The silent majority
A couple of years ago I found myself launching a new political party called the Democratic Reform Party. And although at the start there was no single idea on which it was founded (we stood strongly against the principle of single issue parties), the central principle on which the party came to argue was the existence of an unrealised cognitive surplus, which democratic reforms could redress through the employment of new technologies in order to make the creative generation of new ideas a key pillar of a new and revised democracy.
In 2010 and 2011 I spoke to thousands of people, often over the Internet, and also campaigning in cities like London, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Worcester. Practically, the experience taught me a great deal. And it also reinforced a lot of what most people only guess. One of those things is the existence of a silent majority. The people most willing to talk and work for change are neither the educated, nor those who’re bristling with ideas. I’ll warn you now, for a democrat this may sound terribly elitist. But those most intellectually able to affect real change are most often those who refuse to act, due to a lack of time, and also a lack of confidence. Those who push most, talk most, and politically speaking shout the loudest, are all too often the principled, but uneducated. The calls you hear from these people, often used to berate all politicians as if they were another species, are in fact so often quotations of what politicians have in the past coined up that it makes you cringe. And they almost always shout about it being “common sense”, which of course really means that they simply don’t know the counter-argument, and have decided to get angry about it rather than open a book. Now I am of course hugely generalizing here. Speaking to thousands in the greater scheme of things is merely a drop in the ocean. And then you have my subjective take on the whole experience to boot. But my point is this: if in addressing so many people I ended up talking to an oversized minority (from day to day life I’m sure you know that the type to take any opportunity to rant about political, economic and philosophical issues they don’t understand is not the majority) then is the majority too quiet? Will the majority ever speak up, or is it always the minorities doing the talking? And what does this mean for democracy? Is it something we could change? Is it even something we would want to change?
As you can probably guess, my take is that if creativity, the generation of ideas, discussion and debate formed a central role in the state then we would be effectively channeling the input of this outspoken minority, and giving a chance to the majority that they might use more occasionally. What’s your take?