ADELAIDE – ‘Idiocracy’ is the title of a satirical film made in 2006, the premise of which was that the entire world had become stupid and was governed by idiots. Subsequently, the term idiocracy has come to mean government by fools.
It is a splendidly evocative word and neatly fits the premise of the film. It appears to have originally been conceived as an amalgam of the words ‘idiot’ and ‘democracy’.
However, I think that the word ‘ideology’ should be in the mix too, because it is now quite clear that the democratic world has collectively allowed itself to be governed, or at least greatly influenced by, a much more sinister idiocracy than the film makers had in mind.
Consider the abundance of evidence in support of my thesis.
The first and most obvious example is the climate change deniers.
These are people whose stupidity manifests itself in their outright rejection of a huge body of scientific evidence that we humans are actively despoiling the one and only planet upon which we can actually live.
Even as the evidence continues to accumulate, they still clutch their pieces of coal while extolling the virtues of perhaps the most pernicious source of the climate change they so adamantly deny.
Then there are the religious fascists of all persuasions. These are the people who believe that randomly bombing, shooting and stabbing people to death in the name of their god is a good thing to do.
They are also the people who believe, for example, that their god gave them exclusive rights to particular pieces of real estate and thus justify the persecution and displacement of those who have the temerity to currently occupy that real estate.
Then there are the ultra-nationalists, who believe that only the members of particular ethnic, linguistic or religious groups can be part of their nation, as they define it. They have been around for a very long time but have latterly scuttled out from under their rocks and begun to scream and shout their views at us.
As I recall, the last time the ultra-nationalists appeared in Germany and Japan it eventually become necessary to repress them by force. That worked out well, didn’t it?
Another group deserving special mention is those who believe that the particular form of capitalism currently enforced across most of the world is the best possible economic system, ever, period. The fact that its hideous imperfections and contradictions are now on full display deters them not in the least.
On a much smaller scale we have those who imagined that it was a cunning plan to buy 43 extremely expensive cars to transport people of transient importance, many of whose hugely inflated egos are in urgent need of deflation. Choosing Suzuki Jimnys would perhaps have sent them all a powerful message about the virtue of humility.
Another small but revealing example is how the latest Australian prime minister could, without feeling any necessity whatsoever to seek informed advice on the matter, announce that Australia was considering moving its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. What could possibly go wrong with that idea?
I could go on at some length, including mentioning the increasingly bizarre antics of the current US president, but by now you will have got the picture: we truly are being governed by idiots.
Now you may think I am being unfair. After all, there are many good and honest people in government and business who are trying to work in a legal, moral and ethical way. I certainly don’t deny this.
However, the painful fact is that a critical mass of self interested, greedy, morally and ethically deficient, self serving swine have got their snouts firmly in the trough and won’t be voluntarily leaving anytime soon.
The current Australian royal commission into the banking, superannuation and insurance industries has revealed the full extent of the dishonesty and moral turpitude that pervades these industries from top to bottom. Many Australians are both angry and bewildered at just how egregiously exploitative, self serving and cynical these industries have been.
The first response is to blame board members, CEO’s, senior executives and so forth. This is entirely understandable. After all, they have frequently been the principal beneficiaries of the behaviour revealed by the royal commission.
But there are plenty of others to blame including the regulators who turned a blind eye to the nefarious doings that they knew about or suspected and, perhaps most importantly, the politicians who fiercely resisted calls to investigate the increasingly obvious rorting and dishonesty as they strove to protect businesses judged “too big to fail”.
Given how easy it is to point to examples of the idiocracy in action across the world, maybe it is time to examine the proverbial elephant in the room, which is the grievous failure of our democratic institutions.
Political parties, parliaments and governments have become thoroughly infiltrated by a whole class of ideological nut bags, spin doctors, rent seekers, carpet baggers, shonks and grifters. They infest the body politic like fleas on a mangy dog. Sure, there are still good and decent people in the mix, but they are apparently powerless to stop the rot.
It is well past time to root these people out, to embark upon a genuine reform program to rein in the grievous excesses of neo-liberal capitalism and reinstate the public good to front and centre in political life.
Surely enough of us have realized that this is necessary? Whether you are in PNG or Australia or the USA or Britain or anywhere else, it must be apparent by now that something is seriously wrong at a systemic level within the world’s democracies?
The ugly truth is that we the people have allowed this situation to develop by succumbing to the blandishments, blarney and bribery that a poll driven, manipulative and self serving political class now use to inveigle their way into office. After all, being in office is the prime objective because it gives access to the power, influence and wealth that far too many of them seek for entirely self serving reasons.
I honestly do not know how we can do this beyond wielding our votes with hugely more care and discretion than we have previously. We need to abandon all tribal, national or ideological loyalties in doing this, looking past the obvious, the superficial and the imagery to see the world as it truly is, not as we may wish it to be.
Unless and until we can do that, then the idiocracy will continue to rule and, eventually, we will all pay the price it.
For make no mistake, the lesson of history is that if we allow ‘peak idiot’ to be reached, then most of us will end up seeing our hopes and dreams dashed to pieces, whether it be through global environmental catastrophe or an economic cataclysm or war or, perhaps, all three.