Is democracy dead?
It seemed quite civilised, pleasant even. They smiled at us, at one another, their voices were measured, their words carefully selected, the statements they made were democratic. The chair had a mic attached to his collar and his amplified voice was easy to listen to. They told us, using words filled with openness, what they had been up to and we listened attentively. And how they talked. Oh they talked, mostly amongst each other sharing with us by looking up and making inclusive statements.
When was our turn to chip in, the chair quickly jumped into our sentences, rounded off what were saying before we'd finished with a short remark. It was all very polite but quick-fire after the languid hour dominated by their talk. Each of his well honed retorts gave you the impression he knew more than you, so wait until he wished to tell you what you needed to know. It was polite smugness dealt with expert precision. It made you feel hemmed in, unable to express yourself.
As I pondered this strange atmosphere, I realised I'd never been in such an undemocratic meeting, and I've attended many. I recalled what people have been telling me these months we've lived here. Here's single quote that sums the voices I've been dubious about. "They shout you down politely, they're not interested in what you've got to say. They control the village and we're privileged to have them, that's what it feels like."
Then it dawned on me. The chair is an ex-manager of large factories. He's been in meetings for decades and knows how to silence what he considers dissent in a way that suits his agenda and isn't rude to the person put down. For that's how you feel as you leave, put down, frustrated this man didn't give you the space to say what you want.
It is classic British business tactics. We are renowned for poor relationships between management and workers. The man's agenda will affect a sector of the village and he is determined to get it through. The way to stop him is to work as he does - do the research, find things which he has to solve before arriving at his goal, throw in more as he finds answers to those.
Democracy, much lauded by the Parish Council, seems dead here in this 'very friendly' village.