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DEMOCRACY'S DICE: People are always flogging their representatives, but they may be throwing stones in glass houses
MUCH is expected of an elected lawmaker. Not just a pound of flesh as vengefully sought by the Venetian Shylock, but a little more including blood and veins. Perhaps, this is just. But too little of the same does the voter expect of himself. This is not just.
For the party lords, surely the topmost thought is to present to the people a candidate as impeccable and as close to a saint and workhorse as can be found, if that be in the realm of possibility. He is to be of unyielding fortitude, untainted by the scarring of greed and graft, and unswervingly sacrificial, for all these things make for good copy, TV and a pleased citizenry.
The man on the street desires these attributes in generous degree in his representative in legislature. Or merely thinks he wishes it, which is a different thing altogether, for then he really doesn't care.
Even so, woe is the candidate who doesn't measure up. In fact, by the electorate's reckoning there are many who fall short, but stand tall in the company of Tweed, Marcos and their ilk. Few share the veneration in which Mandela and Churchill are held.
Still, quite a good number of the odds-and-ends of the political order dare enter into the crucible of elections and are, most fortunately for us, swiftly dispatched.
The others who make it to office, especially in these times the world over, are scrutinised and savaged, not necessarily in that order.
Two unexaggerated truths prevail. We are part of the mob, and, many of the representatives deserve the lynching.
But equally important, we who so rightly and justly ask so much of the people we have empowered to run our lives, must demand of ourselves the same loyalty to our "cherished" standards.
As surely as night follows day, we don't do this.
The virtues are for politicians to have and follow, or disown at their own peril. But they're not for us.
In the early 18th century, English satirist Jonathan Swift wrote in Gulliver's Travels: "But when some confessed they owed their greatness and wealth to sodomy, or incest; others, to the prostituting of their own wives and daughters; others, to the betraying of their country or their prince; some, to poisoning; more to the perverting of justice, in order to destroy the innocent, I hope I may be pardoned, if these discoveries inclined me a little to abate of that profound veneration, which I am naturally apt to pay to persons of high rank, who ought to be treated with the utmost respect due to their sublime dignity, by us their inferiors."
Swift's conception of a gutter political class may have been amazingly true in the Georgian era, and still now, but it is the electorate which perpetuates the creation of mediocre and moribund leaders by its own wickedness. It is, imperceptibly, in the gutter too, and from its grubby and slimy world is born those who will be captains. Can they, who are of the same mould, be radically different?
For instance, pompous members of society have an immense fondness for endless gushing about unity, but hardly feed the streams that succour it. Instead, the whispers in this coffeeshop and that tavern, so carelessly borne on the wind, betray the feelings of discord in the deepest depths of their hearts.
People are also afflicted by a terribly admirable condition, if not for the laughable brevity, of calling on leaders to do the right thing and not what's popular. Pilate, the governor of Judaea 2,000 years ago, was probably tempted to act justly and free an indisputably innocent Nazarene, but the people wanted his blood. So the Roman gave up and gave in.
In our time, the consumer society that we've become is fighting hard to retain subsidies and entitlements that surely help us a lot, and hurt us too. But if governments and their foes the world over look beyond preservation of power to preservation of man, the right decisions may be made on these overused social prescriptions.
Alas, the electorate will not permit this, and the governments that dare to educate them are surely to be defeated.
The point is obvious. People themselves many-a-time are quite unwilling to do the right thing, in their personal and public lives, but expect to have political leaders who transcend politics at all times.
So, which comes first, the immoral and amoral leader or citizen? Does the question matter, seeing how both have a lock on the affairs of the world? Both are craven and will rather mouth platitudes and flee than give up an ounce of flesh, for anything.