Szyzygy's Blog

November 7, 2009

Notes from the future: The origins of Open Source Democracy

If nothing else, the peremptory sacking of David Nutt by Home Secretary Alan Johnson in October 2009 exposed the aching chasm which  existed between rational thought and political thought, such as it was in early 21st century Britain.  In the grips of a deep recession, a failing Labour administration, confronted by a Conservative party even more devoid of political wisdom and insight than themselves, sought to establish clear leeway between themselves and their opponents by a number of headlining manouevres. David Nutt, an eminent scientist, whose contribution to knowledge in the sphere of psychopharmacology was of the very first order, was to be their patsy. Unfortunately, as events subsequently transpired, it was to not only rebound on themselves, but to bring into question the very legitimacy of a mode of political representation which had existed, largely unchanged, since the mid-19th century. 

David Nutt, a quiet-spoken and eloquent advocate of scientific principle could not have appeared more reasonable than his simian aggressor, and a very clear delineation in their intellectual capacities was immediately more than superficially apparent. Moreover he was right: when comparing and categorising risk, objectivity was paramount.  Mr Johnson’s pretext for sacking Professor Nutt was that he had in some way stepped into politics by stating the blindingly obvious during the course of an academic lecture. The populace were unconvinced and an obviously tired and emotional Johnson did not help his case by addressing them as though they were a round of postmen to be whipped up in fury and led out on strike at protest at t’management.

A number of MPs, seeing the writing writ large upon the wall, could not have been more suprised than Belshazzar himself to have been found weighed in the balance and found wanting; questions were asked in the House, an Early Day Motion was hurriedly tabled to the effect that this House believes that Government policy on alcohol and drugs misuse and harm should be based on scientific evidence. But it was too late, the British public, much like the bosun of an 18th century man of war, removed the cat from out of the bag, lashed the prisoner to the gratings and flogged him round the prevalent media.  They were evidently not remotely amused. Decades of parliamentary abuse of privilege, compounded by fiascos such as the cheap sell-offs of public assets under the previous administration, the whitewashing of the state-instituted murder of Dr David Kelly in the Hutton Report, the expenses scandal, had taken their toll.

People began to wonder how it was that an uneducated former Marxist postman from Bow could wield such exorbitant power. The conclusion that they were forced to was that it was a symptom of a much deeper malaise, that the very process of government itself was broken, and that the unpleasant phenomenon of Alan Johnson was yet another case of jobs for the boys. The technological mechanisms for real democratisation and  enfranchisement of the electorate had been in place for many years; the internet was ubiqitous. The existing status ante quo had however made little if any attempt to embrace the technology to extend the reach of democracy. 

Social networking sites were to prove to be a fertile breeding ground for opposition. The wikia picked up the events faster than the mainstream media, and both Johnson and Nutt’s entries in Wikipedia were objectively modfied within hours of events occurring. It would only be a question of time before someone would ask the question “if paid for government is as broken, expensive and fundamentally bloated as Micro$oft software, why isn’t there an open source alternative?” The inexorable rise of Open Source Democracy had begun…..

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