Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Once - The Cradle of the Rights of Man

Picture a country at the height of its international power and prestige. It has military forces stationed around the globe. It is an intellectual leader. Its citizens are pleased to insist that the national idea, their country's way of life, is a beacon of enlightenment and human rights for the rest of the world. Indeed, they are wont to harp on the notion that the country embodies the very concept of Western Civilization.

But beneath the fa├žade of greatness there is creeping rot. The rich (who are accustomed to getting their way in all things) corrupt the system and buy the people's representatives in this venerable democracy. The country lurches towards political polarization and, predictably, the machinery of orderly governance becomes gridlocked. The politicians of the right, who take every opportunity to bellow for increased spending on the military, refuse to raise the revenues to pay for it. Why?

Because the wealthy citizens who happen to own these representatives refuse to pay a single cent in additional income taxes. Their class solidarity as alleged "'job creators"' who are owed unconditional deference outweighs their loyalty to the nation at large. They successfully demand that even the crushing expense of a long war should be paid for by loans from abroad (the interest payments on which merely add to the expense) rather than by direct taxes from those citizens best able to afford them. Naturally, a growing share of the population develops a visceral sense that the system is rigged.

There is worse to come. There gradually coalesces a bitterly reactionary political alliance between the plutocratic rich; a retrograde religious Right seeking to roll back the secular state; hidebound militarists; and the species of glib, pseudo-intellectual malcontents who are drawn to political extremism like iron filings to a magnet. They all seek a purported restoration of a country that never existed: a pious, socially harmonious nation where everybody else knows their place. The political groupings of the center and left, on the other hand, are dithering, irresolute, and have not the courage of their own alleged convictions.

In that country, the native plutocracy, and the corrupt reactionary politicians who did its bidding, refused to act as citizens bound in patriotic duty to give as well as take. They meanly betrayed the majority of their countrymen and left the nation - once the world's inspiration as the cradle of the rights of man - a squalid dictatorship.

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