“Render unto Caesar. . .”
Almost from the beginning of humanity, we have been divided into two groups; those who are ruled and those who do the ruling. We have seen various forms of ruling from monarchs to emperors, dictators to tribal chiefs. Some achieved power by conquest others by subterfuge. Some simply inherited it while others were elected in a fashion although the process was usually anything but democratic considering that most people could not vote.
The relationship between the ruler and the ruled was synergistic in that the ruler required the support of a significant group within the population to maintain power. Without that support he – or sometimes she – could be removed from their position often in a somewhat unpleasant manner.
For their part, the ruled looked to the ruler for security, social stability and good governance. Typically, it was that last bit that tended to get in the way of harmonious relationships between the two.
In virtually every case, however, political power came down to one person – the ruler and it was the ruler by virtue of his or her position that made law, levied taxes and ultimately decided the success or failure of a society.
The Roman Emperors, called Caesar, perfected this concept but it was a part of every society large and small whether the ruler was called King, Queen, Czar, Emperor, Dictator, Fuehrer, Chairman Ayatollah or Shaw.
Inevitably conflict would arise between the ruler and the ruled as the productivity of a society was harvested more for the benefit of those who ruled than for society as a whole. In most cases, the ruler was supported and protected by various forms of supporters from the Praetorian Guard which protected the Caesars in the Roman Empire to the SS which protected Hitler.
Ultimately, the people would either convince the ruler to meet their demands for better representation or in the alternative; they would rise up and usually after a few failed attempts, would tear down whoever was ruling at the time.
Unfortunately, the people (who seem to have very short memories) would often replace one failed ruler with another.
We, of course, have outgrown that. We are democratic nations now in full control of our destinies by virtue of regular elections. Today we are ruled by Prime Ministers, Premiers, Governors and Presidents only we prefer to think of ourselves as being governed.
In effect, however, we have simply streamlined the process of conferring power on someone because the power to govern ultimately still comes down to one person – the leader of whichever political party wins the election. In Canada, we don’t even get to elect that person to their office despite what the simple-minded at Sun News Network like to think. The Prime Minister and Premiers are elected by the people in a single constituency and only ascend to their office by the grace of having won leadership of their party.
Nonetheless, we have deluded ourselves into believing that we are no longer ruled but rather, through democracy, have government by the people for the people.
We are wrong.
We have very little say in how our nations are governed. Governments are elected, a new Caesar crowned and the promises made in the election are shelved as he or she assumes the true business of being ruler – maintaining power.
Nothing else is as important to those who either lust for power or who have it than acquiring or maintaining it. The Praetorian has been replaced by political advisors and strategists whose only focus is to protect the ruler. They will lie, trample process, the law and even our constitutions in order to carry out their function. Through it all, they operate in such a way as to provide the ruler with plausible deniability for when their malfeasance and manipulation goes public as it did in Canada’s Senate Scandal and the recent revelations regarding New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Rulers and their parties look on the people as merely a conduit to win or maintain power and a continual source of revenue to operate. Election promises are meaningless, common sense public policy is replaced by selective pandering to special interest and in the end, it is little more than a benign four or five year dictatorship.
Ideologies are merely words and values are reduced to campaign slogans. One political party is the same as another and they are all as corrupt as an Caesar and often more inept than many kings.
Taxes are too high because tax money is squandered on mismanaged, poorly conceived programs. Infrastructure is crumbling because the money we pay in taxes to maintain it is wasted on programs designed to get rulers re-elected. Our constitutions, our rights and even our ability to go about our daily lives without interference are being eroded by dishonest conduct and an overwhelming amount of regulation on virtually everything we do.
The new Caesars and their governments dither and divide their time between absurd trivia like the recent Ontario Liberal Government’s new legislation requiring barbers to go back to school to learn how to become hair stylists and the grandiose like yet another war memorial.
And all the while, unemployment remains static, poverty levels are a disgrace, our health care system in Canada is crumbling almost as fast as our infrastructure and in the United States has become an unbelievable mess of confusion and unnecessary distress and expense.
We, the people, delude ourselves into believing that it is all the fault of one political group over another and we choose sides but deep down inside, we all know the truth because almost all of us suffer from a form of cognitive dissonance – that state where our beliefs and values are in conflict with reality. It leads to a state of emotional discomfort often manifesting itself in anger and frustration.
And there is a lot of cognitive dissonance around these days as those we support conduct themselves in similar fashion to those we oppose betraying our values and the values we thought they upheld in the beginning. Having chosen a side, many feel the need to defend in those they support what they condemn in those they oppose.
Conservatives who condemned Justin Trudeau for his admission of smoking a joint with friends are reduced to trying to mitigate Rob Ford’s admission to smoking marijuana, crack and binge drinking while mayor. In the end, even his most virulent supporters know that Rob Ford violated their trust and values and brought disrepute to his office. It is the desperate attempt to rationalize his behaviour compared to Justin Trudeau’s that results in cognitive dissonance.
Our unwillingness to defend values rather than individuals is no different than those who follow a flawed cult leader or who supported a King or a Fuehrer despite his despotic betrayal of rights and values.
In the end, elected they may be, but fiddling Caesars they remain and only because we allow it. We are their willing subjects who trade independence, self-reliance and our values for security and the illusion of stability.
As history has shown repeatedly – it is a poor trade.
© 2013 Maggie’s Bear
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