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!


Zoompad said...

God help us all! And I also know what it is to feel that crippling depression. I hope Stuart posts the comment I have just left him, as to me it is the first brick which will bring the whole wall of shame toppling down!

voiceforchildren said...


An interesting and insightful read and I am of the opinion that the reason most of our population don't vote is because they are demoralised. Depression, in my opinion, manifests itself in many different ways, to many different people. Although there will be some similarity's depression is a personal state of mind and not universal, as in one size fits all.

I found this a very bold statement "Depression is about not seeing the true reality." How do you qualify that?

Anonymous said...

I think politicians of all flavours seem to forget that they are not voted into "power" but voted into "office".

Perhaps if the public aka, us, the voters, were made aware of the full details of decisions then perhaps we would not be too harsh on the States members as we will know 'why'. Long sentence I know and my English teacher (who was American!) would not be happy with that.

The Beano is not the Rag

Ian Evans said...

Judging by what you have written, you have a deep understanding of depression. This I know, as I have been there also, it is a very dark place with high enclosed walls topped with razor wire.

Your assertions on political depression also, for me, hit the mark. The solution to this problem is not so much in the voters, but in the likes of people like Stuart Syvret, taking matters out of the hands of our corrupt officials.

No matter how we vote, we first need candidates worth voting for, as is plain as a pikestaff, these saviours are pitifully scarce in Jersey.

I can name but three....

Crapaudpinion said...

I found this a very bold statement "Depression is about not seeing the true reality." How do you qualify that?

It's not seeing the reality that there is a way out, if only it could be believed. Depression alters the perception.

Thanks for the comments everyone.

voiceforchildren said...


"It's not seeing the reality that there is a way out."

Isn't that the universal, one size fits all? I'm not sure all depressives can see "no way out" and indeed it's the "reality" of a situation that depresses them, whether they believe there is, or isn't, a way out.

Crapaudpinion said...

In my experience depression plays a nasty trick - it fools you into thinking that you can actually see reality more clearly than anyone else. That's why it gets so deep and dark and hard to climb out of.

Once you get better you realise your thought patterns just weren't right.

Ian Evans said...

Crap Opinion

Well you said we had a choice?

What does N.A.T.S mean to you Mr Crapaudpinion???

This is a serious question because I have been through it!

Please let me have a response so we know you are genuine....

Crapaudpinion said...

Negative Auto Thoughts, Ian.

Listen, we're getting away from the point I was trying to make here - drawing a parallel between depression and voter "apathy".

It's the whole issue of not believing that there's a possible solution, versus whether it's the sufferer's fault.

Basically I was trying to get Stuart to stop telling us we get the government we deserve!

We are trapped into inaction because we don't believe that our fellow voters will turn out in any great numbers for change, so we don't bother either.

It's not a clear cut case of "making an effort" because very few people "bother" to do anything when there doesn't appear to be anything in it for them.

Ex-Senator Stuart Syvret said...

Could it not be the case that happiness – as opposed to a depressed state – is an illusion?

To borrow your analogue – the same kind of ‘everything in the garden is rosy’ or at least ‘ok’ – mentality that causes most people in a democracy like Jersey to not bother voting – or mistakenly voting for a collection of manifest idiots – or voting for those who they privately know to be crooks, because the status quo the crooks will maintain, suits the short-term self-interest of the voters?

Perhaps feeling reasonably happy is the same kind of delusion by which so many people go through life moaning about their government – yet convinced that government is no part of their responsibility?

My depression does not occur because I’m in a bad mood. It occurs because when I wake up in the morning, I’m confronted with the fact that I spent 20 years of my life being dedicated to the broad good of this community – being intellectually rigorous – and more ethical and courageous than any other States member – and as a consequence I’ve been subjected to illegal police-state raids – unlawful arrest – malicious prosecutions - imprisonment – so many fines and court-costs that I stopped counting when it got to around £70,000 – bankruptcy – poverty – many months of looming jail sentences (consecutive, for good measure) – homelessness – betrayal (in all senses of the word) by those supposedly on the same side – my oppressors receiving the pro-active support and protection of the authorities in London - and all because I was trying to support my constituents who were victims of child abuse, and to generally protect the public from criminals.

Meanwhile rich and powerful crooks continue to get ever richer – under the strong protections of the very apparatus that has oppressed me.

And that corrupt system exists with the pro-active support – or tacit agreement – of most of the population.

Yes it does.

When I contemplate killing myself – it isn’t the effect of some dark hallucination – it’s the consequence of looking at the reality that I, and other less-powerful people, have experienced.

If only I had realised when younger just how irredeemably disgusting so many people are, I would not have wasted twenty years of my life.

Anonymous said...

Happiness feels a lot more real to me than my down times!

You were one of the States' well meaning idealist good guys Stuart, but you've learnt the hard way that some people suck, basically. And they tend to make their presence known while the rest of us try to get on with life.

So it's easy to get so down that you might think that everyone sucks! That's not the case - we all have failings but most of us mean well :)

Please soldier on through life, and happier times may well come along.

Anonymous said...

'Depression is about not seeing the true reality'

Perhaps the reality is that the majority of people do not feel depressed by the current Government, and that is why we have the Government we have ? The poll results, the only true representation of voter opinion, would certainly lead to that conclusion.

I certainly have no love for politicians, and I think you are
pretty spot on with your comments about how we should view with suspicion any individual who believes their views are so infallible that they believe they should be inflicted upon everybody else. However, people get elected by the majority of voters, and I think it is stretching the argument a little too far to suggest that voter apathy is just failing left wing candidates.

It is about the quality of candidates who stand, and as demonstrated by Francis Le Gresley's election, there is not an automatic adoption of candidates espousing traditional right wing dogma if the right person opposes them.

I'm sorry to say that the candidates who have stood, often repeatedly, on a more socialist ticket in the past, have failed because they were simply not up to the job in the voters eyes. That is not a comment on them personally, as many of them were genuine, pleasant people, with the right intentions, however they were simply neither erudite or confident enough to adequately express their viewpoint in public, or were perceived as being 'of the left' with all its negative connotations in such a conservative island.

In addition, the infighting within the left, which was so apparent at the last Senatorial election, has to have contributed to a voter backlash. The vocal radicalism of the likes of the JDA, Stuart and Nick, where everything must either be completely right or completely wrong, will I'm afraid always appeal to only a minority. The majority of people would be open to politicians with a more overt social conscience, but not when it is accompanied by the type of childish rhetoric which is spewed forth by the self (but not the voters) proclaimed 'opposition'. Voters just want to be represented by intelligent, effective people who can work with others to achieve their aims, not by showboating radicals or ego tripping pseudo intellectuals. Again, Francis's election is demonstrative of this.

So don't be depressed. Find and encourage the right candidates, and if their policies are well thought through, and are delivered in a believable and effective manner, they will have a chance to deliver the policies you want. I don't believe those who do choose to vote are as set in their ways as you might think. They just want decent candidates with the interests of the island, and its people, at heart.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I stumble across comments that restore my faith in humanity, like this one I found today somewhere.....

"I used to be pretty cynical about humanity until I worked in a grocery store in the hood once in college. I was expecting to encounter a lot of thieves and miscellaneous punks, but they were actually very rare (even in one of the shittiest neighborhoods in town). I encountered WAY more people who would point out to me that I gave them too much change than who were out to steal or con. I had many a gang-banger tell me when I had undercharged them and many people who would offer to pay for something even if they dropped it.

"People are actually, by and large, a pretty decent lot. And that's true pretty much anywhere you go, I suspect."