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Attila the Pun
Friday, June 03, 2005
 
Oh. My. God.

Judith Armstrong has finished her op-ed piece in today's Age with one of the most breathtaking bits of honesty I have ever seen, but we will get to that in a second.

Writing on the recent rejection of the European Constitution by French and Dutch voters, she faithfully follows the Fairfax style guide in her opening paragraph:

After the Republican triumph in the last US election, and the feeling that democracy was tumbling downhill towards some lowest common denominator, many began looking towards Europe to provide an alternative to US cultural domination.

Irrational swipe at Bushchimphitler? Check! So after the US held a free and fair election, there was a feeling that democracy was "tumbling downhill"? With a wonderful opening like this, you can just tell that Armstrong is an academic and a Fairfax contributor - the golden combo.

On October 29 last year the convention signed off on a document they believed revolutionary. Its aim was to "dare more democracy", its modus operandi ultra-democratic. Its 105 individuals, basically three delegates representing the heads of state and national parliaments of 28 countries, included the three who are still only applicants: Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. Tiny new boy Malta, with fewer than half a million citizens, enjoyed the same representation as France and Germany.

So giving tiny nations which aren't even members of the EU the same representation as much more populous nations is "ultra-democratic"? So if we abolished the House of Representatives, and just had the Senate (where Tasmania gets the same say as New South Wales) that would be a bold step towards "ultra democracy"?

Equally democratic but today somewhat amazing was the fact that the delegates identified "values" as the first and most crucial issue to be put up for discussion.

Not that amazing really. Getting agreement on such abstract concepts as "values" is a hell of a lot easier than agreeing on such boring things like executive powers, procedures etc.

Part one of the constitution is therefore headed human dignity, after which come chapters on freedom, equality, solidarity, citizens' rights, and justice. Not until these elusive concepts had been defined did the delegates turn their minds to part two, the procedures and institutions that would need to be put in place.

I would have thought that adopting the mantra of Bill & Ted ("Be excellent to each other") would have been a lot quicker, and achieved exactly the same result as those six chapters.

It was an enormous achievement that all 28 countries reached agreement. Getting consensus on such a highly sensitive declaration was a triumph given the number of languages involved. The spirit of compromise was expressed in the denial of any "official" language; of 20-odd "working languages".

Anybody here dealt with the Australian Government? The one that speaks the same language as yourself? Remember how much fun that was? Now imagine the Government had *20* languages in which to ignore/delay your question. Let the good times roll!

The bureaucracies were to be diminished but two new leadership slots created: a president, and a European foreign minister undertaking the central diplomatic role the EU needs to play in relation to the rest of the world.

Bwhahaha - the drafting of a constitution in 20 languages, and the creation of two new leadership slots will *reduce* the bureaucracies? bwhahaahaha

The European Parliament, the only directly elected EU body, yet the one most often treated with indifference, would gain new prominence, MEPs being urged under the constitution to strengthen their relationship with national parliaments.

What sort of constitution "urges" people to do anything? Can you imagine the result if the US constitution had "urged" the Congress to allow people the freedom of speech?

Nine countries have already supported the constitutional treaty but the French and the Dutch have famously voted against it, and their rejection is likely to be followed by those of Denmark and the United Kingdom - if either of these countries goes ahead with their referendums.

So this constitution, drafted by 105 unlected delegates, was put to voters - who promptly rejected it (Germany "supported" the constitution by ratifying it without a vote). Aint "ultra-democracy grand?

Armstrong is obviously a huge fan of democracy, so what does she think should be done about this rejection by voters. Simple - keep asking them until they give you the right answer!

So, in the acknowledged absence of a plan B, what will happen? The most optimistic case is that the question will be put again, and this time, pass.

Stupid voters. Anyone sense a bit of disdain for the electorate here? Don't worry, she doesn't stay this subtle for long.

Unfortunately there have been a few too many paragraphs without a crack at the US though - the editor won't be too pleased.

If the idealism expressed in the constitution devised by America's founding fathers has failed to stem materialism, imperialism, cultural arrogance and greed for oil, why put naive trust in Europe's democratic aspirations?

Aaaah, much better. Too bad she couldn't fit Gitmo, Abu Ghraib or plastic turkeys in there, but I shouldn't get greedy.

The answer is, because there is good reason to do so. America's belief in democratic values stood itself and the world in good stead for a long time. The invasion of Iraq and the subsequent failure to mend what was broken should not destroy our gratitude for US intervention in World War II, or the magnificent generosity of the Marshall Plan.

Thats big of you, really. Out of curiousity, what did they break and subsequently fail to mend? I know the statues of Saddam have seen better days, and his son's rape rooms have fallen into disrepair, but I see they have knocked up the odd parliament and constitution here and there.

In the event, a clear majority of the supposedly civilised French and Dutch populations have put fear and self-protection ahead of global balance.

Stupid stupid voters. Imagine putting something so stupid as "self-protection" ahead of such a fundamental concept as, err, "global balance".

This article provided such amusement that I really wasn't ready for the last sentence. Here we have somebody hinting at their utter disdain for the democratic process, who then comes right out and says what she is thinking:

If, as the adage goes, education is wasted on the young, it is tempting to wonder whether democracy is not wasted on voters.

Bravo Judith! Leave democracy to delegates I say.

She should be utterly ashamed for penning a sentence like that.

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