Monday, November 5, 2018


"Demagogue: a political leader in a democracy who gains popularity and seeks support by appealing to and exploiting popular desires, prejudice and ignorance among the common people rather than by using rational argument and reasoned deliberation; demagogues overturn established customs of political conduct, or promise or threaten to do so; synonyms include rabble-rouser, agitator, soapbox orator, firebrand, fomenter, provocateur.

Demagoguery is the one fundamental flaw in democracy: because power is held by the people, it is possible for the people to give that power to someone who appeals to the lowest common denominator of a large segment of the population. Demagogues usually advocate immediate, forceful action to address a national crisis while accusing moderate and thoughtful opponents of weakness or disloyalty. Modern demagogues include Adolf Hitler and Joseph McCarthy.  Techniques include scapegoating, fear mongering, lying, emotional oratory and personal charisma, accusing opponents of weakness and disloyalty, promising the impossible, violence and physical intimidation, personal insults and ridicule, vulgarity and outrageous behaviour, folksy posturing, gross oversimplification and attacking the news media."

Reputedly Abraham Lincoln was not considered a good looking man. Rather his features were harsh and somewhat distorted. Yet he stands for what is best in American politics.

As easy as it is to be jaundiced when reflecting upon political ambition (and the fabled renditions of it) I am generally persuaded that Lincoln's reputation surpassed what I suspect is the purely mythical appeal of Davy Crockett (1786 - 1836) - the "King of the Wild Frontier" for example.

The upcoming mid-term elections in the United States of America on Tuesday, November 6, 2018 are being touted as a game changer of Olympic proportions.

"2018 elections in the United States will be held on Tuesday, November 6, 2018, except for certain special elections. All these races, whether for a federal, state, or local office, are being administered by the individual state and local governments instead of at the national or federal level. Voters will be choosing members of Congress - 35 senators and all 435 members of the House of Representatives - as well as 36 state governors and dozens of local legislative officials. The elections matter because both houses of Congress are currently controlled by President Trump's Republican Party. If Democrats take back control of the House or the Senate, they could severely limit what he can do in the final two years of his term. In the House, analysts predict dozens of seats could change hands and the majority of these are currently held by Republicans."

The peculiar thing about this impending and largely abstract event is that it oddly reflects what is for most of us at the very heart of our existence - namely, a potential conflict between what we want and what we believe we should do. Speaking for myself at least I can say unequivocally that the contest between winning and what is right is not always an easy matter. Suppressing what we metaphorically call the animal instinct in each of us is at times a serious challenge. The suggested difference is one between the visceral and the cerebral. On the political scale that difference sometimes translates into a disparity between the masses and the aristocracy.  To pretend that the social distinction does not exist in modern society is utter pretence in my opinion. This does not however mean that I equate education and money with equality; but it certainly opens the gates for possible differences between levels of communication and relationships, maybe even intellect and gut (a distinction from which no one is spared in the end).  If anything perhaps the upshot is that we must all be careful to inspire in ourselves the higher human goals than the potentially lesser animal behaviour.

Allowing ethereal principles to insinuate our fundamental voting right is a leap of faith in addition to being a potential retail mistake. Pragmatism is always a ready foil to the complications of ideology and standards. If however we permit ourselves to be governed by the immediacy of satisfaction (whatever that may constitute at the moment) we also imperil the resurrection of our higher creeds and tenets.  There is a point at which winning and being right have less value than the possible advantage of doing what is right. This naturally entails a consideration of the concerns of people other than oneself, a posture which can erode and fracture alliances on many planes (not the least of which is our personal appearance and self-worth).

The argument in favour of righteousness is in the result more likely to be both palatable and reliable. There is very little that sustains purely egregious conduct for self-satisfaction. Nor do I view the debate as plainly altruistic; there is no value in being a foolish hero.  More importantly there is no value in seeing the world through such narrow eyes that one is blinded to the appeal of life's majesty. The elevation of human worth is an ambition which surpasses personal gratification, not some whimsical hoity-toity agenda. The paradox is that ultimately what we do for others, we also do for ourselves.

Whether Americans like it or not they are on the threshold of demonstrating their moral strength, the fibres of which have lately been under attack and considerable national and international scrutiny. The entire world is watching, waiting to see whether this crucible of democracy will rise to the occasion and dignify demagoguery as it was in Ancient Greece and Rome - a leadership which espoused the cause of the common people. To separate the rich from the poor, the educated from the uneducated, the white from the coloureds, the Christians from the heathens, the good from the bad, the best from the deplorables is an unfair and unfortunate characterization of the American population. All families have disagreements.  All people encounter conflict. I maintain my faith in Americans and in the direction that they will follow and the propositions by which they will be guided.

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