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Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Game

Dick Puddlecote's recent blog post, titled "Democracy Does Not Equal Freedom," has led to me thinking about the world we live in.  Just a little bit.  If I thought too much about it, I might actually be spurred in to action. And wouldn't that be something?  Anyway, I figure if you come to my blog, there's a 99% chance you've already read DP's post, but if you haven't, it's well worth your time. 

One line DP wrote particularly stands out for me:

"Democracy destroys altruism in governance and replaces it with naked self-interest backed up by a tyranny of the majority."

It's a great line. I agree with it in principle, but with sincere apologies to DP, I would gently and slightly modify it to:

"Democracy destroys the remote possibility of altruism in governance and replaces it with naked self-interest backed up by a tyranny of majority."

When altruism does reluctantly rear its head, it's nearly always to protect the survival of one or many whilst sacrificing your own chances of survival. In other words, you need to unselfishly risk your life or well-being to ensure that others will survive. Altruism is most often an instinctual reaction requiring little or no conscious thought or decision making.  And this, in my view, describes no politician that I know of. This does not mean that politicians are inherently duplicitous or even bad people. They are simply self-serving, like most of us are.

Any person who willingly enters the political arena initially out of genuine concern for others will be corrupted by the system as a matter of course.  Once the game begins in earnest, politicians fight for their own survival in the arena, and we citizens become their pawns -- sacrificial gambits on a geographical chessboard to further the politician's career.

When a politician utters "we must protect people from" whatever genuine or imaginary harm, what he or she is saying is: "I seek to convince you that I am genuinely interested in your well being, so long as this action does not hurt my political career."  They may indeed have genuine concern for some harmed group; there may even be sympathy. But this is not altruism.

Altruism cannot exist in any system of governance. Politics does not reward altruistic game players.  These concepts are incompatible.

Politics is a game of a million compromises and trade-offs. For the politician to win a victory for one battle often requires a sacrifice in a different battle. This is not altruism. It is advantage and leverage via the mechanism of compromise. Ideals must be abandoned, perhaps temporarily, and promises too often are broken.  Few politicians will survive in the arena with their integrity intact or unscathed.

There are far too many players in the political game; there are hundreds of thousands more standing on the sidelines awaiting their turn, with a near limitless amount of moves that can be played to effect control.  Ultimately, it is a game that can neither be won nor lost. It is a game of ego and power, of foolish bravado and insincere gestures. It is entirely a human construct and it is our greatest folly.

Yet with all the attention the political game receives, for all its players and its scandal-hungry spectators, it pales in comparison to the greatest game of all:  The game of life.  It has only one rule, and that rule is to survive.

Eventually, we are all sacrificed in the game of life, irrespective of how we played it.