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is reprecentative democracy really just a farce

November 25, 2011 Leave a comment

With the upcoming elections to the Russian parliament (the so called doom-ah) just around the corner a lot of people in Russia are sometimes rather heatedly discussing whether or not to participate in the elections. Many believe that the results are a foregone conclusion, United Russia, the ruling party, will be once again pronounced the winner regardless of whether or not the majority of the people that do turn up at the polling stations on Dec 4 actually vote for it. If they don’t, just about everyone in Russia is sure the results will be falsified and United Russia will still be pronounced the winner.

The situation in modern day Russia is unique in that all the drawbacks of representative democracy have been laid bare here. It would appear at first sight that all the necessary institutions are in place, we’ve got a parliament and a president that is elected in a general election and yet we’ve had the exact same group of people in power for more than ten years now and they’ve managed quite successfully to remain in the Kremlin despite the economic crisis of 2008 and the devastating wild fires of 2010.

Do elections get routinely rigged in Russia? I personally don’t know, probably some of them do, however, I don’t think that they necessarily have to be in a representative democracy. Theoretically, for instance, just about anyone can run for president in Russia but in reality most people can’t for the simple reason that they don’t have enough resources to mount a successful presidential campaign. The same applies to parliamentary elections. To get to parliament you need a party but to organize a party you need resources and lots of them. Thus at the end of the day whoever has got the most cash ends up calling all the shots in a representative democracy.

And this doesn’t apply to Russia alone, it’s just that in Russia today the powers that be cannot even be bothered to make the effort to put on an air of legitimacy; their methods are crude and they hardly even try to conceal their machinations. Plus in general the ordinary people in Russia tend to be a bit less gullible than in some other places about these things.

So if what we’ve been taught about representative democracy is a hopelessly idealized model that doesn’t really work in reality, sort of like perfect competition with every decision maker having access to all the information about the market, why do the ruling elites in the world’s most successful countries even bother with this charade. After all, even in the US when push came to shove in the 2000 election, it was the supreme court and not the voters that decided who was going to be the president.

My theory is that enlightened ruling elites use the institutions of representative democracy as a means to gauge the public mood and aspirations. History teaches us that if the ruling elites completely lose touch with the masses things will often get completely out of hand with the masses storming the posh houses and palaces of their rulers and stringing them up on lamp posts or doing some other nasty things to them. The last such major showdown was in Romania where the Ceuacescus were essentially summarily executed after a failed attempt to escape Romania. Before that a similar fate befell the Romanov family in Russia. Imho, the failure of both regimes stemmed from total loss of touch their their people and that’s where representative democracy comes into play.

Its goal is not to empower people to rule themselves but rather to provide the ruling elites with a safety valve and a way to monitor what’s going on in the general population.  However, in Russia, it would appear that our representative democracy is failing miserably in this mission. The prudent course of action at this stage, imho, would be to ditch the Putin-Medvedev tandem as well as the United Russia party and bring to power someone new. If Putin actually remains in power in Russia things might eventually spin out of control, possibly even by 2017.

Would you rather climb a mountain or run a marathon?

November 22, 2011 Leave a comment

between climbing a mountain and running a marathon I would choose climbing a mountain.

Think about it, running a marathon is dull, you just run on and on, after a while you’re so exhausted you stop noticing what’s happening around you and once you cross the finish line you just drop to the ground half dead. With mountains it’s much more interesting, a mountain is always a challenge, even if it’s a small mountain and yet nobody’s rushing you and you can pace yourself, take your time, camp half way up, take in the scenery, take pictures. Then if it’s a really high mountain you can even get to look down at the clouds or get to see snow in the middle of the summer. In short climbing a mountain, imho, is a far more diverse and rewarding experience than simply running like a stupid machine with an Energizer battery up your butt.

Running is too much like the sort of lives we tend to live today, we’re all already running marathons as it is, getting up in the morning, going to work, working, then coming back home, going through the motions, a huge percentage of what we do every day gets done on autopilot we’re not living anymore we’re just going through the motions and running a marathon is very much about going through the motions of moving your legs and arms and running on along. By contrast to successfully climb a mountain you have to think and plan first and then you’ve got to be switched-on all the way to the summit so you can adjust if things change.

