Friday, September 24, 2021
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There IS a way to have your say

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OVER the past year momentous decisions affecting whole populations have been taken by small groups of scientists and politicians behind closed doors, immune to challenge. Well-reasoned, evidenced views that do not fit the constantly shifting official stance have been ignored, and there have been orchestrated ad hominem attacks on dissenters. We have been talked down to, herded like infants and forced by ad hoc laws to behave in ways that strip us of our dignity.

It doesn’t matter whether you think the latest government pandemic plan is prudent or heavy-handed, the problem is how it came about. Decision-making processes, rather than the imposition of any specific policies, have revealed the fundamental failure of 21st century democracy.

Take Boris Johnson’s recent assertion that lockdowns rather than vaccines have caused a reduction in ‘cases’. Why he said this is unclear. It may have been yet another attempt to manipulate public opinion, or he may even believe it for some unfathomable reason. Who knows? Whatever the case, we citizens have just two options at present: placidly accept the uneducated guess of a government minister, no matter how twisted his logic and what the evidence is, or switch off the radio, stop reading the news, and get on with living as best we can under whatever rules we are obliged to follow.

The one thing government diktats have shown these past months is that we are terrifyingly powerless. We have no effective means of questioning or educating government ministers and policy-makers, even when they spout the most dreadful nonsense. It turns out that public debate – and the very occasional opportunity to vote for our ‘representatives’ – is demonstrably a pretence.

At least now that we know the truth we can deceive ourselves no longer: the Western political system is closer to despotism than meaningful democracy. We have no say in what happens to us because to those who cherish power, we simply don’t matter.

There is an alternative. Collectively citizens are vastly better informed and capable than a closed circle of politicians and their fixated ‘expert advisers’, but our governments have no desire whatsoever to draw on our insights and wisdom. Nevertheless, we have the technology to engage hundreds of thousands of citizens in transparent, balanced, educated decision-making. We do not need to defer to self-interested politicians bound to political parties, protected by an establishment elite who see no need to change anything.

There is something you can do. There are many examples of truly democratic inclusion, and extensive evidence that such respectful strategies lead to improved decision-making: see hereherehere and here. 

Until the elite will listen, we need to amass more and more illustrations of democracy in action and publicise them relentlessly. As one way forward, a group of concerned citizens, unaffiliated to any vested interest, have developed a bespoke, online democratic tool we hope to use to show what can be done, both in the present ‘pandemic’ and beyond.

We would welcome your involvement in this project. If you agree to participate:

1) You will join a private group on this website; 

2) Over a one-week period you will be invited to offer your opinion on a key issue in the pandemic;

3) At the start of the week you will be able to agree or disagree with a proposal for debate, and offer your reasons (this will take no more than five minutes or so);

4) During the week you will be able to read others’ responses and discuss as much or as little with others as you wish;

5) During the week balanced educational materials for and against the proposition will be available on the website;

6) You will be able to witness a debate (live or recorded) with advocates for and against. If we can arrange it, you will be able to question them;

7) At the end of the week you will be able to respond again to the key issue;

8) We will review the results and changes in opinion and make a report available to all participants. We will endeavour to publish the results widely in public fora and academic channels;

9) You can choose to be anonymous or not at your profile page. We will not publish any personal details outside the private group;

10) We comply with GDPR requirements and will not use your information for any other reason than stated above.

As soon as we have sufficient recruits we will begin. We are seeking participants from any and every background. All opinions are welcome. Nothing will be censored, hidden, or withheld. Everyone’s views and the patterns of their choices will be immediately available to all participants, and there are filters to enable those who wish to ‘deep dive’ into the data to do so.

We are not so naïve to think that this will have any immediate impact, but the more people we can include, and the more often we can demonstrate the difference between echo-chamber politics and collective wisdom, the greater the chance we have of living in a truly democratic society.

To participate, simply email ‘I agree to be a member of this project’ or similar statement to Dr David Seedhouse at david@values-exchange.com

This pilot project is a private initiative funded by VID.E (UK) Ltd. It is not affiliated with any other organisation.

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David Seedhouse
David Seedhouse is Honorary Professor of Deliberative Practice at Aston University.

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