Why be a lord of time when you are already a Criminal?
A Sequence of essays investigating the crimes we commit, and what we might do about it.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tiger and Dragon

Just to remind you all - the battle of who is the legitimate governance in egypt is very much a repeat a laboratry for the the Two Machaevelli - the one of the prince and the other of the discourses. The former puts forward the sates eye view of the state. it floats above the people asa transcendental force, making decisions, and taking action - is a sphere where he interest of the rulers, the interests of government and the 'true desires of the people' for peace and plenty (but not power) are blended into one another. The ruler then argues they always act in the interest of an imaginary (and childlike) folk- whose real material interests they serve. Democracy becomes then a way of turning the people into ungrateful children - whose opinion needs to be courted even as it is despised.
In his second great work Machaevelli considers the far more dangerous topic of immanent democracy. That is a democracy that comes up form the people in the roar of of protest- the crowd that feels its powers to be a god or a mob. In the end he suggests is ifs the people who are the greatest power of the state, and if they are ever woken up, this sleeping tiger of political necessity has a power like no other: they can win unwinnable wars (The french revolutionary wars, the second world war), and achieve impossible things . There is a real resource in the people. And yet it is a dangerous one. Not only are the folk actually unpredictable, but also there time of action, their time for debate is relatively short lived (or at least it is traditionally). All the concerns of the everyday have a habit of crowding in on the crowd, and forcing it back into normality - the government usually just has to wait....
And so in Egypt we have both forces clear and apparent. A government that sees itself as necessarily legitimate, because it governs,a n the people as children. Concessions need to be made, and something (as little as possible) needs to be done in due course, but in the end the role of them as governs need to remain - while the people do not as they conjure up the immanent democracy of the streets. do not share this view point.
A slogathon then develops.
A slogathon which itself is tricky for immanent democracy. Not only will normality start to kick in, and the demands of the everyday make protest tricky- but also and just as important immanent democracy have issues of leaders. I mean the entire point of then is that they have o leaders- ideas quite literally come up from the crowd, and are drafted in conversation. the trouble then is always not having a million viewpoint or one distorted viewpoint. The answer Machaevelli thought to his lay in education (while Spinoza restricted the crowd to thirty). Failing that the transcendental forces will look for leaders in the mob, people or faces who can be taken as leaders in waiting and induced into the realm of government. People who if they became part of governing might by the presence persuade the people to behave again..... And climb back into the box.
the other traditional effect of mass prolonged immanent democracy is of course that within those agiators who confuse the being a mob with being a democracy actually slowly gain power. in the crowd they are the ones who appear to talk sense. Crowds might then easily warp, and change, the mood darken when there demands are not met by government, and in defending their own rights to be that crowd that people, become violent. that is the crowd ends up understanding itself as its own republic, itself as a power with rights to enforce its will - the crowd in short slips into its own unique and aggressive form of transcendental government- with all the Terror that involves (Jacobins in the french revolution moved then from a movement of the streets to an attempt to enforce a rule of virtue, supported by the blade.....)
In short immanent democracy, while beautiful and powerful is traditionally limited and contained for reasons- for if it is let out in absolute form ones tends to go dark and tricky at some point - or else long before that point the government itself imposes its own counter terror on the people (as happned of course in france). Killing far more folk in the effort to burn out the desire to go on the streets.
And yet this is of course not to knock the power of folk, and the crowd. in many way it really ought to be the bet of governance - the one that is fairest and just. The trouble is ensuring i is. This was a problem that confused and occupied and eventually defeated the greatest minds in western political thought - but who knows (and i mean is genuinely) may be that is because the solution needs to be worked out in the streets - and Egypt will show a way on a new type of civilization - well maybe.....

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