My kid and I were discussing politics the other night (yeah, imagine: me talking politics).
One of the things we looked at was the way politics has always been a subject expecting the responses “of the people” to questions concerning the conduct of governmental business done in their names. But, politics has always been a matter of displacement and distancing from its people. Unless you’re talking about the purely democratic action of nomads gathered around a campfire deciding the next area they’ll travel to and casting votes to determine the course of action next chosen, government has always been centralized.
People developed representative, republican type governments. They elected representatives for their individual and regionally collective positions on subjects (infrastructure, public works, taxes [if they were lucky], the costs and conduct of diplomacy and war and finally the development of law.
Monarchies failed and government morphed from representative bodies into legally enfranchised self-supporting bodies. As much as is possible for a large body it’s becoming self-consuming. When law was developed saying a corporation is an “individual”; government became a living, breathing, consumptive party at odds with the people originally commanding and participating in it. Government must self-sustain or it risks being ignored and anarchic.
Always, during the development of larger centralized government, there was a gathering place. Be it a campfire or the Acropolis, the Roman Senate, Parliament or Congress, the representatives came together at one place. They debated, argued, schemed and plotted and then voted based on what they, the representatives knew best. This was all done far and away from the actual oversight of the people most affected by the law developed. The citizen no longer had any say in the proceedings. He couldn’t pull his representative off to the side and express his dissatisfaction with the proceedings. It was too cost prohibitive for the average citizen to travel to the “seat of power”.
Facts be known; the subject/citizen (S/C) had no seat at the table to begin with. He gave that up when he placed his trust in another man to do what he felt was best for him. The S/C understood nothing of compromise or concession and how it could affect him in the end run. He was effectively, terminally removed from his government and its direction. This continues today.
Ultimately the wealthy controlled government. Only those with sufficient funds could participate. The average guy couldn’t afford to stop his work to participate in government. Government developed into a class structure unto itself. The new class took privileges unto itself other classes couldn’t win. And, in the end result this class structure suffers no consequences for its action, inactions, malfeasance or criminal acts because they write the laws they’ll live under and hold the S/C in alignment with. They suffered almost no personal consequences for their actions for the most part. The army or civil police kept the government separated from and away from contact with displeased people. On rare occasions the people could threw rotted fruit and vegetables to express their discontent. They could go to the seat of government and protest. But, the consequences to the people could be life-threatening.
Today, we have the same problems: virtually no contact other than lame get-togethers and “town hall meetings” conducted when the representatives want to advertise how “hard” they’re working for the citizenry. It’s a matter of “speak so you may be forgotten”. They want to advertise for their next election in two (2) years. But, you’ll rarely see them inviting people to actually sit and watch their government inaction. C-Span and other gimmicks suggest we can see what’s happening, but in fact we only see what’s placed before the body. We don’t see the conduct and sell-outs agreed to behind closed doors. We don’t see the sausage made but must eat it no matter how distasteful it is. We now understand the progress of government and the effective use of distance and centralization to remove the people from self-determination.
But today, there’s technology could have earth-shaking consequences if employed properly for the benefit of the citizenry.
(Tomorrow: “tech-tonic” answers to participation.
Thanks for listening.