The Aristocracy Returned

You know, the first thing that went through my head when the news erupted with the William Jefferson mess was the bit in Animal Farm where the pigs learn to walk on their hind legs:

There was a deadly silence. Amazed, terrified, huddling together, the animals watched the long line of pigs march slowly round the yard. It was as though the world had turned upside-down. Then there came a moment when the first shock had worn off and when, in spite of everything — in spite of their terror of the dogs, and of the habit, developed through long years, of never complaining, never criticising, no matter what happened — they might have uttered some word of protest. But just at that moment, as though at a signal, all the sheep burst out into a tremendous bleating of —

‘Four legs good, two legs better! Four legs good, two legs better! Four legs good, two legs better!’

A representative is believed to be taking significant amounts of bribes. The FBI file a request for a warrant, they get the warrant. And then they find the evidence they expected to find all along. Some 90,000 dollars hidden in a freezer. A corrupt government official, a man who did not represent his constituency or the people of the united states, but merely his own pocketbook. Outrage, now one would definitely expect outrage over this. And indeed that’s what we saw, from both the people and the government.

What we couldn’t expect is that while our ire was (rightly) directed at Jefferson–and at corruption in the legislature at large–our supposedly representative officials had taken umbrage that one of their own was treated like an ordinary citizen. Note that, one of their own. They reacted not as stewards of our will and desire, but as people in power. A ruling class. As Hastert, Santorum, and Boehner raise their voices in objection, they also herald in all-too-certain terms that they see themselves as above us. I’m particularly upset about Boehner. The man certainly seemed to have integrity and be serious about reform. It’s why I gave my thumbs up to him way back in the day.

But I guess it should come as no surprise that the only time we ever seem to have bipartisan support for a bill is when it has to do with government privilege. Continued hidden earmarks? Pay raises? Perks? Immunity? Might as well send it to committee. But even when an overwhelming majority of American citizens support such things as a hardline stance on border control or a simplification of the tax code, nothing ever happens. Likely never will.

Of course, none of these observations or thoughts are anything particularly new. But it’s nice when something you’re fairly certain of is writ large for all to see. And as a behavioral ecologist, I shouldn’t be surprised. I’m not surprised at the fact that congress seeks to serve themselves. What I’m surprised by is how brazen they’ve gotten. To so openly declare that they should have immunity from the law, that they should be able to get away with taking a bribe in order to not do their job.

But more than that, that they would offer up such a pathetic justification as ‘separation of powers’. These people increase the scope of the federal government every day they’re in office: This, more than anything else, has become their job. More Federal money to their state, to the people who donate to them, to the people who bribe them. And considering they are the ones who vote on the budget and taxation, it’s not such a difficult thing to increase taxes so everyone (or at least the aristocrats) win.

Legislators see themselves as above us. They believe they shouldn’t be treated as ‘ordinary citizens’. And like the feudal lords of old, they see citizens as merely serfs. Sources of power and nothing more. Republican? Democrat? All the same. All power-mongers, all insincere, all parasites.

The moral of the story? I try to visit India every couple of years. The mosquitos down in the southern part are killer. Literally. So when I was a kid we used to use this extremely strong smell menthol-ish repellant. And it worked darned well. But if you missed a spot, you’d invariably be bitten, no matter how small the uncovered area was. Parasites are good at finding openings, and the more they find, the more they’ll take. A big government is like a bare spot the size of your back. Not the best idea. This recent mess has shown that whether we’re talking about a ‘selfeless’ Democratic or ‘small governemnt’ Republican elected official, what we really have is someone who will suck you dry given half the chance. So don’t give them that chance.

Government represents nothing more than the sovereignty that you surrender. The more power you give to others in the form of government, the more power they can use against you.

And I’ll end with another excerpt from Animal Farm:

But they had not gone twenty yards when they stopped short. An uproar of voices was coming from the farmhouse. They rushed back and looked through the window again. Yes, a violent quarrel was in progress. There were shoutings, bangings on the table, sharp suspicious glances, furious denials. The source of the trouble appeared to be that Napoleon and Mr. Pilkington had each played an ace of spades simultaneously.

Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

  • Eric

    Nice, especially considering the underlying theme of Animal Farm, “revolution betrayed”. You might say that the 20th century in the USA, especially since, say, 1934, is the story of the American Revolution betrayed. Too bad Orwell chose to tell the story of the betrayal of a socialist revolution rather than a liberal revolution. Of course, it turns out that the themes remain the same, power, aggrandizement, class, corruption.

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  • James

    Great post and you goot alove the Animal Farm reference. Orwell was truly a visionary. Its time for the serfs to march to the castle with their pitchforks.