People who wouldn't dare put anything short of symbolic political control on the hands of the people (i.e. the general public) stroll down the corridors of power in search of their next enemy, the next scapegoat that will either get them out of trouble or make the people fear their country is in trouble, thus ceding any freedom or power they have left to the people at the top of the nation's power pyramid.
The people want, and need, a leader; a leader wants power. That's the natural order of human governance. Political leaders will cover up their blunders with anything they can — deceive the public, rig elections, create imagined or exaggerated enemies — just to get their greedy hands on more of the controls.
Fear the power
Fear and democratic, representative government (except one well on its way to being an autocracy) can be a dangerous concoction, spreading potent irrationality into the forum for social and governmental debate, poisoning a nation-state, tilting the power balance, and empowering those who can exploit the fears of the public best, and can get away with it.
Fear can unite or divide, depending on how the government's cards are played, the condition of the public, and the enemies they think they face, as hyped up by the government. Fear can be a motivating force (of course it depends what it motivating people to do), or something that makes people (feel) helpless, i.e. a debilitating force. Sometimes the use of fear can even backfire, which is probably what would happen if America tried to use military pressure on Iran, evoking fears of invasion and proving to be a rallying cry for extremists against the US. In some cases the government makes an enemy of themselves, resulting in the people fearing their own government.
Beginnings and ends
Political machines — no stranger to the cronyism and unchecked power — are best served in a sea of fear, ignorance, irrationality, and/or apathy. They are like oil is to water when mixed with education, freedom, or truth. However, when enough injustice is felt by the people and an anti-establishment movement comes onto the scene, that machine might just be torn apart, if it doesn't implode on its own.
This is a post in my topical Ideas about Democracy series.
Tuesday, 21 August 2007