Politics can be a funny old business, although you really have to engage your brain and take a few steps away from the propaganda (or have a jolly good memory) to notice some of the paradoxes.
Then the next thing that confounds understanding is the interest of the average person-in-the-street. If you consider that many of the issues that have a large influence on our daily lives are directed by our politicians, it is then really amazing to note how much public apathy seems to exist when the opportunity to exercise a vote comes around.
The interest and interaction of the general citizenry in the democratic process is a subject that I have touched on in a number of my previous posts. In particular, I provided a summary and critique of modern day democracy as a preface to an article by Thomas Fazi in a post titled “Why Yanis V is wrong about his democratic renaissance in Europe“.
However, on re-reading some of my articles recently, I have to admit that the outcome of a few events over the past two years have rather thrown a spanner in the works regarding the traditional experience of the interest and effects of people’s democratic power.
I think that the first inkling of a change occurring in the usual democratic “status quo” in Europe, happened when Syriza was voted into power in Greece at the beginning of 2015. The election outcome was largely unexpected and it initiated a surge of optimism that something new and exciting was about to unfold on the political scene in Europe. Why a change in government in a small, unimportant, bankrupt, backwater country on the fringes of Europe should have excited so many of us is a little bit surprising. But it did. Poor little Greece ended up with the weight of our expectations on her shoulders that a new chapter to restore European prosperity was about to unfold.
But as the weeks turned into months, our optimism faded as we saw how little, powerless Greece was slowly forced to do what our EU Masters wanted them to do. But the Greeks were not ready to capitulate so easily. In a last show of defiance and against the expectations of even their Syriza government, the Greeks voted in a Referendum that told the EU that they could tear up their unfair bailout agreement and get lost. Unfortunately, the Greek Prime Minister had already received his clear instructions from Brussels and therefore he defied his people’s wishes and signed on the dotted line. “A Greek Tragedy“.
Exit stage Left, Yanis Varoufakis.
After enduring months of exhausting negotiations and sending out what many felt were mixed messages regarding the on-going state of play, Yanis resigned his position as the Finance Minister of Greece. He gave as one of his reasons that he could not become party to an agreement which he felt betrayed both Greece and the Greek people.
For many, this was a defining moment for the supporters of Yanis, the politician. Many of us felt abandoned and let down. Certainly, we were all disappointed with the outcome. However, one thing was clear. When it really mattered, Yanis showed integrity.
Then the idea of DIEM25 was proposed. Of course, for those of us still bruised by the tragedy in Greece, trying to accept a “stay in the EU”, pro-European solution seemed also to be a betrayal. Everyone was floundering around. How were the problems of Europe ever going to be solved? This is how Yanis explained this: “Why we must save the EU“.
I followed all of the debates at the time and tried to see a coherent way forward. “Democratise Europe….a great idea, but in the meantime, we must suffer!” I listened to everything Yanis and his followers had to say, but mostly, I was not completely convinced. “What exactly is the DiEM25 movement?……Yanis Varoufakis explains“. In my heart I hoped that the elegant and intellectual solutions that they were proposing would succeed, but my head kept reminding me of what had happened in Greece. The EU institutions were tough and tenacious and were hardly going to just “slip away into the night”. On one week I flipped to being pro DIEM25 and in the next week I was a skeptic again.
The Spanish elections in December 2015 was the next event that shook things up again in Europe. Two fledgling parties, Podemos and Cuidadanos, both of whom had never participated in a general election previously, took away enough votes from the two traditional parties, the PP and PSOE, with the result that no single party obtained an outright majority to be able to form an unopposed government. This was the start of an extended political stalemate in Spain that took a second election and much wheeling and dealing, resignations and tears before a shaky coalition of the PP and Cuidadanos was able to cobble together a government in October. This was a supremely messy end to the Spanish political crisis that, in my opinion, will not be positive to the Spanish electorate at all. Podemos stood their ground and largely upheld their principles but, in the end, the electorate gave them very little credit for doing this. Time will tell how Spanish politics plays out in the months and years ahead.
Almost hidden from general view, the Dutch have been putting up a continual resistance to EU tyranny. While our EU Masters were trying to slip all sorts of things past us, the voters in the Netherlands have been vigilant and have mobilised to present some resistance. One such instance occurred in April 2016 when the Dutch citizens forced a referendum to take place on the ratification of a proposed Ukraine/EU Association Agreement. I wrote about this occurrence in an article here. And shortly afterwards, the Dutch were again in the front trenches – “Dutch Courage!“
Wow! This was really a wake-up call that maybe, just maybe, people’s wishes could prevail in the political arena here in Europe and that we were no longer going to accept being pushed around.
Then, seemingly out of the blue, although it had been waiting in the wings for some time, the Brexit referendum took center stage. The expected outcome looked touch and go for a while, but most people, British and Europeans alike, were confident that the majority of the UK citizens would choose to remain in the EU. And they were wrong!
Interestingly enough, the Brexit debates placed the weaknesses and flaws in the EU under intense scrutiny. DIEM25 took a stand to recommend to the British that staying in the EU was their best option. However, the more reasons that were put forward why the UK should Remain in the EU, the clearer it seemed to become that Leaving was the better option. This was explained in the article: “Yanis Varoufakis: The Remain Campaign’s Best Spokesman For Brexit“
Against all of the odds, the Brits chose to leave the EU. Strike four for the Power of the People!
And here’s the thing that struck me right between the eyes.
Now Yanis says that Brexit gives us all an opportunity to change the EU!
I had to grapple with this concept for a while before I understood what he was getting at.
Normally, when staring rejection in the face a traditional politician goes down with the ship. Although lies, contradictions and double-speak are de rigueur for most politicians, policy is usually cast in stone. Of course not all politicians keep to the honoured tradition. Some hang on, regardless, refusing to acknowledge that they are or could be wrong. And then they become “has beens” in the political arena.
But Yanis has shown us another way. And I like it. When your ideas get hammered at the polls, embrace the opposing side’s views and then use them to press on with your plans.
Indeed, the new breed of modern politicians are leopards. And they can change their spots!