On People's And What They Deserve

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On People's And What They Deserve

Postby Michael » 11 Aug 2011, 23:10

The archconservative philosopher Joseph de Maistre observed trenchantly:

"Every nation gets the government it deserves"


I take this to mean that a people has no one but itself to blame for the system under which it is ruled due to their failure to try to change it. Much as I love de Maistre's writings (and he was one of the best prose stylists of the 19th century) I am not certain how true this statement is. I am curious what board member's in Britain, which from all I have seen as a foreigner has for the last decade and a half had one of the more incompetent Western governments, think of the quote.
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Re: On Peoples And What They Deserve

Postby Elliott » 12 Aug 2011, 00:27

It's an interesting theory but I don't really think it holds true.

How much perceptiveness and forethought can you expect of a people, as individuals let alone en masse?

I remember the excitement about New Labour in 1997. Few people could have foreseen just how rotten that government was going to be, even if NL struck them as cosmetic and shallow. They couldn't have foreseen the Iraq war lies, the obsession with equality, the secret immigration agenda, and so on.

Of course one should expect people to attempt to "gauge" what kind of person a potential leader is before voting for them, but again, is it really possible to do that with any certainty? Especially in this day and age, when our politicians are increasingly experts in PR, or flanked by such. Nowadays electioneering is really about tricking the public, far more than persuading them in any sincere way. If a lot of voters get tricked, who can be surprised by that?

Couple that with the fact of the limited choice on offer with modern politicians. You're hardly choosing between "a good guy" and "a bad guy". You're choosing between "Bland Option 1" and "Bland Option 2". There's little reason to have faith in either choice.
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Re: On People's And What They Deserve

Postby Mike W » 30 Jan 2012, 21:48

The people of the U.S. and U.K.? I would say yes.
The people of North Korea? I would say no.

In other words, I think that the moral culpability of a citizenry for the nature of their governance is connected to the form of government. I would not say that a North Korean populace that has known nothing but a police state and near-starvation for as long as anyone can remember can be said to "deserve" that circumstance. To the extent that we in the west, with our freedom and prosperity, are either participating in or not trying to arrest our decline, we are participating in our own demise.
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Re: On People's And What They Deserve

Postby Caleb » 03 Feb 2012, 11:35

I agree with Mike W, and I'll illustrate with a story.

A couple of years ago, I met a Canadian guy (maybe 23 years old). He started telling me how the Conservative government in Canada was trying to keep people ignorant, which is why he didn't know what an MP was (as in the politician -- I assume it's fairly similar to that in other political systems descended from Westminster). Firstly, I'm sure he did learn all about the Canadian political system in school but was either truant or fooling around. Secondly, Stephen Harper's government was not in power until 2006 (which would have made the person I was speaking to approximately 19 at the time, i.e. not in power when he was in school). Thirdly, assuming for a moment that the conspiracy was real, I asked him if he thought it was incumbent upon him to go to a public library or use the internet to find out what an MP was. He told me that that was the government's job. I suggested that if the government were indeed trying to keep him ignorant then of course they wouldn't inform him what an MP was!

I don't think that Canadian is that uncommon amongst the general populace in many Western nations. At least in Canada and Britain, people don't have to vote, so that same laziness and apathy will hopefully deter them. In Australia, it's compulsory, so the morons have to turn up!

We live in the most prosperous time in history. We also live in an age where information is at our fingertips, literally. Yet people still can't be bothered to inform themselves. People do indeed get the governments they deserve. If modern governments are shallow, deceitful, self-serving, etc. then I think this is really only a reflection of the underlying culture and citizenry.
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Re: On People's And What They Deserve

Postby Elliott » 03 Feb 2012, 19:47

Caleb wrote:People do indeed get the governments they deserve. If modern governments are shallow, deceitful, self-serving, etc. then I think this is really only a reflection of the underlying culture and citizenry.


I don't think it's that simple. Unless we're going to mount a violent revolution, we can only change our country using the existing apparatus and in the cultural environment that pervades. Some factors working against the people in Britain:

  • political candidates are chosen by the parties, often at the expense of potential candidates favoured by the local residents
  • parties routinely ignore promises they made in their election campaigns. Only a fool would trust any of the parties to do what they say they will do
  • our electoral system makes it extremely difficult for small/new parties to gain a foothold
  • we have a media that is mindlessly critical of everything the government does, creating the impression that the government should always be doing more
  • the media is, by and large, if not left-wing economically then liberal culturally, so that it is almost impossible for conservative ideas to get a fair hearing (we have a Conservative party in power now, but they appear terrified to conserve anything)
  • it is impossible to know to what extent any party you might give your vote to has already been corrupted by external interests
  • the EU can offer highly-paid sinecures for British politicians, so it is in their interests to go along with whatever the EU wants, regardless of what their electorate want

All of these factors mean that the people, the electorate, are limited in the change they can affect, and even in which changes they can request.

