As a teenager politics was a fervent passion, but after three months as a junior political reporter in the Victorian Parliament in 1969, disenchantment with our democratic system displaced my commitment to politics.
Five years later, living in Franco’s Spain teaching English and studying Spanish, my personal experience of fascism rekindled my political enthusiasm.
The totalitarian regime, where people were afraid to criticise the government, let alone protest for fear of persecution, torture and imprisonment, dissipated my cynicism and disillusionment with politics in the West.
Many people were scared into silence. When I attempted to converse with one middle-aged man about the country’s system, he assumed I was a Francophile “spy” masquerading as an innocent traveller and shut up.
Currently, with mistrust of governments permeating popular political perspectives, it is imperative to acknowledge the positives about democracy across the Western world.
It is simplistic to herald its demise as Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt do in “How Democracies Die”, asserting “Elected autocrats maintain a veneer of democracy while eviscerating its substance.”
Yet to read their book, it appears many leaders seemingly betray their stated commitment to democracy – for example, Erdogan in Turkey, who imprisoned thousands for participating in a supposed coup against his government.
Perhaps we should perceive Western politics in the present imperfect, appreciating politicians are not infallible, sagacious saints.
A significant issue perhaps is the values people associate with democracy; that politicians will intrinsically be honest, transparent and responsible and more significantly, care about their citizen’s lives, respecting and legislating liberty for all.
But acumen and amity have never been all pervasive in parliaments, worldwide.
Despite problems with our politics, it is important to understand that unlike countries like China, Russia, North Korea and Cambodia, people in the West can protest reasonably in the streets and express dissent without fear of retribution.
Fortunately in Australia, we can voice our different opinions with relative impunity, inspiring us to maintain faith in our politicians to ensure democracy here does not die by atrophy, apathy or antipathy.