juvenile jabs at) the ruling party. That’s more than most of us will ever get to do. The rest of us remain focussed on our personal poverties, trying to figure out ever more creative ways of scraping together enough pennies for a tank of petrol. A bit like an Oceanian citizen, scrounging around for a razor blade.
An election is little more than a controlled revolution to ensure democracy remains more or less static.
And what do we get for all this? A couple of minutes in a polling booth, after which not much changes.
So I really do think our elections are little more than a distraction. Or a farce, at best. The penny dropped for me around 10 years ago (around 2002 or 2003?) when I received a letter from my local council, saying council tax was going to increase by a percentage to be decided by a local consultation group (chosen at random from the local population). Some time after that I received a second letter, saying the vote had been overwhelmingly in favour of the largest possible increase.
So the local population actually voted to be taxed more? Was I born yesterday or something? I feel genuinely insulted that I was expected to believe that. I wish I’d kept that letter as evidence now. I think I burnt it. Really. It’s ironic really – like dropping unsavoury material into a memory hole in 1984!
Or was that result pre-decided?
Actually I must confess I’ve recently been selected to be on one of these consultation groups. And I’ve been to a few meetings already. Those who go are just regular people, like myself. We put forward common sense answers to perfectly reasonable questions and it all seems very much above board. However, there was an interesting exchange after the last meeting. We were just deciding who was driving who home, when someone asked whether anyone thought our evening’s contributions would be taken into account, or whether the results had been pre-decided. Before I could answer, about three other people said they suspected pre-decision, but that they came along for the money! I didn’t say anything, but I was pleasantly surprised other people were thinking along the same lines. Perhaps the power really is in the proles.
I say by all means vote if you want to, but you’re living the dystopia, not changing the world.