In short, we ought all to stop running marathons and try and climb more mountains instead, both literally and metaphorically

Categories: Random thoughts

web sites that go away

November 22, 2011 Leave a comment

the Internet is a-changing. It’s a truism that is true, the only constant online is change and as new websites are popping up into existence old ones are going off-line. It can be quite a shock when a site you’ve come to depend on is suddenly just no there anymore but that the downside of the Internet for you. It’s there today and tomorrow it’s gone, for whatever reason, the owners may have run out of cash or lost interest in the project and puff it’s gone. It can be quite frustrating and sad, online the landscape is changing so fast we can no longer keep pace with it, things are coming and going at such a speed that we no longer even have time to develop any sort of emotional dependence on them. Think about it, a day will eventually come when facebook will go off-line.

Categories: IT, Random thoughts

Who knows you better than anyone else?

November 16, 2011 Leave a comment

good question, I would probably say that in my case it’s my mom. She can always see right through me. Although a couple of years ago I was able to surprise her, but not for long. That’s probably part of the reason while I always tend to feel a bit uncomfortable in her company – she knows too much about me.

The reason she knows so much about me is because I lived with my parents for far too long and it’s inevitable that your parents are going to know too much about you after watching you grow up and go through all your trials and tribulations. And in a way it sort of sucks. I guess I’m a secretive kind of person so I don’t particularly like it when people know too much about me. My idea of effective communication is where I only reveal to others as much as I want and not more and I’m always in control.

If somebody knows you too well that also implies they know your vulnerabilities, it kind of puts you at their mercy. I guess it’s ok if it’s your parents because parents normally tend to love their kids but what if somebody else? they can always use that knowledge to manipulate you into doing something you’re later going to regret.

Categories: Random thoughts

old computers

November 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Things have been changing at an ever increasing pace recently.

I still remember how when I was in high school we were sent to this special trade school where we were supposed to learn an occupation. Probably it was just in case we chose not to go on to university after graduation. Anyway, the occupation I eventually chose to learn was that of a ‘computer operator’. It probably sounds weird today but back then if you knew your way around computers that already qualified as a job.

They had these old computers with monochrome displays at the trade schools. I still remember the specs, 512 kb of RAM, 20 MB hard drives, and yet still somehow those old computers could do stuff that seemed totally amazing at the time. You could run games on them. They were pretty simplistic games with monochrome graphics but we enjoyed them very much nonetheless. They ran DOS, so you could only run one program at a time. They taught us to write programs in BASIC. Each line started with a number, for some reason the first line started with a 10, the next one started with a 20 etc.

It’s strange how the memories of those times have become vague and elusive. I can still remember facts but I don’t really remember how I felt. Well, probably I sort of do. I do remember that after spending my first couple of hours on those old computers I was hooked, addicted, I wanted to come back for more, which I did.

Those old computers were crap next to the sort of machines we’ve got today. Hell, you couldn’t even really play music on them. Those old arcade style games had sound, sure, but the sound was crap. Still, something drew us to them. I wasn’t the only one in that computer class. It was something inexplicable. This feeling as if they offered us a window into Plato’s world of ideas. Plus they were for programming. BASIC wasn’t much of a programming language, at least the version that we used on those old computers, but still suddenly you had this machine that you could program, that you could get to do thing for you. It was an amazing feeling.

These days, imho, one of the things that I think kids really miss out on when it comes to computers is that few of them are really given the chance to realize that you can not only use them as a consumer to check emails or social networking sites but you can create things on computers. Sure there’s still people who eventually realize that and go on to become programmers etc but to the majority modern computers, and especially laptops and tablets, have turned into dumbed down consumer appliances, which is a shame, imho.

Part of the problem is that all the mechanism behind modern applications have really grown in complexity since those early days of GW BASIC. Now when I look at all the stuff behind web applications I can’t help asking myself did things really have to get so involved in the end? Couldn’t they have chosen some simpler way of doing web programming. In the past spaghetti code  was regarded as a bad thing, today in web programming it’s the only kind of code you get, there’s simply no way of programming for the web differently once you get down to the very basic level of style sheets and HTML with chunks of embedded php code for good measure. I often can’t help pondering whether they (whoever they are) could have come up with something cleaner.

Categories: Uncategorized