Magazine article The Spectator

Defining Democracy

Magazine article The Spectator

Defining Democracy

Article excerpt

I liked what the late King of Tonga had to say about democracy: 'The solutions provided by majority rule are not acceptable to certain segments of the population.' Smart king, and the first man to pole-vault ten feet as a 14-year-old in 1932, an island record. In 1976 he set another record by weighing in at 460 lbs, making Edward VII look like a Bataan deathmarch survivor. His mother, Queen Salote, was also gargantuan, and was the butt of an apocryphal story when she was driven in an open carriage during Queen Elizabeth's coronation in 1953. It was claimed that Princess Margaret asked who the little man sitting next to Queen Salote was, and that Noël Coward had answered, 'That, Ma'am, is her lunch.'

It sounds good, but highly unlikely. I would have thought Princess Margaret herself was riding in a carriage, and that Sir Noël, as back then he was not, would not have been in proximity. Yet I've heard the joke told countless times by people who swear they heard it from the horse's mouth. Be that as it may, I like Queen Salote and King Taufa'ahau Tupou very much. Democracy is now being used by neocon nincompoops to bludgeon people.

The glories of global democracy are presented by ignoramuses like the Kristols and the Podhoretzes as a foil against war.

But it seems to me that Britain was a democracy when it plotted to go to war against Germany early in the 20th century, as were the United States when they invaded the Philippines near the turn of the last century. Athens, of course, bragged about her democracy but went ahead and slaughtered all the men of Melos and sold their women and children into slavery when Melos refused to join the Athenian Empire.

Mind you, not all democratic people are as bloodthirsty as my ancestors, but democracy has become a catchword for waging aggressive war, as in Iraq, for example. To question the wisdom of imposing liberty and democracy on people who might not want it does not enter the mind of many Americans, lobotomised as they are by too many hamburgers, television ads and the worst education money can buy. Here's another fat man on democracy: 'Naturally, the common people don't want war, but, after all, it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or not. …

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