15 November 2010

Power Divided

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15 November 2010. Here are some musings on the recent US mid-term elections. Power in Washington, DC is now divided up.
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US politics bores me to death more and more as I see the same historical cyclic re-runs, decade after decade, with only name changes among the actors and parties. In longer historical views, it is the same. But in the overall philosophical view, I remain “cynically optimistic” about humanity’s future. I have hopes that someday, long after my own lifespan is over, humans may outgrow the perverse love of political power – much as the childhood bully finally grows up by learning to leave people alone and in peace (unless, of course, that bully grows up to be a politician, in which case he makes bullying a lucrative career).
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Power in the US federal government is now divided up between the major parties, and that is always good, no matter who the particular players of the moment are. The division of political power is always better than a monopoly hold of power by one party or faction, and this holds true regardless of which party has been in power, whether it is the “liberals,” conservatives, Republicans, Democrats, etc. When one party holds all the reins of power, they commit mischief and grievous harm.
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Stripped to essentials, the perennial political issue is Liberty versus Power, and the seductiveness of Power always gives it the advantage. (“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” said Lord Acton.)
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Politicians of any stripe, while they take their turn as the minority opposition position in the cycle, will at that time express their most radical libertarian rhetoric. But the moment they gain any portion of power they arrogantly wield it and then some other individuals, from opposing factions or parties, lose liberties. As the astute songwriter for The Who, Pete Townshend, once put it: “Meet the new boss, Same as the old boss.” (See his full lyrics, below, to “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”)
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The only thing saving real people from complete authoritarian domination by their government is this ongoing in-fighting amongst the power-grabbers, a kind of competition for the votes of a people not yet completely cowed – that, and a solid Constitution which somewhat chains down the monster of Power.
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Won’t Get Fooled Again by Pete Townshend
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“We’ll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet,
And the morals that they worship will be gone.
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgment of all wrong.
They decide and the shotgun sings the song.
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[chorus]
“I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution,
Take a bow for the new revolution,
Smile and grin at the change all around,
Pick up my guitar and play,
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray,
We won’t get fooled again.
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“The change, it had to come,
We knew it all along,
We were liberated from the fold, that’s all.
And the world looks just the same,
And history ain’t changed,
‘Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war.
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[chorus]
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“I’ll move myself and my family aside,
If we happen to be half left alive.
I’ll get all my papers and smile at the sky,
Though I know that the hypnotized never lie,
Do ya?
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“There’s nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me.
And the slogans are replaced, bye-and-bye.
And the parting on the left
Are now the parting on the right,
And the beards have grown longer overnight.
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[chorus]
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“Meet the new boss,
Same as the old boss.”
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[~lyrics by Pete Townshend ~ Performed by The Who~]
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