Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. Abraham Lincoln
There’s a lot of elections this year. Britain had their general election yesterday, in the USA candidates have started warming up for nomination process, and in September Norwegians are voting for the municipal and county representatives. There’s also general election in Denmark, Finland, Italy and Greece this year.
Democracy has always puzzled me. I don’t know much about the theory behind it, other that I know the vast masses used to be ruled by a very small elite. This was especially true with the aristocracy. These were not the nice people depicted in a film or TV-series. They had a strong sense of honour and courtesy, but they didn’t concider the people, so there was a lot of abuse. I don’t think these royal families saw themselves as British, German, French etc. As long as they behaved according to the code of honour that only applied to them, they even had the right to kill. The crazy tradition of the duel is an example of that.
The problem was that they were not of the people. They had completely different lives from the rest of us. It’s very different today of course, or is it? Politicians are socalled normal people. They go to the same schools we do and have the same type of jobs. In short, we have something in common as our experiences are comparable before they become candidates. There are differences of course, but in socialist Norway this has been the case. I wonder, do they still see themselves as one of us, or are their new experiences as an elite so different from ours that they quickly forget where they came from?
I am also asking myself, who is really in charge? The problem with politicians is that they don’t know anything. Imagine a politician sitting on a committee that has to make important decisions about construction. They look at very technical drawings of highways and buildings, or when the parliament in Norway in the early 1990’s decided where to build the new aiport in Oslo. The politicians had to read expert reports from the National Weather Service and reports concerning the new railway that would transport passengers between downtown Oslo and the airport (incidentally, there are strong indications that a man hired to give an independent evaluation of the report from the National Weather Service was suicided). There is so much to read, and it’s very technical, so I suspect they frequently rely on someone else’s advice/order. They simply don’t have time to read the documents they are required to read.
In Norway we are experiencing something similar to what Americans are at the moment. We have a three party coalition, and one of its members, has never been in position before. They have always been a party in opposition, which is a very grateful task. Those parties can criticise everything the administration doesn’t succeed in, and state that this and that wouldn’t have happened if you voted them into office. I have no doubt that they meant it, but it is harder when you have to get support from other parties. So now they are being reminded of what they promised. Btw, I highly recommend the BBC satirical sitcoms from the 80’s, Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister. The politician is very vague and the bureaucrats are in charge. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was close to the truth. There are complete episodes on you tube.
I sometimes wonder what system is the best. Britain had its general election yesterday, and it was a very dramatic one. It also exposed a weakness in their system. The British parliament has 650 seats and the winner in each constituency wins the seat. That means you can have a lot of support across the country without winning any seats. The Conservatives actually got the 326 seats needed for a majority, which is very unusual with that many parties fighting for the votes.They actually had less than 37 % of the votes, but in this system that can be enough to get more than half the seats.
What doesn’t seem fair is how many ballots don’t matter. The UK Independence Party (they want Britain out of EU) got over 3,7 million votes (12.6 %), but that only gave them one seat. The Conservative’s coalition partner since the election in 2010, The Liberal Democrat, was one of the biggest losers this time. They were supported by almost 2,3 million people (7,7 %), but that only gave them 8 seats. The Social Democratic and Labour Party got 3 seats with less than 100 000 votes. This last party is Northern-Irish and that probably explains why they could get into parliament with just a handful of votes, while the Lib Dem of course had support from all over the union.
In Norway we supposedly have a similar system where we can vote directly on a candidate. The problem I have with it is that the party choose the candidates through a closed process in the party organization. A ballot has to have at least 7 names. The county of Sør-Trøndelag has 10 representatives, and in the election of 2013 the Socialist Left Party got 5,7 percent of the votes, which gave them 1 og the 10 seats from this county.
If no one makes any changes to the ballot that one seat will be number one on the ballot. We do have the option of moving one of the other names on the ballot to the number one position, and if enough people do that, the voters can change the outcome.
I like the option we have at local elections even more. Then we can add names from other parties. So if I like the Conservative party, but there is a candidate from the Green Party I want in the Council, I could put that name on the Conservative ballot. I would still like to choose my own cadidate, however. The only option then is to vote for someone independent, but they never get enough support. The Green has a seat in the Norwegian Parliament at the moment. Rasmus Hansson, biologist and former leader of WWF Norway is an interesting characterer, but as the only voice of reason it’s hard to influence the power elite. Most of the time when we have a new party with just one seat, they disappear after the next election.
Sometimes politics is very surreal. During the White House Kids’ State Dinner a couple of years ago, President Obama said that his favourite food was broccoli. This was a apart of Michelle Obama’s healthy eating initiative, so what could he say, unless he wanted to sleep on the sofa? He was accused of being elitist. I looked this up and it gets even better.
According to the L.A. Times the Democrat Lady Rothschild supported John McCain in 2008 and accused Obama of being elitist. When your name is Rotschild, you and your husband are addressed as Lady and Sir, that might seem like a strange opinion to have. I believe Obama was accused of being elitist when he ran against Romney as well, the man that at the time had an oceanfront property with car elevator. Didn’t he also say something about not being concerned about 47 % of the population? Of course, that’s just on of the guys talking.
On a personal note, I have ambitions for my daughter. I want her to make as much progress as possible, so I have her participating in a church choir, girl scouts and classic ballet. That’s not very poor or working class. I’m not acting like a man with low income should. Does that make me elitist or trying to step out of my place? I suppose I and my African American wife are getting uppity.
Today is known as Liberation Day in Norway. On this day in 1945 the Nazis admitted defeat. I do wonder about the men and women in government today. They are living removed from the people and they are being influenced by strong forces we can only imagine are there. I wonder how much they are of the people; how strong character they have. The Norwegian government was sleeping at the helm in 1940; what are they doing today?
I have always liked watching Charlie Chaplin-films. This is very mushy, but I listen to this speech from the Great Dictator (1940) from time to time. It shouldn’t be as relevant today as it was in 1940, or as the short Gettysburg address Lincoln made in 1863 for that matter. Unfortunately it is.