Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Madness of King George (and the rest!) (1997)

Cartoon by Peter Rigg.
The Last Word column from the March 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

The news reports that the premier of Ecuador is off his rocker have been amongst the sunnier moments in a generally frosty political climate. The months before an election are always depressing and never more so than when you are in what is effectively a one-party state where all the policy “choices” on offer are not even disguised to appear other than identical. Waiting for the election is rather like waiting for the millennium. You know it will come and you know what the outcome will be and you know that a week later it will feel much the same as a week before.

The alleged insanity of the Ecuadorian premier who, by all accounts, referred to himself as El Loco (The Lunatic) and told those who voted for him that he could not remember what his policies were, was merely following a long tradition of rulers who were manifestly off their heads. George III was accused of being mad for taking too much interest in science and scratching himself too much because he had a skin disease. In fact, it was the psychiatrists treating him who were the real nutters, and in the end they killed him. The latest Royal to be so accused is our very own Queen of hearts. A Tory minister suggested that she was “a loose cannon” for speaking out against land mines which blow off children’s legs. No doubt, the same minister would stand to attention and salute if a bemedalled general, whose expertise was blowing up children entered his presence. When Reagan was President his wife employed a Rasputin-like astrologer to advise on the future. Millions of people voted for Reagan, not realising that the fate of the nuclear button rested upon the whims of a White House Mystic Meg. Thatcher, before they took her away, began to look as if she had been off her medication for far too long. At least the premier of Ecuador admits he’s barmy.

I once met a deck-chair attendant who insisted that he was the rightful heir to the kingdom of Albania. He was either a nutcase or an underemployed monarch. The sad point was that it didn’t matter. As a nutcase he made a perfectly good deckchair attendant. (The very idea of charging people for sitting on a chair by the sea is itself a plea of insanity.) As a king he appeared much better off getting some fresh air by the sea than sitting on a throne in a state of permanent ceremonial redundancy. The idea of Prince Charles organising the deck-chairs on Brighton beach has a definite appeal to it. How much more sane it would be than imagining himself to own Cornwall and be in charge of Wales.

The more you look at people who think they are ruling us, the more obvious it is that they would be better off doing something else. John Major would make an ideal lollipop man. There is much greater dignity in crossing children over the road safely than closing down their schools. Tony Blair should present an easy-listening music show on RadioTwo. You could fall asleep listening to him spinning discs by Bing Crosby and The Northern Light Orchestra playing instrumental versions of Tom Jones songs. Michael Howard could do something useful, like shovelling raw sewage.

At the Member’s entrance of the House of Commons one sees groups of people gathered around to wait for the leaders’ limousines to shoot past. Few of them are tourists. They are workers who believe that the sight of a famous politician will be something to tell their grandchildren about. Some of them travel in on coaches from Essex and other distant territories so that they can take photos of Big Ben and say that they caught a glimpse of whatsisname who was once on the news because he said something about something or other. I once saw Norman Lamont walk straight through such a group and nobody even noticed him. He had been forgotten; not even accorded the fame of the Ecuadorian premier who at least will be the best known inmate in the asylum.

Desmoulins once said that the great only appear great because the poor are on their knees. James Connolly is usually credited with the quote, but the truth is that he heard it and repeated it as if it were his own. The origins of the remark are unimportant. The fact is that there isn’t actually anything great about “the Great and the Good”. They have simply done a bloody good propaganda job convincing everyone else that the majority is good for nothing better than to be governed. No doubt the premier of Ecuador seemed like a thoroughly reasonable chap until it gradually dawned on people that he was round the bend. History is littered with examples of Great Men who were discovered to have been pathetic little parasites, hanging on to power by gripping tight to the greatness of the multitude they despised. Which pretty well sums up the next election. Those who run society from top to bottom, by hand and by brain, will be called upon to choose which of a gang of Nobodys is best to rule over us. The truth, of course, is that we are the best people to rule over ourselves.
Steve Coleman

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