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…)
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.
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.
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.