A Tale of Men. Part III

by

Antigone

People like to talk about the “political landscape”. Like physical landscapes political ones can change dramatically under myriad, uncontrollable influences and in a very short space of time. An event beyond the horizon or too multifaceted to fully comprehend can change the landscape from calm to turbulent in a flash. Perhaps politics is not so much a landscape as a seascape, for like the sea it exists within an environment that is not only unpredictable but with often unfathomable depths.

We have computer screens today that show wind and rain fronts swirling across a continent at a million times their real speed. But these weather prediction artefacts are far from being an accurate snapshot. Rather they are predictive models based on an imprecise science and inadequate technology. In politics, too, predictive artefacts with the veneer of science (or just plain wishful thinking) are sometimes confused with reality or reliable outcomes.

To put it another way, it is always well to remember this: between a political act and its political consequence lies a hall of mirrors.

Jason was elevated to the throne at a time of great political changes, difficulties and setbacks for human beings on a world scale. The ending of a Cold War between rival world empires had led not to peace but to even worse outbreaks of murderous mass violence between national, racial and ethnic groups.

At the same time a worldwide revolution was gathering apace comparable in its effect on daily life to the invention centuries before of the spinning wheel and the plough. The very principle at the heart of an ever more interconnected economy – unrestrained pursuit of self-interest – affected everything and everyone. The understanding that all human beings and other species live in an eco-systemic environment, that “everything is in everything else; all is one”, was not new. But now more than ever this revolution was laying bare the universal effects of this truth – good and bad Some people, as always, preferred to ignore or deny these bad effects – or deliberately obfuscate them.

Throughout Jason’s reign the Kingdom had to deal with the repercussions of these mighty external events, not least on the Kingdom and its citizens.

Now, if Jason’s Kingdom may be likened to a boat it could be said for most of his reign it was a boat that was not sinking, but not sailing either. Rather, it was becalmed. After a long period of going nowhere and the frequent mending of damaged hulls, bailing out of excess water and contending with the loss of far too many precious sailors – through desertion, unsuccessful mutinies, and not unenjoyed spectacles of forcing crazed, hysterical, bitter, twisted, treacherous, hostile, cynical, demoralised, spiteful, recalcitrant, envious, stupid, apolitical provocateurs to “walk the plank” – it was decided Something Had To Be Done.

Eyewitness reporters and historians differ sharply on the motives behind the attempt, initially supported by the whole Kingdom, to create a political alliance with a series of other Kingdoms similar in size, composition, culture and political goals. Whatever the truth, the fact is the alliance was also a becalmed ship almost immediately it was launched.

The failure of the alliance over several long, exhausting years left a legacy of bitterness and even greater distrust and division among its component parts. And this began to affect the Kingdom too in serious but unforeseen ways. Most of the other Kingdoms claimed that the alliance was never intended to be a genuinely egalitarian one. Others accused Jason’s Kingdom of irrevocably damaging the alliance and any possibility of its success – or ongoing attractiveness to them – because of the cavalier and disrespectful way he and others were said to have operated within it.

Jason and a minority of the court eventually stated they’d come to the conclusion after several years of attempting to make the alliance float that it was simply misconceived as a viable political organisation, at least for the foreseeable future and should be abandoned rather than risk further damaging the Kingdom by draining its resources and demoralising its citizenry. They said that all was not lost however, because the alliance attempt had fatally weakened some of the other Kingdoms, which after all had been former rivals.

But now, an extraordinary and unprecedented thing occurred. Jason found himself in a minority on this question within the court and the Kingdom. Regardless of his and others repeated warnings and advice to the court and the whole Kingdom that a tactical retreat was necessary at the risk of greater losses – not least of disillusioned citizens – a majority with equal vociferousness opposed what they saw as a form of political cowardice. In the end, the unthinkable occurred. Jason was deposed as King by popular vote and replaced by Edward, a prominent (yes another alpha male, dear reader) courtier.

Jason and his supporters continued to fight for his political perspective, arguing that the majority was hell-bent on a course that would effectively destroy the Kingdom. Edward and the majority court (supported by a majority of the citizens) turned ever more viciously on Jason and his side. The majority have ruled, they said; we won you lost; we are right, you are wrong. Cease and desist or leave the Kingdom forever.

“No one has ever really believed that the majority decision is necessarily the wiser one because it has received the greater number of votes. It is will against will as in war. Each is convinced that right and reason are on his side. Conviction comes easily and the purpose of a party is, precisely, to keep this will and conviction alive.” Elias Canetti

To be continued…

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