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Hello!

Welcome to my blog, where I write about all manner of things... 

democracy, goatees and markets

I had an interesting conversation with E this morning about democracy and privilege and voting. I have long believed that the form of democracy we follow grants the illusion of power with none of the reality of it, and that the illusion of choice is not a proactive one but a reactive negative one. Simply put, you get a very restricted say in who governs, you have no or little ability to influence or continue that influence once the choice has been made and usually you are choosing the lesser of evils presented to you. And if you chose differently you are immediately disenfranchised and if you are ideologically driven then democracy really isn't for you. Democracy in its truest forms grants continuing power and influence to the individual as well as the parties, it allows proactive choice and determination of the best policies and actions for the majority and it tempers ideological extremism (unless culturally you are ideologically extreme in which case you're not practising democracy).

Taking a good hard look at democracy today will reveal that it doesn't work as well as it should, or could, do. The ever revolving door of governments and ministers, bound by ideological constraints and adherent to careerism, leads to short-termism and social and political distortion. The country oscillates between extremes and many projects and initiatives that need years, if not decades, to deliver sensible and stable growth or services or change are chopped and changed and abandoned on a whim. Political expediency drives the agenda and perpetuates and exacerbates the divides and issues that plague us socially. Political, social and economic structures and interactions are complex and interdependent in ways we do not fully understand, and yet critical decisions are made on the barest of information or need.

Whilst there are many politicians who are indeed hard-working, caring individuals committed to get the best for their constituents and their country, there as many, if not more, who are careerists and opportunists, often without a real-life experience of the constituencies they  represent and therefore an inability to understand the very real issues facing them. And that does not, cannot, help us.

For me there has always been a blind spot to the realities of the systems, processes and ideologies in place in this country. We entrust too much power to our servants and allow ourselves too little respect. We trust in systems and parties that are unable to meet the challenges and needs of a world that is changing at an immense pace, socially, politically, technologically, and in as many ways you can think. We are disenfranchised, despairing, disengaged and defunct. What we want, need or say is not tolerated or listened to, our voices lost to a one-time 'mandate'. Democracy is enacted in its roughest forms by the ideologically driven and the socially dutiful. The rest do not care or cannot see how or what difference their vote will make.

It depresses me. I really don't want to play any more.

***

I shaved my goatee off. Whilst on the one hand I liked it, on the other it looked kind of scruffy, and would have continued to do so even if it had grown. I think I just don't have the follicle density (hairiness) to carry it off. Ho-hum.

It was fun whilst it lasted though.

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Whilst I am in the mood for a rant, I am not sure that Bristol really understands what markets are, or what they are for. There are some really good examples (Tobacco Factory Sunday market, Corn Street Wednesday Farmers' market, LoveFoodFestival) but the others are generally poor. The Slow Food Market is good, and the idea of holding it in conjunction with a book market and an art market is a good one, but they are so disparate in location and organisation it feels fragmented and unsure. I am not convinced that it is generating the 'gravity' it needs to attract sustainable numbers.

I have just visited the inaugural Harbourside Market (Food/Drink today, Books/Art tomorrow and something else on Sunday). Verdict? Sparse. Whilst I understand the idea behind differentiating the various markets I also think it was the wrong choice given the paucity of stalls. They really should have crammed it all together, given the feeling of choice and energy, allowing people a little of everything and the various markets to feed off each other. People coming for books will end up buying food, and vice-versa. Generate critical mass, generate cash, generate longevity.

The other thing I don't understand is pricing. It is all, generally, over-priced. Most stalls are niche organic/local stalls; cupcakes; meat, sausages, olives, cider, etcetera, etc. Great. Fab. Good stuff. Pricey. Mix in a good selection of generic fruit and veg stalls, create a perceived quality of shopping experience, so that people can do their holistic shopping in one go, and you will generated mass and energy and need.

If in doubt spend a few weeks on the continent visiting the markets there. Seriously, they know how to do it.

Oh, I've just tried adding a link to the Slow Food Market's website, but it has been suspended. Not sure why and hope it isn't to do with any business issues.

***

I have wrote the above whilst drinking a mocha and eating chocolate cake. You'd think I'd have been a lot more positive about things.

I am going to try and finish my Watershed Writers' Club 'They Fight Crime' story, and then I will go seeking something tasty for a late lunch.

in 10 minutes I will be asleep...

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