Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 20th October 2021

In our society we internalise from our school days the belief that democracy is important. Yet, how often do we really ask ‘why’ democracy is important and not just a chance outcome of our history and culture.

In a land without any other rules, the rules of nature dictate how we live our lives. The physically strong prey upon the weak and chaos prevents the existence of any real civilisation. Instead, of a life which is nasty, brutish, and short, through our participation within society we agree to be collectively bound by rules. Trading some personal freedom for protection from the harm caused by the freedoms of others.

For most of human history an individual or a small elite would set the rules for their entire society. Having grown up in a democracy this seems inherently wrong to us, but for those alive at the time most believed for one reason or another these individuals were better qualified to rule.

Yet, even the most wise and selfless dictatorship will inevitably fail. There is no way for an individual to understand every issue affecting society, there are differences of opinion to which there is no ‘right’ answer, and even if they get every decision right eventually a successor won’t. Eventually, every dictatorship or oligarchy ends up using force to sustain themselves.

By giving everyone a vote, every issue affecting every person’s life becomes relevant and we have the ability to change Governments and their policies without resorting to force. Even where we disagree with a decision, the system has still had to consider our view as part of the process, we just simply weren’t in the majority.

The death of Sir David Amess is a tragedy not only for his family and those who knew him, but for all of us. It represents not just an attack on a man, but the very rules which bind us together, give us freedom and keep us safe from harm. The health of a democracy isn’t in how we treat those we agree with, but in how we treat those whose views we oppose.

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