What follows is revolutionary, but it is a revolution that has already happened, is happening and will continue to happen, though it is perhaps realised by too few. It is a bit subversive because it undermines the System, yet it celebrates the very thing that the System (supposedly) stands for.
In ideal terms, democracy is a way for all eligible citizens to make collective decisions. In practice this is rarely the case. We cannot trust that the electorate is making conscious and educated decisions about the direction of a society (being comprised of rational reflection, irrational reaction, knowledge, ignorance, insight, misdirection and prejudice), and also most democracies delegate their decisions to a small class of politicians that, we can safely say, don’t always have the bests interests of everyone, but are influenced by a mixture of personal ambition, party loyalties, ideological convictions and, finally, the interests of the people they represent.
But democracy’s practical effect neutralises the political extremes of a society, thereby allowing a free and safe space for a diverse and democratic society. Partisan politics is a perfect example of this: by embodying a society’s collection of ideologies in parties and including them within the same political system, these “loose ends” are tied up so they don’t interfere with the basic functioning of a society, i.e. the lives of the people (not completely foolproof, but it does work somewhat like that).
Within this “democratic” context, a more grassroots democracy takes place. We are given a safe space within which we can practice a more personally directed democracy, experimenting with and choosing from a wide range of options for our lives, wider than the conventional or political models that we are presented with. The choices we make every day are more powerful than the ones we make in the poll booth.
Democratically elected governments are not what create a democratic society; they are the litmus test for the quality of a democratic society. We cannot rely on our democratic government to change things (no “top down”). The change comes from the space created by the democratic government that, for the most part, protects our rights to think and choose as we see fit. It comes from the choices or non-choices we make in our daily lives.
Put another way, democracy is what happens when our politicians aren’t looking; the life and choices of the People cannot be constrained to the poll booth.