BinaryWednesday, Nov 16, 2016 · 1000 words · approx 5 mins to read
Watching the U.S. election play out to its finale has seen me think about politics almost totally ever since. The way the system is setup in the U.S. has many parallels in how democratic systems play out in many other countries, including here in the U.K., and I’ve written about it a bit before.
From my vantage point at least, by far and away the biggest issue with many large modern democracies, most notably the U.S. and U.K, is the way the system settles to a bipartisan equilibrium with no real chance of any added entropy upsetting that in any way. What I mean by that is that it tends to just be two parties in the running, and that really just means two human beings.
Because of the way the elections are played out, and because of the way the parties and democratic systems are setup, we’re driven to focus on just the leaders of the two parties here in the U.K., or the party nominees in the United States. And we’re all drawn in to the mess. Everything was about Trump versus Clinton. Everything still is, really.
It’s not about the manifestoes, or the actions the parties will take if they’re elected into government. It’s about what the single human beings at the head of two opposing parties have to say about each other. They can’t agree because that’s bad for rallying large groups of people behind your message. Remember that completely ridiculous moment during the debates where Trump and Clinton were asked to name one nice thing about the other person? Not a policy their parties agree on, or even a proposed policy the other mentioned that the individual could get behind, because heaven forbid they talk about anything but themselves. No, just a nice aspect of the other human being.
Billions of people are affected by the outcome of the election. Not just the few hundred million people that happen to be directly resident or governed by the United States. Thousands of millions of people. I’m affected. There’s a direct effect on basically everyone alive, because of course the United States has to have a say about, or get directly involved in, almost everything that happens everywhere.
Yet we just sat, open mouthed, as just two humans shouted at each other for months. Everything I’ve heard since is Trump this or Hillary that, because even though he won, it’s still pretty much just about him the person, not about what he’ll try and make happen, or do.
The binary system is so horribly saturated with our intensely focused energy on the two human beings, and not the billions affected by the choice, that it literally distorts the reality around it. How can two people, representing just two positions, represent the wills, minds and desires of the few hundred million, and then onto the few billion outside of the country?
Tens of millions of people conned into voting not for what they need and want, but just the other value that’s opposite to the one they dislike the most. How perverse is that? By all accounts, the U.S. Presidential election wasn’t a vote for the best set of policies to be put into play by a concerned, eager and devoted set of public servants. It was a vote for the other asshole.
It’s never about what they’ll do, other than big ticket items. It’s just about how they’re less shit than the other chosen one. Holy fuck, how did we get here? Nearly four years ago I wrote that I don’t understand modern politics and democracy. I’m even less clued in than ever before, and even more disillusioned than I ever have been. It’s supposed to be the greatest time to be alive in the history of humanity so far. And it is, I know it is.
But that doesn’t hide the fact that the largest functioning free sovereign nations in the world focus on a tiny handful of people, rather than a large handful of plans, actions and outcomes. The whole everything is at stake, and that’s the game we setup to play. How utterly dismal, broken and insufferable does it have to get before we burn it all down to start from a place where not just two sides have a shot at it.
At what point is it not him versus her, or red versus blue, or Tory versus Labour, or left versus right? Life is not some polarised binary system with just two human choices for everything. Life is thousands of variables, choices, outcomes, issues, joys, problems, disasters, inventions, achievements and more. There’s more to it than two.
I can’t help but feel like the sooner it stops being about just two choices, where the system has more representation for everyone involved — and it really is everyone involved now — the better. I shouldn’t really know the name of my Prime Minister. That job shouldn’t exist. It should be the large human council, where the humans are highly educated, and true masters of the problem domain they’re asked to move the needle on.
The binary way of doing things is fundamentally not the right one. I feel like that’s the biggest problem, and all others in our political and democratic way of doing things cascade down from the bipartisan systems that we’ve setup. It just masks all other possible achievements we could create together.