This blog is going to be about a lot of issues – politics, gender, race, philosophy and linguistics. But it all boils down to the way we think, and how upset I am that important people make important arguments with no logical sense. Thus it behoves me to establish in this, my first post, the general reasoning underlining my position. I will then spend several posts expanding my points, and warmly invite you to tear me to shreds. I am, after all, a pile of shit.
Here is something of an attempt to set out my project:
P1: Democracy is favoured on the assumption that the electorate rationally votes with its best interests at heart
P2: The electorate does not currently or historically act with its best interests at heart.
IC: Democracy is favoured erroneously
P3: The new system attempts to address the issues stopping the electorate rationally voting with its best interests at heart.
C: The political class should examine, debate and experiment with such new systems that attempt to improve on modern democracy.
The first premise sets about justifying my position: you’re shit. More specifically, you’re shit at thinking rationally. I will go through how easily you fall for logical fallacies, arguments that don’t make sense or are based on laughably insufficient data. I will consider how the structure of sentences affects your memory, and how the rhetorical competence of a speaker will determine how you judge his argument, regardless of that argument’s internal consistencies or external validity. You’ll see how the vocabulary choice and framing of issues predisposes audiences to think in restricted ways, and how lies, data abuse and anti-science permeate public and private debate. If you’re unlucky, I might dabble in linguistic suggestions that the tongue you speak dictates how you think…
Within that same first premise, I will look at some of the physical aspects. I’ll explore how you’re more likely to support an argument because it is proposed by someone with a certain appearance, body language, sex, dress sense, facial hair and racial makeup. I’ll show that someone’s charisma, accent and tone probably affects your vote more than their points. This will lead to a postmodern delving, considering the extent to which your position on most issues is predetermined by your life-experiences – how there are some debates you actually completely refuse to entertain.
I will go on to examine some of the techniques deployed by magicians (Derren Brown), pick-up artists and demagogues that trick you into believing almost anything – misdirection, fearmongering, claques, suggestion and neuro-linguistic programming. They can play on your reactions, your brain chemistry, your very humanity. We will consider the possibility of ‘mind-reading’ and anchoring in exploiting the shitness of your mine, plus the manipulation of your emotions. We’ll look at the breadth of cognitive and memory biases that affect us all on a daily basis, one again highlighting the invalidity of our decision-making talent. Then there’s the venue, the stage, the build-up, the post-mortem and the soundtrack.
These tie nicely into factors even further out of your control – your brain chemistry. To a surprising degree, you are swayed by the food and drink inside you, the temperature, your un/comfort, hormones, how tired you are, whether you’ve had any drugs, your attitudes to the people immediately near you, external life factors. Moreover, you might make vastly different decisions if someone else is taking responsibility, or if an attractive person gave you a warm beverage a few minutes before the decision. Your willpower will be subject to philosophical and scientific investigation. Free will? Pah!
A final section to explaining this premise will touch briefly on your education – discussing to what extent you, the shit, really understand the political, economic and sociological arguments about which you are arguing, and how well you can evaluate the relative validity of media sources feeding you with information, not to mention the manifold differences between election policies and government practice.
The sum intermediate conclusion of all that discussion, then, is my first premise: you’re shit at thinking. So shit, in general, that people in the know can exploit your shitness to convince you to rob banks, sleep with them, assassinate Stephen Fry and of course, vote.
My second argument-strand will go on to question what human mental shittitude means for democracy. If ‘the will of the people’ is ultimately good in and of itself, needing no further explanation, then all is fine. However, I argue [from the representative model all countries claiming to be democracies hold (as opposed to direct democracies, with daily referenda on all issues)] that we support democracy on the assumption that the majority’s votes will pick the best set of policies and best qualified leaders. If this is the case, then surely all of the shithinking I outline above, not to mention the countless examples of poor decisions and poor politicians elected in history, leads to a further intermediate conclusion: democracy is shit. Contrary to idealistic theory, it does not, currently, pick the best leader, but the most convincing. If the primary argument for democracy is that the electorate votes with its best interests in mind, I’m pretty convinced democracy is shit.
I poodle around a little, first underlining how much this is a real-life issue and not an abstract muse, then examining possible counter-arguments – that the popular, fallible nature of democracy is its strength; that shittitude, whilst regrettable, is intrinsic to our humanity and cannot be helped; that human beings have evolved irrational, and there’s nothing wrong with living that way, and so on. Then I knock them down, discussing Plato’s legacy and the truth that we already limit the franchiseto some extent – from children, criminals and lunatics.This leads to my arrogant and triumphant conclusion: something must be done!
In typically idealist, early-twenties pseudo-academic way, I set out a list of possible means to, if not solve the problem of our shitness, then at lease alleviate and ameliorate it. These cumulative propositions start with the suggestion of better education for both electors and electees, and work up to suggesting that both categories must be examined before being allowed to exercise franchise. In a fit of derangement I go further, suggesting first that all interactions between politicians, potential politicians and the electorate must be ‘blind’, conducted only in textual form, and that text vetted for factual and logical inconsistencies. I expand this further, suggesting that chamber debates themselves should be purely textual. Finally, I propose a reform to the Lords and the Commons, a radical departure from history, in which one chamber is elected solely to propose, debate and amend legislation, and the other elected to vote on it as representatives of the people.
This is fairly contentious, so in the end I fight a rear-guard action, considering the counter-arguments dreamed up by myself and by the fine fellows of UCLAN PhilSoc. I also take a moment to consider specifically how religion and morality fit into the whole debacle. Unfortunately, and almost certainly due to my own shit thinking, I end up in a position where I am still largely convinced that my arguments are valid (surprise, surprise!)
This, then, dearest hypothetical reader, is your challenge: to evaluate my shit, conquer the demons of your own shit, and sort this shit right out.
Over to you.