In Politics, Do Not Give Your Emotion A Preference

It’s election time. According to the Irish Times, the multitude of identical faces appearing on lampposts is ‘comforting evidence’ of ‘vibrant and fully engaged democratic structures‘. As a person on Twitter noted, one can only imagine the elation the Irish Times editorial team might feel when confronted with the evidence of such structures on a visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

There, people have refined democracy to such a degree that not only is there no need for continuous and widespread citizen participation in all areas of political life, there is no need for complete delegation of such participation to a range of representatives elected once every four years. Indeed, such is the perfection of vibrant and fully engaged democratic structures in North Korea that this wasteful need for a range of representatives has been replaced by the decision taken collectively and continuously by the People to place their trust in the Dear Leader.* And there are posters of him everywhere, showing how well these structures work.

To me this model of democracy is a lot more practical and pragmatic than the model where we should have elections. The problem with elections is that people say things on posters. Not just things, but sometimes bad things, and things that are not true. Personally I prefer candidates who make no claims on their posters, because that way, you are unlikely to be misled about what you are going to get. Or, if they’re going to write things, let it be at least pure information based on fact.

Think Local, Fact Local.

Think Local, Fact Local.

See this example above. Local Man, Local Issues, Vote For Local Youth. All of this information is true. He is a Local Man, even if he does look like he is about to launch a March on Rome. And they are Local Issues, like sports facilities. We won’t have any trouble around here with issues from other places. And, since the sports facilities are for the youth, who are Local, and the sports facilities are going to be located Locally, this is an excellent example of a set of factual and logically consequential statements that do not seek to rouse the vile passions of the ignorant mob, or, what would be worse, use emotive language.

The only criticism I would make here is the way Brian Dennehy is his wingman. It would have been better for the candidate to make it explicitly clear that the Brian Dennehy in question is NOT the American made-for-TV actor Brian Dennehy, but a Local. Unless in fact he really is that Brian Dennehy, in which case he should specify that he is.

Brian Dennehy: Local?

Brian Dennehy: Local?

The danger of making it seem like Brian Dennehy the made-for-TV actor is your running mate is that it could excite the vile passions of the ignorant mob, whose understanding of basic matters of law and order comes from watching afternoon courtroom dramas, frequently starring Brian Dennehy as a lawyer or a judge getting a mother accused of murdering her children off the hook. So this could generate false hopes among the rabble. The best you can hope for is that they ask themselves why Brian Dennehy is standing for election as a local candidate in Balbriggan, and how this might be possible, and conclude that, in fact, no, it is not possible. As I say, we live in hope.

For me the best kind of politics happens when emotion is kept out of things, and things are based on solid facts. Let me give you an example. There was this one time I stood in a hospital corridor and there was a patient lying on a trolley, moaning in pain about something. Some of her family arrived. They were getting emotional. They were cursing the government. I said, this is not logical. We need to focus on the facts. The deficit has to come down. We are contractually bound by this. That means cutting the health budget. That means adverse consequences for people like you. It is all very well for you to howl about your personal predicament but this does not change the fact that this is the best thing in the national interest.

The family started spouting populist nonsense about how the rich were getting away with murder, with no appreciation of how there was a need to make the country more competitive. She continued howling, so I gave her a Vulcan nerve pinch.

The simple fact is, all the political possibilities available to us are contained within campaign literature. There is no need to think about what is going on in your life, in your workplace, your housing estate, or in your local hospital or school. Too much involvement in these things is illogical.

In my experience there are far too many people who try and get political in these areas, and they say things because they feel strongly about them, and not because they are objects of scientific interest. I believe we should take a more measured and pragmatic approach to things. It is a matter of reading these leaflets carefully once every four years, and making our choice.

If we make the wrong choice, it proves that our rulers are smarter than us. That is democracy. It is only once we have evolved our powers of scientific and democratic reason to the degree that everything can be delegated to a single leadership figure that we will have got the democracy we deserve.

*A correspondent writes: ‘Actually, there are regular ‘elections’ in North Korea to the Supreme People’s Assembly, which the same people always seem to win’. I accept this. Things are not perfect in even North Korea, yet.

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