Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Government:: A Love Story

How does this relate to South Africa? Well, Africans, like Europeans, are monarchists at heart, but even more so. South African voters were entirely too easy to convince that government is the repository of all the freedoms that the citizens enjoy, the all-powerful benefactor that is necessary to preserve those freedoms. When freedom is translated into monetary terms, as the ANC has proven itself expert at doing, then true freedom is lost, and the meaning of democracy is subsumed into a kind of mob rule.

We Europeans are still Monarchists at heart. Our view of government is that it is merely an extension of our former tyrants, because historically, Democracy has come to us in dribs and drabs. Various reforms, liberalisations, and extensions of suffrage have led to our current parliamentary systems, and as such we find the American model of limited government so hard to comprehend.

The result is the European personification of government, whereby our representative bodies are given anthropomorphic characteristics reminiscent of the personalities that governed throughout much of European, and indeed, world history. To us, government is a parent, a strict headmaster, a nanny, someone to whom we address our supplications, wish to take care of our needs and sort out our petty squabbles.

In turn, we love our government and cannot let it go. It is Stockholm Syndrome writ large. Governments are like the gods of Olympus on whom we think we depend, whereas in reality it is our dependence on which they rely.

How else can we explain our so-called love of Freedom in the face of the steady and continuous relinquishing of responsibility to our political elites?

When we Europeans say we love Freedom, what we mean is, we love Freedom from other peoples' governments, but not Individual Freedom. How fast were the Irish, having controlled their own affairs for the first time ever, willing to submit to an all-powerful church-controlled State?

The American model is unique, but the philosophies that uphold it are not. In fact, most of them are European. The United States constitution is not designed to protect its citizens from foreign governments but from its own. All political power is held to be destructive, and the Constitution is designed to enable to country to function in spite of wingnuts in congress and idiots at the ballot box. And it works.

European countries are not so cautious. We see our governments as a person we can negotiate with, reason with (hence the large number of protests), a character who, although he has already laid down the rules, may just make an exception for us.

When government is a parent, be it father, mother, or both, then the inescapable conclusion is that we are its children. The net result in inevitable; endless squabbling and jostling for position as the favourite child. Sibling rivalry manifests itself in identity politics, where, although bedtime is 9pm, my group must for its own reasons be allowed to stay up till 10.

As a reward for following the rules, we are granted freedoms, maybe even pocket money, and certain "rights". Our rights do not inherently exist because of our own existence but because of the existence of the government that grants them.

To throw off these shackles is a Herculean task, not least because we need to question our own history and identity, but also because dependence (and codependence) is deeply ingrained in our collective psyche. Europeans arrogantly assert that America needs to step in line with the rest of the free world, Canada boasts of how European is its political culture, but in truth it is the rest of the free world that, if it wants to be free, must step into line with the United States.

1 Opinion(s):

FishEagle said...

Good observations