Allan Takes Aim Blog

Today’s Byzantine politics are killing democracy

Posted on: 25 August 2013

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Today’s Byzantine Politics are killing democracy

During my recent incarceration in hospital a friend brought me “A short History of Byzantium” a book by John Julius Norwich to read.

The book is a condensed view of three books by the same author that cover the history of the Byzantine Empire, founded by Constantine the Great, on Monday, May 11th 330 that lasted until Tuesday 29th May, 1453, a total of 1,123 years and 18 days. This led me to wonder how many of us will leave a mark of our presence that will still be written about 100 years later, never mind 1,123 years late. I suggest that unless we make some claim to notoriety our names are unlikely to be remembered for more than two or three generations.

You might wonder however, why Allan Takes Aim, a political blog, is interested in Byzantium. Well, I’m interested because Australia’s current political scene is also Byzantine the main difference being that power today is gained through a democratic process that theoretically gives citizens the right to vote. But one thing remains constant: today’s rivals for power share the same common slogan as\ Byzantine rivals: might is right – plus ça change plus c’est la même chose.

It is alleged that the advent of democracy eliminated the idea that might is right. Unfortunately, history shows that, despite democracy, many politicians today achieve power using the might is right principle and/or by being as devious as many of the characters whose names are stamped indelibly on the 1.123 years of history in the Byzantine Empire.

That might is right is not confined to wars on the political battlefield; it is also practised by wannabe leaders in the political armies as they fight on behalf of their personal favourites. This happened recently in Australia when one group of wannabes successfully removed the Prime Minister and replaced her with their favourite.

The similarities with Byzantium are many. As they pursued power, Byzantine leaders formed alliances with junior army officers by promising both them and the civilian population better times in return for their allegiance. These promises, which they had they had no intention of keeping were really barefaced lies told as a matter of expedience to soothe people’s minds

Politicians today in their quest for power do the same. Leaders of political parties make promises to people that party candidates re-iterate to voters. If it is then up to voters to analyse the promises of each leader and decide which of them they think is telling the truth.

This will prove difficult during these last two weeks of the current campaign as promises flow like a river in spate and armies of advisers, sycophants, and political carpetbaggers try to bolster support for their chosen leader hoping they will be successful in the hope that some of that success will flow to them. This makes a voter’s task of analysing what they hear or read difficult as they try to sift the truth from the lies.

Sadly today democracy, the progenitor of votes for citizens, is practiced more in the breach than the observance. Indeed some politicians only mention democracy when they need to bolster their image as people of integrity.

I suppose we should count ourselves fortunate that more by accident than design, some politicians of real integrity still manage to get elected.

Comment welcome.

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