Northern Dragon

… life in the twilight years of modern-day democracy …

The Grapes of Wrath

We live in a world of scarcity, of needs and wants and unfulfilled dreams. And we, ourselves, are the ones who made it that way. Not because it seemed good or wise to do so, but simply through ignorance – and a lack of caring.

We are the stewards of the world. And it has not prospered whilst in our care.

Nor, in fact, have we done all that well by ourselves. The gap between rich and poor is now at a level where Europe, at the time of the French revolution, looks positively socialistic by comparison: the three wealthiest people in the world today now own more than the poorest 48 nations combined! The top 1% owns more than half the total wealth of Earth.

Insanity by any other name…
(Though of course, if you should happen to be among the lucky top 1%, I am sure you would just consider it the natural ordering of the world and a justly deserved reward for… um… let me think a moment…)

Just reward?

Let us rewind the tape of history a couple of centuries. It’s late summer, 1789, and the Queen of France has heard rumours of unrest in Paris:

Envy is just such a despicable trait in people, isn’t it? I mean, it ain’t as if they are starving or anything, right?
Oh, they are?
How ghastly. But, darling, if they’re out of bread, surely they can just eat cake.

Today these words sound surreal. But the high aristocracy of the time – not only in France but throughout all of Europe – lived in a different world. A world of leisure, games, and effortless luxury, entirely estranged from the harsh reality of their countrymen.

And then, in the late summer months of 1789, Europe changed. Driven by hunger and fear and despair – and a deep sense of injustice – the citizens of Paris rose in bloody revolt against the outrage and overthrew their masters. A seminal incident in human history. For out of all that carnage and violence and destruction was born a new Europe. A Europe, baptised in blood, whose first, quivering breath was drawn to give voice to the cry of “liberty, equality, fraternity!” A Europe with a bright new promise to its miserable masses: democracy.

The idea of democracy was quite old; the ancient Greeks practised it – in a limited form – for a while, and it had been in the cultural ballast of Europe ever since. But it took the shock of extreme violence – and the beheadings of several thousand French aristocrats – for the ruling classes of Europe to come to grudgingly regard it as a valid and even useful form of political governance.

Useful?

Oh yes. With its implicit promise that the ordinary citizenry can move to elect a different government, whenever they feel dissatisfied, democracy would prove instrumental in keeping the populace quiet and tractable. Bread and circuses – as the Romans prescribed it – to keep the mob at bay. And an election now and then to let them vent their frustrations.

Safer, easier, and definitely better for both health and economy, to let the mob elect a new government now and then than to provoke another revolution like the French.

But if we allow this, how do we prevent the government from preying upon our wealth? How do we ensure that our interests are well served, that our privileges are preserved and honoured?

One can well imagine those thoughts, and others like them, passing through the collective mind of the ruling class at the time.

Do you know how they were answered?

Let’s fast-forward to the world anno 21st century…

We are still democratic.

Aren’t we?

Well, if we are … how come most of us are getting poorer by the year, while the 1% gets richer and richer and richer?

Did we really vote for that?

Northern Dragon © 2019. All rights reserved.

Categories: Reflection

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15 replies

  1. Well our promise land is near,we keep moving like iisreal .but thing we change when we get it right

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hmmm. One foresees another French Revolution in time, if we look at the big picture. But are we too civilized for that now? The masses are kept in ever more nullifying stupidity with fake news, endless entertainment, internet games, TV and social media fascinations. Will the poorer classes become less and less able to mount a revolution, or will this enhance the possibility of conflict?
    I am shocked at the wealth of the wealthiest. Will re-blog some of this on one of my Sunday commentary posts, if I may – with due credit to you, of course?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I will answer this in more detail later. For now – thank you, Forestwood! You raise interesting questions. 🙂 And yes, you are most welcome to reblog anything I post.
      I will appreciate the credit, certainly. But the awareness is more important than my personal gratification 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • Another French Revolution? I seriously doubt it – as long as things remain as they are now. Psychologically, it is difficult to mobilise people as long as their basic needs are met.

      https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/hide-and-seek/201205/our-hierarchy-needs

      Our modern, Western society today does make it relatively easy for most people to cover the lower two steps on the pyramid. When we speak of revolutions, they are the dangerous ones – people get really upset if they cannot get those fulfilled.

      And if you look at the next two steps of the pyramid, you will see a brilliant explanation of why mobile phones are so popular… The social networking enabled by those small, technological wonders, caters for both the social and the ego. Indeed: we build the world we live in – in our minds…

      That is not to say that we won’t have a lot of social unrest; we are sure to have that. But most people won’t participate, and without general participation, a revolution will surely fail. It’s more a matter of comfort than of civilisation. Indeed, I believe we have seen ample proof – even in recent times – that civilisation is but a relatively thin veneer on top of the human animal. But comfort… people are lazy and risk-averse. 😉

      Another question is: do we really need a revolution?
      I don’t think so. Or rather – let me rephrase that: I sure hope not! For a revolution would solve nothing, really – just put a new bunch of people in power after dismantling a lot of culture and society.

