Thursday, July 22, 2010

Why My Vote Is Still Up For Grabs: IV/V

"Recent events demonstrate that liberal democracy can itself devolve into a mode of tyranny. Due to a pervasive indifference to truth, as opposed to majority opinion, the manipulation of opinion and the exploitation of fear more often than not win the day. Thus increasingly, liberal politics revolves around supposedly guarding against alien elements: the terrorist, the refugee, the person of another race, the foreigner, the criminal, and so on. Populism seems more and more to be an inevitable drift of unqualified liberal democracy. Consequently, the purported defence of liberal democracy itself is often used in order to justify the suspension of democratic decision-making and civil liberties. And so, somewhat paradoxically, it is liberalism that tends to suspend those values of liberality - fair trial, right to a defence, assumed innocence, habeas corpus, a measure of free speech and free enquiry, good treatment of the convicted - which it has taken over, but which as a matter of historical record it did not invent." - John Milbank, How Democracy Devolves into Tyranny.
Milbank's critique of contemporary democracy, that "[p]opulism seems more and more to be an inevitable drift of unqualified liberal democracy" captures my frustration with the political process in Australia. Maybe it's because I'm a Western, Gen Y male who has overindulged on The West Wing, but the race to the bottom the politicians contest each election drives me crazy.

So I could give up on democracy altogether, and refuse to vote. Given the apparent flaws in modern politics, that would be the easy road. Indeed, Oliver O'Donovan describes democracy as fictional:
"'Democracy ' as we use the term is strictly a fiction, because the idea that we all govern by electing those who do govern is a fiction."
Giving up would be easy (for the record, this isn't O'Donovan's position). But it is too dualistic for me. It would be falling into the trap of withdrawing from politics and so withdrawing from the world altogether. So I'm sensing that the way forward, at least with this dilemma, is to hold on tightly to the conviction that the church's task is to be the church; transformation will come as the Christ, the head of the body, transforms Christians and restores his creation. Lord willing this is where this series will conclude tomorrow.
"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." - Ephesians 3.20-21

7 comments:

byron smith said...

I know a few Christian anarchists who would strongly dispute your equation of refusing to vote with political apathy and disengagement.

byron smith said...

The Wright quote from earlier is important: voting is but one (and relatively minor) form of political engagement, neither necessary nor sufficient.

Matthew Moffitt said...

I'm not sure I really understand the position of Christian anarchists. How isn't it oxymoronic?

byron smith said...

Christ is the only authority. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him.

Christian Anarchism on wiki.

Matthew Moffitt said...

But that's all the Bible says. Romans 13? 1 Peter 2.17?

byron smith said...

Sorry, that link to Christian anarchism didn't work. Try this one.

And here are a few takes on Romans 13. I never said that I was an anarchist, simply that the equation of voting with political action is too simplistic.

Matthew Moffitt said...

I know you're not an anarchist.

Sorry if I was unclear - I didn't intend to reduce political action to just voting (although some of the discourse in the public domain does that).