Where I would blame the people is in their tribal allegiance to parties which helped their grandparents 60 years ago. That a large percentage of the British public still favour the Labour Party, after 13 years of abject failure, is testament to this.

Put simply, when the system is corrupt, there's only so much the little man can do unless he is prepared to get violent. Researching and understanding the issues is of little use when the government have such obvious contempt for the people.
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Re: On People's And What They Deserve

Postby Gavin » 03 Feb 2012, 21:45

Elliott, I assume here you are not advocating violence. What we need to do is persuade people to vote for parties who will actually do something. Looking at recent figures perhaps we do not have an impossible task. UKIP did pretty well in the last election count, the British Freedom Party has just launched. There are a lot of people who feel as we do, disgusted with being sold down the river by politicians. Just look at the comments under all of the Telegraph blog articles, ordered by best rated. The Telegraph has almost three times the circulation of The Guardian - it makes a profit. I think there's hope.
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Re: On People's And What They Deserve

Postby Caleb » 04 Feb 2012, 14:52

Elliott: Regarding your first three points, I think those allow perfect opportunities for new parties (or factions within existing parties) to arise. If there truly is a huge vacuum in British politics, surely someone should be able to storm into it. Look at the Tea Party movement in America, for instance (regardless of what you think of them). They've basically been able to capture the entire Republican Party and hold it to ransom. As much as they're a nuisance to the Democrats (and are really out for Obama's blood), they're an even bigger nuisance to Republicans. Those Republicans who didn't toe their line in the lead up to the 2010 mid-term elections often found themselves targeted, alone and maybe even replaced before the election, regardless of how long they'd already been in politics. You could practically see the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives (John Boehner) age ten years every time he appeared on TV when the crisis over the debt ceiling was happening last summer. He was trying to play business as usual and negotiate with the Democrats and the Tea Party people within the Republican Party weren't having a bit of it. He was like one of those Soviet soldiers at the battle of Stalingrad sent forward with no rifle knowing that he was either going to pick up a rifle along the way and kill a German somehow or he was going to get shot by his own side if he hesitated for a second.

Regarding the media, I think all bets are off these days. Any grip the left-wing mainstream media may have once had on power is fading fast. Between cable television and the internet, the big broadcasters become less and less relevant (and powerful) by the day. Twenty years ago, this forum wouldn't have existed. It would have been very difficult to meet like-minded people (and exchange information and discuss it with them) outside of a very small area around you.

Regarding the corruption of political parties, I would say that probably is a very large systemic problem and the ability to protect against that is limited, though there are two things that could to some degree. The first is to have a fairly involved populace who are aware of things and won't put up with such things. The second is to limit the scope of government. The larger government is, and the more money it has, the more it will attract vested interests simply because there's a larger trough and they want their turn at it. A very small trough goes a long way in deterring such people because it's not very attractive.

Regarding the E.U., ultimately, the British people need to realise what a pernicious influence it is and get out of it. They'll only be able to do so if they actually cut the rot out at home.

Probably the single simplest thing the British electorate as a whole could do would be to culturally adopt a principle of minimising state interference in everyone's lives and vote out any incumbent -- of any political description -- who didn't follow that. The problem as I see it is that people aren't willing to do that. They'll complain when the government interferes in their lives if it doesn't suit them, but they're quite happy to see the government interfere in other people's lives in other areas. In this respect, I actually see liberals and conservatives as often merely flip sides of the same coin. The problem is big government, be it left or right wing. Again though, I actually see this as merely indicative of the deeper culture. A lot of people like being busy-bodies, but few like being busy-bodied by others. There are times when Taiwan drives me up the wall because it's so chaotic here, but every time I go back to Australia I realise that despite all of the rhetoric, Australians don't love freedom. They're a massive nation of busy-bodies and as much as they complain about government interference and so on, they absolutely love it. Everyone always has an opinion on how someone else shouldn't be allowed to do X, Y or Z, but if someone dares to suggest that they should be restricted from doing A, B or C, then they whine like stuck pigs without any sense of irony at all. From what I've seen, I don't think it's really much different elsewhere in the West.
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