      What we need is more like a democratic uprising. And that might – just might – be possible…

      Liked by 1 person

      • A We Democratic uprising. How wonderful that would be. People power is often short lived, only the super passionate continue the passive protests. Yes, folks are generally lazy. I often think of Maslows heirarchy when explaining human behavior.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hi, as I read your conversations, I feel interested to share also my views from far away Philippines. As a country colonized by Spain for hundred of years, the Americans and Japanese occupations, revolution was engraved in the hearts of our heroes to attain democracy, thus it is of my opinion that revolution will continue to be part of the civilization as long as there is injustice and disparity of the resources. As long as greed is present, inequality always occurs and likely a revolution. We have toppled two Presidents in 2 EDSA People Power Revolutions – bloodless revolutions in the pursuit of freedom but until today, people continue to ask for it. People who are discontented continue to oppose any attempt to pursue government goals. “People power may be short lived” as Forestwood states, but the spirit will continue to be a guiding principle to the next generation. In the Philippines, the elite/Oligarchs continue to dominate in society – proven facts, after all as others say, that the golden rule is: “He who holds the gold, rules”. The same principle also applies in Europe. The French REvolution have change the worlds perspective of change. ….”the beheadings of several thousand French aristocrats –” as shared in this discussion is a painful truth in society. In reality, peace in the world are mostly achieved in the barrel of a gun. after all, the government will continue to exist in history the way how the people choose to. There’s no perfect government, only perfect demand – that’s greediness. and therefore, let us think, care and love one another – that’s humanity.

          Liked by 2 people

          • There’s no perfect goverment that is the truth. Democracy is a flawed beast. In some ways, it is amazing we can get it to work in practice at all. It is greed and control whose instruments are power and misuse of this that prevents it working as intended. It takes a morally virtuous person to resist the temptations of extending and abusing full control. Then when you finally gain it, you fear losing it and go to lengths to protect it. Northern Dragon has mentioned the quote, absolute power corrupts those who have it. A morally pure person is far too altruistic to seek absolute power, I think.

            Liked by 1 person

            • As you say, Amanda, democracy is a flawed beast indeed. And it takes constant care, to keep in shape ; something which we seem to have all but forgotten these days.
              The comment you made earlier, about the lack of actual whistleblower protection in Australia, is a point in case.

              Like

          • Aye, thank you Virgilio! I know altogether too little about the Philippines – and most of what you wrote is actually news for me – and I am most pleasantly surprised to know about the two bloodless revolutions you have had.

            It also means that I may have to re-evaluate my opinion about the possibility of revolutions in modern society. I had thought the Carnation Revolution in Portugal in 1976 to be an outlier, but … it might not have been.

            We live in an imperfect world. All the more reason to love and care for each other.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. A bloodless revolution? It is heartening that this is indeed possible. All credit to the Philipinos to manage two of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yeah, our bloodless revolutions happened in February 1986 when Filipinos can no longer accept the government run by a dictator, the late President Marcos. and in the year 2001, another President in the name of Joseph Estrada, the 3rd president after the fall of a dictator in 1986 under the guised of democracy also toppled after the people’s revolution. These revolutions are initiated by the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines with the support of the masses. It may not be a coincidence for a religious interference but those events in our history proved that we can always change government if democratic principles are trampled upon us. this part also of our history proved that government is not perfect because of an ongoing attempt of our government to change our constitution to a federal form. It is specifically aim to imitate the type of federal form in your country. Isn’t it ironic? we revolted to change our system but just like a computer or any computing device for that matter, we need to upgrade the system to suit the demands of time . And I realized, that as a nation, the blood of our heroes were emblemed in the books of our history to remind us that the freedom we enjoy today is expensive because it is written in blood before we established our democratic system from foreign invaders. And it is only incumbent upon us to take good care of it to sustain to the change of time. The topic initiated by Northern Dragon is timely because it reflects the kind of world we live today. And for me, our Filipino brand of revolution and the French Revolution signifies one thing – change! We struggle so much for our dreams and aspirations as a country of laws to achieve more for the benefit of the next generation. In our culture, I observed that brand of leadership is equality vital in the delivery of services. And today’s, Europe’s influence in the world stage is understandable. as a matter of fact, the Europian Union issued a resolution condemning the acts of our government to protect every rights and the rights of drug addicts and drug lords. from this perspective, I observed how government implements its laws and how Europe’s response to human rights issues. Moreover, in the course of time, whether a nation is big or small the revolution is indeed important to embrace freedom. It is not revolution to damage our culture and harmony but a revolution design to create a country founded by love, freedom and patriotic ideals.

    Liked by 1 person

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