POLITICAL ANIMAL

“When we survey our lives and endeavours, we soon observe that almost the whole of our actions and desires is bound up with the existence of other human beings. We notice that our whole nature resembles that of the social animals. We eat food that others have produced, wear clothes that others have made, live in houses that others have built. The greater part of our knowledge and beliefs has been communicated to us by other people through the medium of a language which others have created. Without language our mental capacities would be poor indeed, comparable to those of the higher animals; we have, therefore, to admit that we owe our principal advantage over the beasts to the fact of living in human society. The individual, if left alone from birth, would remain primitive and beastlike in his thoughts and feelings to a degree that we can hardly conceive.” – Albert Einstein, 1934.
Geoff Haselhurst, a philosopher of science, in June, 2007 has written, although people like to use the term democracy to describe our own government the truth is that they are not really democratic. The political system is actually a complex mix of ruler (president / prime minister), oligarchy (ministers / senators, academic policy advisers, government bureaucrats and large corporations), and the masses (democracy). There is clearly an interplay of all three groups that ultimately determines policy.
So the ruler has limited powers and is influenced by an oligarchy of advisers who jointly try to manipulate the masses with political spin – but they also have to get votes so they do poll the masses and this affects their policies.
The central problem is that truth and reality are not significant factors in the current system. The solution is not to try and change the system, but to change the knowledge foundations within the existing system such that truth and reality become the central factors in determining government policy.
It is also clear that truth and reality are critical foundations for humans to think and act wisely. Disagreement comes from our (mis)conceptions of truth and reality. How can humans live together? The world has grown smaller and more humans are forced to live together. The problem is larger, more acute and more complicated than it was when ancient philosophers first looked at it. How in particular can a top-dog and an under-dog be made to live together?
By nature man is a political animal. Hence man have a desire for life together, even when they have no need to seek each other’s help. Nevertheless, common interest too is a factor in bringing them together, in so far as it contributes to the good life of each. The good life is indeed their chief end, both communally and individually; but they form and continue to maintain a political association for the sake of life itself. Perhaps we may say that there is an element of good even in mere living, provided that life is not excessively beset with troubles. Certainly most men, in their desire to keep alive, are prepared to face a great deal of suffering, as if finding in life itself a certain well-being and a natural sweetness.
For the real difference between humans and other animals is that humans alone have perception of good and evil, just and unjust, etc. It is the sharing of a common view in these matters that makes a household and a state.
It is clear that those constitutions which aim at the common good are right, as being in accord with absolute justice; while those which aim only at the good of the rulers are wrong.
Thus it is thought that justice is equality; and so it is, but not for all persons, only for those that are equal. Inequality also is thought to be just; and so it is, but not for all, only for the unequal. We make bad mistakes if we neglect this ‘for whom’ when we are deciding what is just. The reason is that we are making judgements about ourselves, and people are generally bad judges where their own interests are involved. So we must lay it down that the association which is a state exists not for the purpose of living together but for the sake of noble actions.
Then, when a large number of men of similar virtue became available, people no longer tolerated one-man rule but looked for something communal, and set up a constitution. But the good men did not remain good: they began to make money out of that which was the common property of all. And to some such development we may plausibly ascribe the origin of oligarchies, since men made wealth a thing of honour. The next change was to tyrannies, and from tyrannies to democracy. For the struggle to get rich at all costs tended to reduce numbers, and so increased the power of the multitude, who rose up and formed democracies. And now that there has been a further increase in the size of states, one might say that it is hard to avoid having a democratic constitution. Desire is like a wild beast, and anger perverts rulers and the very best of men. Hence law is intelligence without appetition.
Democracy exists whenever those who are free and are not well-off, being in the majority, are in sovereign control of government, an oligarchy when control lies with the rich and better-born, these being few.
(Karene Howie at spaceandmotion.com)
“A big part of our problem is that politicians are elected for only a few years at a time. In that time, they have to provide benefits that can be seen quickly, like construction jobs, new factories and shopping malls. Since social and environmental problems take years to be revealed and just as long to be averted, different politicians will be around to take the credit or the blame when they become critical. So people elected into office find themselves naturally concentrating on short-term fixes, like helping a pulp-and-paper company open a new mill. They know they will be long gone by the time the effects of deforestation or dioxin contamination from that mill are felt by the public.”
(David Suzuki on Naked Ape to Superspecies)
“Any government is in itself an evil in so far as it carries within it the tendency to deteriorate into tyranny. However, except for a small number of anarchists, every one of us is convinced that civilized society cannot exist without a government. In a healthy nation there is a kind of dynamic balance between the will of the people and the government, which prevents its degeneration into tyranny. It is obvious that the danger of such deterioration is more acute in a country in which the government has authority not only over the armed forces but also over all the channels of education and information as well as over the economic existence of every single citizen.” – Albert Einstein, 1947.
“Our purpose in founding our state was not to promote the happiness of a single class, but, so far as possible, of the whole community. Our idea was that we were most likely to justice in such a community, and so be able to decide the question we are trying to answer. We are therefore at the moment trying to construct what we think is a happy community by securing the happiness not of a select minority, but of a whole.” – Plato.
“If you get, in public affairs, men who are so morally impoverished that they have nothing they can contribute themselves, but who hope to snatch some compensation for their own inadequacy from a political career, there can never be good government. They start fighting for power, and the consequent internal and domestic conflicts ruin both them and society. True indeed.
Is there any other life except that of true philosophy which looks down on political power? None that I know of.
And yet the only men to get power should be men who do not love it, otherwise we shall have rivals’ quarrels. That is certain.
Who else, then, are we to compel to undertake the responsibilities of ruling, if it is not to be those who know most about good government and who yet value other things more highly than politics and its rewards? There is no one else” – Plato.
(Karene Howie at spaceandmotion)

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