The documentary was called “Vote for me!” and was part of SBS’s week examining democracy, which they have called “Why Democracy?”.
And what did we see in this documentary? (If you watched the show, please comment; I hate talking to myself!) We saw Chinese children exploiting the weaknesses of the other candidates. We saw them canvassing their classmates for votes, and offering positions in exchange for votes (for example, ‘Deputy Monitor’ – clever!).
We saw parents writing speeches for their children and suggesting tactics for them to use – “Did he say he’d vote for you? Well, ask him in the debate who he is going to vote for, and if he says you, you can say he isn’t confident because he isn’t even going to vote for himself, and if he says himself, you can say that he is a liar because he told you that he’d vote for you.” We saw parents manipulating their children – “You can’t give up! You said you wanted to be President, and now you want to give up in the class monitor elections?!”
These children were eight and learning about democracy in a Chinese primary school. As I sat their, somewhat appalled, I couldn’t help but think how amazingly accurate this performance of democracy was. (Side Note: Australian election just 6? weeks away.)
So what is democracy? In my opinion, it’s about having a rigorous debate and then having an election where everyone gets an equal vote. We have this lovely, righteous view of democracy but it really isn’t all that pretty when you really step back and examine it.
In this election for classroom monitor, the kid with the rich parents ultimately won the race. Maybe he won because he exposed his friend as a decent, selfless liar or that he already had two years experience as prefect, or maybe it was the last minute sweetener!
Final thought on the documentary: my three arguments:
Democracy in Australia can be improved. Especially the donations to political parties which limit the ability for small parties to participate, and the outrageous spending on advertising.
If this is what children and teachers in China think that democracy is about – debates and name calling and conspiracy and strategy – maybe we need to work on that! Although I accept that these elements are present, democracy is really about the public debate (and the openness of that debate), that anyone can lead the country and that we all have an equal vote. On a side note, maybe my/our perception of socialism or utilitarianism is also somewhat un-reflective of the principles of those ideologies.
On a less serious level, maybe children shouldn’t be exposed to the nitty-gritty of democracy! Note to teachers: concentrate on the equal voting and positive campaigning (we want to know why you would be great at the job!).
Betty and Frank Spencer: Some Mothers do ‘ave ’em.
1. The doctor on tonight’s episode of Some mothers do ‘ave ’em was smoking a cigarette in the hospital. He was in the waiting room with two nurses, nervously awaiting the arrival of Frank Spencer. Frank and Betty were coming to have their baby. Some mothers do ‘ave ’em aired in the mid 70s in England and I am presuming that since the media reflects society, we still hadn’t made the link between good health and cigarette smoke. It seems crazy that 30 years ago a doctor would be allowed to smoke in a hospital.
2. Also today, my younger sister found a Captain Planet figurine of mine (Wheeler – Fire). It was my favourite show when I was a kid. I couldn’t explain what the show was about, so I download the episode below from YouTube to show her. I never realised how good all the characters were and how they really kept hammering on about the environment and pollution. Find out more about Captain Planet here.
Isn’t it amazing how things have changed in the twenty years between Captain Planet in the mid 1990s and Some mothers do ‘ave em in the mid 70s. And also how vividly, television programs and the media reflect these changes back at society. We can look back at these programs decades later and get an understanding of how society thought and acted, not just about the environment and smoking, but about race, gender, sexuality, age and class.
From Boston Legal: after Alan and Denny haven’t been speaking due to differing points of view regarding the war in Iraq.
Alan Shore: No matter my opinion about the war, I think there is something we can both agree on, and that is that this war is complicated. And I think complicated things, need to be talked about.
When people have strong opinions about the issues that really matter, they should be able to talk about those opinions openly. Complicated issues should be debated and discussed.
Obviously the government has had a bit to do with this shutdown of dialogue, with its use of phrases like “You’re either with us or against us”. Which basically says that anyone who says anything even remotely antiwar is (like a terrorist) against us. This leads to more emotionally stirring ways of saying much the same thing: you are “unpatriotic”, “unAmerican / unAustralian” and “that’s not the American / Australian way”, and that you are “unthankful for the thousands of soldiers who died for their country, so that you could enjoy freedom”. And it is very hard to talk about issues, when people are using these tactics.
I think this technique is used in other arguments as well. What common labels do you know of that are used to shutdown alternative ideological view points?
Hippie when talking about the environment.
Communist when talking about the problems with capitalism.
Spurlock and his girlfriend, Alex, spend thirty days living on the minimum wage (around US$7 per hour). Spurlock uses a Temp agency to do a number of jobs, while Alex is employed washing dishes in a cafe. At different times they both have to go to hospital for treatment but find that the free clinic is understaffed with only 20 patients able to be seen after 5:00pm. He talks to people waiting in the line to find that some had been waiting since mid-afternoon. They are forced to go to the hospital and find the bills unaffordable on such a low wage.
Their apartment is unclean and unsafe, they have to rely on public transport to get to work and Spurlock takes on another job to earn more money. Their relationship is tested as Spurlock decides to splurge on his brother’s children who come for the weekend (although due to the editing this seemed a little rehearsed).
According to the documentary the minimum wage in America hasn’t been increased since 1997. The politicians argue that if the minimum wage was increased (even in line with inflation) the business world would cripple and staff would have to be put off. However, wouldn’t increasing the minimum wage allow these ‘working poor’ to actually purchase products and therefore help increase employment. At the moment they rely heavily on donated furniture and basic food supplies.
Last night I watched the Glasshouse and Corrine was saying that because few people in the New Orleans area vote, money isn’t spent on the area and, even in times of disaster, their opinion of the government isn’t really important. How does the American government get away with this, and why does Australia seem to want to follow what is happening in America in terms of economic policies? The government’s IR changes and voluntary voting are currently being discussed in Australia. I don’t believe that Australian politicians should aspire to achieve the American situation. Sure the American’s are economically prosperous but at what cost?