“One of the best arguments against a democratic form of government is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” —Sir Winston Churchill
Talk relieves our tension. We feel so much better. We’re even self-deluded into believing we’ve achieved something.
From the viewpoint of self-serving politicians, that’s just fine because we’ve done nothing to disturb their daily activities.
Have you ever heard the proverb: “Talk is cheap. Deeds are dear?” Or the ancient warning of metaphysicians, to the effect that unless we put wheels under our beliefs they profit us nothing? More recently, Thomas Carlyle said, “Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into conduct.”
Blah, blah, blah. We rant, rave, scream, and decry.
After which, what changes?
With some exceptions, we are detached from a practice of “civic virtue.”
Simply defined, civic virtue = taking a gentlemanly / gentlewomanly interest in the conduct of government officers, making sure we’re knowledgeable about their conduct, public utterances, voting history, and the like, and making sure, politely, that they know we’re knowledgeable.
Here’s a pop quiz on civic virtue: How many of us know, (without first being pointed toward a preferred target of lobbyists, or of TV talking heads), the names of our state representatives, state senators, anything whatsoever of their voting histories, the addresses of their hometown offices, their yearly salaries, email addresses / telephone numbers of their hometown or state government offices?
More on our general competence as citizens / voters: How many voters can name six of the ten amendments composing the Bill of Rights? While we’re at it, how many of us have read the complete text of The United States Constitution even once in our entire lives?
Is it fair to say, (once again with some exceptions), that we are mentally lazy couch potatoes who prefer to “veg out” before a TV or telephone screen allowing talking heads or internet scribes to stuff our minds with their preferred propaganda, in preference to doing our own homework to learn what’s really happening?
Regarding the latter, how many of us believe doing our own homework is even possible?
How many of us prefer our favorite TV programs, favorite video games, or even favorite drugs to a minimal practice of civic virtue?
Democracy won’t give us what we confidently expect to receive as sons/daughters of “The Almighty”, (however we understand that latter phrase).
Democracy is like farming. Cultivate carefully or shut up about the weeds.
Said more crudely, we receive from democracy only that for which we get off our dead lead butts and work—(in the process of which, let us remember this tidbit of wisdom from the pen of St. Thomas Aquinas: “We must love them both, those whose opinions we share and those whose opinions we reject, for both have labored in the search for truth, and both have helped us in finding it.”
“The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”
—Various sources, among them Andrew Jackson
“The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history, whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by an elite.”
“The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”
“Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
“The only limit to the oppression of government is the power with which people show themselves capable of opposing it.”
“Only power can check power.”