When PM John Howard tried, unsuccessfully, to ban the use of the "worm" — the audience's reaction graph in the only debate Howard's agreed to have with Labor leader Kevin Rudd in this election campaign — Rudd protested with a scripted joke.
"Why punish the worm?", he asked. "Everyone in Australia likes the worm. Let's be friends of the worm." He got a few laughs and, in a flash, a "petition" appeared on the "Kevin07" campaign website calling for the election debates to feature the "time-honoured" worm.
"The worm is an indication of what the audience and the community's views are", the petition stated. "We believe Australia's leaders should not be afraid of listening to the views of the community.
"Mr Howard once said, 'I'm glad the worm doesn't have a vote'. We, the undersigned, do have a vote, and we would like that vote to be fully informed through rigorous, open, and democratic debate by the time of the 24 November election."
Howard conceded on the worm. So we get to see it wriggle — once — in this campaign. But with entrenched shoulder-to-shoulder conservatism in the major parties, do we need more than once-an-election worms? Notorious Roman emperor Nero used to pay his soldiers to applaud his acting performances. Are we expected to do the same for free? Do we have to submit to being a passive audience, manipulated with cues to laugh or clap while the rich and powerful minority get on with running society for their own profit?
How about an all-year-round worm with bite? Anytime a politician does something that is against the majority wishes, a Super Worm lashes out and removes them from office! Any politician launching a war opposed by the majority, making climate change policy hostage to corporate profitability, or slashing health and education to give tax cuts to the rich would get the worm flick. Neither Howard nor Rudd would last long in office, with Super Worm on patrol!
But why stop at Super Worm? Why not build a society where the key decisions are actually made by the community instead of being surrendered to professional political shysters?
It is incredible that in the 21st Century we are encouraged to believe that participatory democracy is impractical and that we must allow the professional politicians to ignore the will of the majority. These politicians expect us to believe that we will be better off without the power of our collective organisation and action.
Green Left Weekly rejects this profoundly undemocratic and pessimistic perspective. If you share in this dissent then please help us keep GLW going by by making a donation this week to the GLW Fighting Fund. You can directly deposit at: Greenleft, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, Account No. 901992. Alternatively, send a cheque or money order to PO Box 515, Broadway NSW, 2007; phone it through on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia), or donate online at http://www.greenleft.org.au/fogl.htm.
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