Pic c/o echoblog
One of the most treasured features of most modern societies is the democratic processes we use to distribute power and make decisions about the stuff that matters to us: so important are they, that we often treat democracy as the key marker for civilisation. And as we all know, a number of us have tried to take and impose the idea and the practices on other cultures.
But the practice of democracy is curiously fabricated one (not good, not bad just a cultural product). We go to extraordinary lengths to make it work: fetishizing the "secrecy of the polling booth"; controlling (in the UK, at least) election spending by candidates, banning exit (and sometimes) opinion polls during elections and sometimes (as in Australia) making voting a legal obligation, not just a right.
And yet, it's clear how often people use social heuristics to make their democratic decisions – we vote as those around us vote. In the past this has played out in terms of very tribal voting patterns in Britain and the US.
Even today – as we in Britain have voted on how we want to organised our voting – while there has been some discussion of the relative virtues of the current system and proposed alternative one, most of the noise around the debate has been in terms of "who's":
i.e. Who's backing which option? Who's going to benefit from the vote going this way or the other? Who's a vote for or against change going to hurt most?
Try as we might, we can't stop humans being social