After the Israeli government's assault on the Mavi Marmara flotilla I wrote to my MP (Nick Clegg who is also deputy Prime Minister) to urge the UK government to take material steps to apply pressure upon the Israeli government to lift the blockade of Gaza and cease its oppression of the Palestinian people. In particular I asked that the UK would stop supplying military goods to Israel and cut other ties that in any way support Israel's policies against the Palestinians. I have written many such letters so I knew what sort of reply to expect.
I was therefore not surprised to get a prevaricating reply saying that the UK government was awaiting the UN report on the attack. The reply also quoted William Hague, the UK Foreign Secretary, saying “We will take the same principled stand across all our diplomatic efforts…..” and “We need to know whether more could have been done to minimise the risks or to reduce the number of deaths and injuries.”
As extensive research has shown me that the UK government has never taken anything that I would describe as a “principled stand” in its diplomatic efforts this wasn't saying much. And the second quote is just plain ridiculous when speaking of an armed attack on unarmed civilians in international waters.
Of course the UN's report arrived and declared the attack to have been illegal and in violation of humanitarian and human rights laws, and that there was clear evidence of wilful killing, torture and arbitrary execution, amongst other things. So I wrote again.
The response this time was even more brief and pointed out that the Israeli government were considering compensation and had expressed “regret” over the incident. Mr Clegg then stated “I have also continued to make my colleagues at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office aware of yours and other constituents' feelings on this issue.”
So, as expected, the voice of the public whom the government is supposed to serve makes no difference whatsoever. This is very much a fake democracy. We get to vote every few years and that's about it. Even then huge media effort ensures that most of the public are blinded to any options other than the main two (or maybe three) parties, none of whom are going to institute any sort of genuinely democratic system.
Which brings me to the second part of this missive's title. Why do we bother? We write innumerable letters and attend demonstrations in our thousands to little or no affect. They barely even make it into the news. There is simply no mechanism to make the government do what we want. Even the huge demonstrations before the Iraq war, mounted despite the government's propaganda efforts, made no difference. Recently our students have discovered how much affect they can have on the government's decisions…..none. More words were spent on condemning the assault on Prince Charles' car than on their legitimate complaints.
But this kind of response is in fact one that should bear fruit. The more we argue and demonstrate and are ignored the more obvious it becomes that this is not a democracy and that we have to force a change. Most of the public remain wilfully ignorant of this fact, preferring to be passive than to engage in government. They grumble but don't suffer enough to do anything about it. But now they are seeing their public services cut, education, health care and more, while the rich our allowed to rob us. They are beginning to see that all efforts by the public to prevent this are rebuffed.
We need to continue to demonstrate and heap pressure on the government so that everyone can see what kind of system of government we have. Then perhaps we can get people to use their votes to vote for something completely different when next the time comes.