Sunday, 1 May 2011

Editorial - Spinoza May 1/2011

Voter Insolence – The Consequences and Solutions   

     What are we citizens proclaiming when we elect an executive to rule over us?  If the process unfolds according reason, that executive will act as the best example of national citizenry.  After all, a state prospers the most when it acts in accordance to the will of the citizenry.  We the citizens are the caretakers of our imprecise national definition.  As such, we have the duty to insist that our executive reflect our national wishes.  Since human minds often linger between ideas of many actions and consequences, democracy affords the state the same flexibility in identity inherent in individuals.  This flexibility affords our country the ability to adapt, evolve and progress as we the citizens see fit.  As subjects to the right of common wealth, we must assert that our nation be guided upon reason.  It must be this way because free people will only submit to the evidence of reason to counter their own passions.  Thus, the law becomes the only equalizer between citizens.  It is the only way for society to aspire to a peace for all citizens of the common wealth.   How else will a man resist his own passions and self-interest?  How else is he to expect protection from another man’s passions or self-interest?  This reality necessitates that people submit to the common wealth, yet we are not powerless as subjects.   We citizens are subject to but also the defenders of the common wealth. After all, if the aim of our civil society is to promote an existence of harmony between citizens, or peace, then our common wealth must be upheld by reason.  The law is our only defence against those with greater power of authority who wish to alter the course of not only our state, but of our very lives and futures as well. 
     There is a sinister power that looms over the horizon.  The enemies of reason are on the march.  They rightly understand that necessity for a harmony of citizens in a civil society is natural for all citizens.   However, their vision of unity is abhorrent of reason.  Law based upon reason, again is the only equalizer between men.  Yet, for them it is merely another obstacle in the path of their lust for authority.  The first of course being that annoyance to all power mongers, the power and right of every person whom they wish to control.  The problem for us is, they are much more aware and afraid of our power then we are capable of understanding how to use it positively.  Our citizenry has become a predictable machine.   Its vigour is breaking down and the functioning of the elements of our common wealth is strained to a point where a collapse is not imminent but it might be inevitable.  The ones in authority are delighted.  We are apparently content in our present situation.  As we come closer to selecting a new executive, citizens know these same old machinations are once again in process.  Yet they do nothing!

     Enter the incumbent and his strategy of divide and conquer.  The easiest way to gain authority over fellow citizens is not through active persuasion and compromise.  Rather, it is to despoil the conversation entirely and render the process detestable in the minds of once diligent citizens1.  How else can he explain the sheer contempt shown towards the intelligence of citizens?  He has withdrawn from public debate2.  He refuses compromise as a legitimate avenue of discourse despite the fact that he has no mandate to demand such absolutism3.  He engages in misinformation about himself and his opponents4.   It is as though the history of one’s record counts for nothing and the singularity of a message for the future is sufficient evidence for a renewed mandate of authority.  We are expected to believe this is legitimate discourse.  If this power is in fact legitimate, I liken it to my legitimate right to force a table to eat grass. It may exist legitimately in my mind, but in reality, it is absurd.  Both instances are abhorrent to reason.  Is one any less ridiculous than the other is?  If guidance by reason stands as the only way to create a level field between citizens, it should stand that guidance by irrationality seeks to create inequalities between citizens.  And if our process is hijacked by irrationality, it follows that rational citizens will withdraw from an arena which affords them no power.  In a state as benevolent as ours, we are afforded such luxury.  But when all reasonable parties have left the arena, we are left with a terrifying spectre.  The enemies of reason drive us out of our rightful spaces.  They use irrationality and contempt for intelligence as their weapons of choice. Worse, because they win, their opponents mirror their strategy in hopes of impersonation thus spiralling the process out of the control of the rational citizen5.      

            Citizens do not be afraid!  We are not required to continue along such a tangent.  Although the incumbent attempts to frighten us into submission, he has made one grave miscalculation.  He believes that we obey out of fear.  As such he makes arguments against reason in order to strike terror in our hearts so that we may elect him to save us6.   Our obedience is not wrought through fear of punishment but rather through the dishonour that should accompany disobedience.  If our common wealth disengages from the duties of citizenship, it is because we believe that our citizenship is no longer reflected in those duties.  We are not abdicating our right because we are afraid.   No matter the justification, the danger of this reality is all too apparent.  The vacuum left by the citizens’ departure becomes the property of the enemies of reason and the common wealth.  Their lust for power comes at the expense of ours.  Our citizenry snakes away cowardly from the political arena just as the real serpents tighten their coils around our liberty. A wise man once said, ‘a commonwealth whose peace depends on the sluggish spirit of its subjects who are led like sheep to learn simply to be slaves can more properly be called a desert than a commonwealth1.’   I for one do not want to live in a barren political wasteland.  I prefer my common wealth instead.  Which would you like to live in?   

JBSpinoza – PSQR –



1. Baruch Spinoza. Tractus Politicus (1677). Chapter 5: Section 4.   

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