On the referendum society

"The key to the referendum society is that it turns on a mystic evocation of past grievances, gathered together into a churning, aggravated spleen, where they are magnified and isolated from reality. Everything that is not a grievance disappears. This anger is then dovetailed into a heroic solution. Simple, absolute, salvatory. An answer.The modern referendum, as Napoleon understood when he invented it, is the ideal consummation of the rational as irrational, of the anti-democratic posing as democracy. The complex issues of reality, which democracy can deal with in its own slow, indirect way, are swept aside by single, clear issues, often modeled on single human qualities – either we must have common sense, or we must have reason, or we must have memory. It is as if any combining of human qualities is impossible. Not surprisingly, both the referendum and direct democracy are a happy marriage with corporatism. The complex, real question sare dealt with behind the scenes through efficient 'interest mediation' between the different interest groups. As for the citizenry, they are occupied and distracted by the fireworks of their direct involvement on the big questions and their direct relationship with the big people. A simple 'yes' or 'no' and history, they are told, will be changed, as if by the wave of a magic wand."

– John Raulson Saul, The Unconscious Civilization