Sunday, 13 May 2012

Bread and circuses

In my experience, I have observed that people are oftener quick than not to feel a human compassion for others in distress. Also, that they mostly see plain enough what's hard and cruel and unfair on them in the governing of the country which they help to keep going. But once ask them to get on from sitting down and grumbling about it, to rising up and setting it right, and what do you find them? As helpless as a flock of sheep - that's what you find them.
Wilkie Collins - Man and Wife

Do people in the UK actually like regulations? Do we prefer a highly regulated world as opposed to one where we have judge for ourselves, have to look after ourselves and our loved ones as best we can? A world where we stand or fall on the competence of our own actions?

I think the answer is a qualified yes. Many people are indeed comfortable with a highly-regulated world where in principle everything of any significance is either forbidden or compulsory and they have no say in political decisions.

How do I know? Because that's the trend and on the whole people aren't taking to the streets. The world is as it appears to be - endlessly restrictive regulations are either popular, or at least, not unpopular. You'd possibly never get folk to admit it, but that's not necessarily the point.

It may even be that many would be happy to do away with elections too. Again we pay attention to actual behaviour - and that is a declining propensity to vote. Add that to the widespread habit of voting exclusively for one of the big three parties plus the trivial policy differences between Dave, Nick and Ed and one is surely bound to conclude that radical change isn't popular either.

Democracy in the UK is fading away - possibly in part because many people don't actually want it. Maybe they would never admit it and may even deny it vociferously, but behaviour tells its own story and that is one of widespread indifference.

Bread and circuses? Well it certainly works - of course it does. Maybe the point of the industrial revolution was exactly that - to create enough bread and affordable circuses. As far as I can see it worked. It probably won't last, but it didn't last time around either.

Collins was right.


WitteringsfromWitney said...

But surely we both know that the public's acceptance of the status quo is because they have, in subtle and unsubtle ways, been conditioned to accept it.

People may take to the streets when they realize that water is deliberately being rationed by the political elite who are following EU 'suggestions'. Likewise people may take to the streets when they have been told that another form of democracy exists, one in which political parties cannot act as elected dictators.

A K Haart said...

Witterings - I agree, people have been conditioned and will take to the streets if things go too far.

Yet we could make intelligent changes before things come to this, but won't because bread and circuses is pretty effective.

Anonymous said...

The British have been broken up into easily managed small groups, no more miners, no more massed factory workers. Just try and kick off a mass demonstration standing around the coffer machine - nah. Contrast the French, I had a chat with a Frenchman who reckoned the people remembered they had once 'cut the head of the King', his eyes shone with pride at the thought. The French workers do not piss about when it comes to a demo, a full-on road blockade and some gentle car burning are the norm - the government is rightly afraid to upset the workers too much.

The essential point is we Brits have lost that essential ember burning in the people's soul, we did 'cut the head of the King' once, but it was done on the back of religious mania, not on a total hatred of a ruling class. The British ruling class learned well and learned to control without provoking mass protest. As they say, the art is to pluck the goose without it hissing too much.

Anonymous said...


Coffee machine maybe....

A K Haart said...

Roger - "The essential point is we Brits have lost that essential ember burning in the people's soul"

Well put. The fire in our belly doesn't burn as brightly as it should. Belly too full maybe.