The American people don’t know what’s best for them. I do. I know exactly what they need. They’re like little children, Claire. We have to hold their sticky fingers and wipe their filthy mouths. Teach them right from wrong. Tell them what to think and how to feel and what to want. Lucky for them, they have me. They have you. One nation, Underwood.’
These words are spoken by actor Kevin Spacey, playing the role of President Underwood in the political TV series House of Cards. He’s talking to the First Lady, Claire (played by Robin Wright). The last sentence in the monologue is a play on the words, “One nation under God,” from the American pledge of allegiance.
That’s democracy for you: a scam. The worst form of government except for all others, but a scam all the same. Replace the word American with Kenyan, and Underwood might as well be talking about us, and what most politicians think about the people who vote for them.
Here’s what another politician, this time a real one, thought about democracy.
‘The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.’
— Winston Churchill
Now I’m no analyst, or lawyer-politician, nor do I work in the politics industry, but I am a writer. This is to say, I read, pay attention, think, and wonder about things, all of which have led me into looking up how democracy should work. Ideally, it should work like a Sacco, in that members come together and elect officials to run the organisation’s affairs. We’re talking chairman, his vice, a secretary, a treasurer, and maybe one other random official who’s just known as a special official. From that point on, these elected officials dance to the members’ tune.
With nation democracy, the principle should be the same, but the scale complicates things, and that’s what makes democracy imperfect everywhere. But there is a difference. Out there in advanced democracies, citizens push back. They understand that it is a battle of wits, a war in fact between themselves and politicians. They know that when it comes to politicians, you have to keep your wits about you, watch your valuables and such.
There, politicians are a necessary evil, but still an evil. Whereas here, we act like politicians are moulded from the soil on Mount Olympus, and then we tell ourselves they are there for us while we watch them, macho wazi, taking us for a ride.
We’re like Denzel’s character in the movie Devil in a Blue Dress, who says, ‘Everybody was peeing on my head and telling me it was raining. I guess they figured I was some new kind of fool, and maybe I was…’
Our children go through a local system of education. Many a politician’s kid will go to an international school and sit an international exam on our dime. We seek medical attention in government hospitals that may or may not have doctors, while they fly out to foreign hospitals, on our dime. We live in collapsing flats but we, the citizens, build for them mansions, and all this, our politicians do in service of the people. That smell on your head, it’s not rain.
So here’s what I’m thinking. How about we, the citizens, start acting like we actually pay for this democracy crap? Coz we do.