Sunday, May 31, 2009

fly, wild, democracy

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I do not like flies. The only reason for including this one, is that it is on the outside of the frosted glass window, where it has settled, and I am on the inside.

Through the open bedroom window, I hear very early in the morning the honking of geese flying overhead, and later, just outside, the harsh call of a crow. Both these sounds of the wild restore a sense of perspective in the slow, comfortable time of waking up.

Two quotations made by Clive James in his regular Sunday morning talk on BBC Radio 4 strike me, this morning, as worth recording. Both define democracy which seems to need defending in the present political climate. The first is from Karl Popper: "It's democracy if the government can be changed at the people's whim." The second from Albert Camus: "Democracy is the form of society devised and maintained by people who know that they don't know everything."

5 comments:

marja-leena said...

That is an amazing photo, Plutarch! It looks like a charcoal drawing.

Barrett Bonden said...

Your previous post was chopped off at the knees; no opportunity to comment.

But can we change the government at a whim? We can change the party that's doing the governing but the result rather resembles Robert Robinson's view of weather forecasts: "Like today but slightly different."

Dave King said...

I prefer Camus's definition, but what bothers me about most definitions is that they give the impression that it's rule on behalf of the majority. Somewhere in it should be respect for the minority and for their wishes and views.

Plutarch said...

BB Don't know what happened. Seems to be better now.

Such snappy quotations can be confused with generalisations, I agree, especially out of context. Clive James pointed out that in Popper's quotation "whim" implied that given an election, a majority could throw out a government, but did not necessarily mean that it would be making the right decision.

I suspect that you have put your finger on one of the problems with democracy, DK. What about minorities? Perhaps the web nowadays allows them more of a say than before. The Greek city states was more manageable than modern states with populations running into millions. I like the Camus quote because it has general applications.Does anyone know the answer or get it right anywhere most of the time? Popper would have agreed with Camus, I think.

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