Saturday, 9 April 2011

A Depressed Electorate

It's hard to explain depression to someone who has never "been there", but those who have will know just how bleak it is. You can get into a state where it simply doesn't seem possible that you'll ever feel happy ever again. Everything seems pointless, frivolous and futile - the concept of enjoying life may work for other people but somehow it can't work out that way for us.

At the extreme, people take their own lives, unfortunately. Nobody really ever wants to kill themself, yet tragically, people do - because they just cannot imagine climbing out of the pit of despair that they've arrived at. Those of you in a happier place imagine that whatever your problems, if it came to the worst you could just walk away from everything - everything you own, everyone you know, jack in that sucky job, and start again. Difficult, to say the least, but better than dying - why give up when you could have another chance at life by starting out all over again, avoiding the mistakes you made last time? Get a flat from our caring States, a simple life with a simple job, make new friends, climb up the tree all over again. How hard can it be, free from previous cares and worries?

A depressed person wouldn't see the point of trying that. To them, life is unfair, lonely, pointless and cheerless, and they believe they would be better off out of it. Reject any chances, because it's all dark and grim and what's the point?

Is it their fault?

Do they deserve it?

If you've never suffered depression I can almost accept the viewpoint that people should just "buck their ideas up" and "pull themselves together" - because that's what it looks like to an outsider. It should be simple enough to just get on with life and weather the storm, shouldn't it? In reality I'd avoid anyone who thinks like that - like the plague. If you've got that little empathy for other people, I don't want you in my life!

Most of us do understand that anyone can find themselves (without seeing it coming) so overloaded with stress and anxiety - if enough things go wrong in our life - that we can find ourselves down in that pit. And most of us are enlightened enough to understand that real depression can be regarded as an illness. Nobody in "their right mind" would ever choose to feel like that. Nobody feeling that bad would ever refuse a way out of it if they seriously believed it would work. If you're constantly suffering and can't help yourself out of it, that sounds like an illness to me.

Depression is about not seeing the true reality, not believing there's a way out. It's a trap. A trap of the mind.

Which brings me on to the state of politics in Jersey, and the seemingly apathetic electorate.

I believe that when it comes to what people think of the States of Jersey and how we're governed, we've had years and years and years of the same old incompetent, self-serving, corrupt government. A politician is someone who combines the normal belief that we know best with such strong conviction and self-confidence that they are prepared to stand for election and inflict their opinions very publicly onto the rest of us.

We don't like that.

We don't respect politicians (not like they think we should!).

We don't like them, we don't like what they do, we don't like how they seek glory, we don't like their arrogance, we don't like them ignoring what we ask for and doing the opposite because only they know better than us with the benefit of their massive insight and understanding which we don't have.


Why would most sensible decent people want to get involved with any of that?

Occasionally a genuinely caring AND self-confident person will come along and put themselves forward in an altruistic attempt to help us all and right the wrongs of the world. Arguably they are charmingly naive, but never mind. On the whole, politicians are deeply flawed people you wouldn't want to be friends with. It's not normal to be so very certain that you know best, to the point of wanting to dictate to others how they should run their lives.

To assess a politician, just ask them whether they want to represent the electorate or vote the way that they feel is right, even if it's in the other direction. Will they ignore petitions? Are the public so stupid? Once they are there in the States Chamber with a mountain of reports of background information at their disposal, they can see and understand issues that the rest of us are too thick to understand, so they must do what's best for us and take those "difficult decisions" because they alone are wise enough to help us in ways we just don't comprehend.

Being voted into power gives them, automatically, the brain power to see The Big Picture - and vote for things we don't want. Apparently we can be trusted to vote for them, giving them legitimate power, having assessed them worthy of election, yet we can't be trusted to understand anything else!

Now, faced with that, you could say that the electorate is depressed. We don't see the point of voting, because we simply don't believe there's any point. Human nature won't change any time soon. Politicians will always be slime-balls (mostly), and the rare decent ones will always be outnumbered, outvoted and ineffectual.

Like a depressed person, we just don't believe anything will ever change for the better, so what's the point?

It doesn't matter that the truth is: that anything is possible if only enough people would get off their backsides and actually make that trip to the polling station. It won't happen because the non-voters are too politically depressed to believe that it could happen that way.

So we get, apparently, "the government we deserve".

I'm hoping you'll get my point now - maybe we don't deserve the government we get. That's way too simplistic, too "black and white". You'd have to be really mentally inflexible to write off the whole situation as one thing or the polar opposite, without seeing the actual reality of the reasons for the grey in between.

Sometimes we DO NOT get the government we deserve. Millions of people around the world certainly don't, their lives blighted by cruel dictatorships and regimes that stifle their freedoms. And it's not always the case that weaponry would be needed, to change matters - recent world events (before Libya) proved that. A dictatorship that isn't totally insane will know when their time is up, given a clear enough hint. An unarmed populace can indeed rise up and change their country, when they believe that it is possible. But it requires that belief, before positive action can happen.

Jersey may appear to offer the so-called democracy that allows us to self-determine the way this place is run, but in reality we're kept in place by those with power, and a political depression that keeps us in our place, unable to believe that there's a way forward.

The government we deserve? It's really not that simple! Nice, decent people can get depressed. Who really deserves that?

And telling us we deserve it? That doesn't really help either! We'll need to believe in a way forward before we can help ourselves.

Until we're ALL, REALLY, mightily annoyed, it's Business As Usual. Helpless as I am, I don't believe it's my fault. So please don't tell me it is!