Saturday, 12 November 2011
The table remains
I was appalled to read that our politicians not only wish us to fund their lavish lifestyle, but also fund their parties to peddle their lies and half-truths. All we need now is legislation to compel us to vote and we’ll inhabit the seventh circle of hell.
Give me the good old days. I want to sell my vote for a barrel of ale. I want to be cooped, gathered up from the street dead drunk and locked away until voting day. I want to belong to a small union of voters who’d sell their seat to the richest in exchange for a tangible reward. And don’t tell me that was because only a small proportion of people then enjoyed the vote. A majority today don’t vote. Why should they when the choice is between Punch and Judy, Tweedledum and Tweedledee? We have made a country ‘Safe for democracy’.
I know we now sneer at the rotten boroughs of old England, those boroughs so small their votes could be bought. A source of corruption we say. Colonial nabobs, invariably red-faced and corrupt, buying seats like Russians buy football teams. The reality is that many of these ‘Nabobs’ self-made men, proved to be the most capable and independent-minded men in the political system.
I know we now snigger at those electors who, allowed for the first time to vote in secret, would approach their patron or lord and ask them which way they would want them to vote. Such servile deference. Not like constituencies today so enthralled by ‘culture’ and party machines that they’d vote for a pig if it wore the right colours.
In a previous age English aristocrats had pedigree - brands if you will. You knew who you were with a Salisbury, a Russell or Grey, much as you do with a Toshiba or Sony, a Pepsi, or Coke. Pedigree or long established brand; both take the long view or perish; both factor in historical and cultural accountability. Which aristocrat or indeed the next head of Microsoft or Apple want to see their brand perish?
An aristocrat was born, not voted for, but imbibed a sense of public duty along with a degree of historical and cultural accountability. Can that be said of the faceless men who rule us now? They come and go having sucked the trough dry and accountable to none. We’re ruled by leeches sensing the banquet is nearing its end.
Democracy in prosperous countries is like a finely laid table, with its creamy linen and silver tableware, its floral arrangements, decanters and gleaming tureens. Whip away the cloth and the table remains, privilege and power.
And if that power, in whatever country, faces serious challenge, the table cloth with its fables and pretence, is the first to go. In that sense we should wag the finger lightly at the Chinese, Syria, and those other regimes who cannot afford or who have not yet bought the tablecloth.
With Greece denied its referendum and, with Italy, ruled by unelected technocrats, it is clear that democracy has a set price, and in uncertain futures, the contours of power will reveal themselves in other countries across the world.
The status quo knows what it wants, knows what it doesn’t want. And protest which knows only the latter foams against it like surf against rock. Sometimes ‘great changes' occur - captured on camera and media tagged. But nothing really changes, not for long. Even when Lenin’s preconditions* for a successful revolution occur, the new status quo follows the contours of power with fractal inevitability. The table remains.
• A ruling class that is split or has lost its nerve
• An unreliable military
• An underclass at the end of its tether
• A disciplined, revolutionary leadership.