The Cat and the Mice

Whether Aesop’s personage is of history or legend, the Greek fabulist, which legend dates to the 7th century BCE archaic Greece, is credited by posterity with numerous allegorical tales, known collectively as ‘Aesop’s Fables’. These fables represent wisdom thousands of years old; probably long predating Aesop, and certainly long predating their current truncated form.

The fables are characterised by animals that take on human characteristics; they interact, solve problems, and are used as a vehicle to impart fundamental truths, not merely about what it is to be human, but, more pertinently, what it is to live in a society constructed by humans. Over thousands of years the context may have changed, and the technology, the wizardry, the gadgetry has certainly changed, but the types of methods used by the predators who live amongst us, against the naïve, have not.

There are a number of fables that really do pertain to our political situation. I thought I’d share one of them today and cogitate a little on how it reflects on our current reality.

There was once a house that was overrun with Mice. A Cat heard of this, and said to herself, “That’s the place for me,” and off she went and took up her quarters in the house and caught the Mice one by one and ate them. At last the Mice could stand it no longer, and they determined to take to their holes and stay there. “That’s awkward,” said the Cat to herself. “The only thing to do is to coax them out by a trick.” So, she considered a while, and then climbed up the wall and let herself hang down by her hind legs from a peg and pretended to be dead. By and by a Mouse peeped out and saw the Cat hanging there. “Aha!” it cried, “you’re very clever, madam, no doubt; but we will not trust ourselves with you, even if your skin was stuffed with straw.”

Moral ~ If you are wise you won’t be deceived by the innocent airs of those whom you have once found to be dangerous.

In our personal lives we tend to observe, to judge, and if it so happens that we should fall foul of some trick, we will generally not trust that person again. The above fable speaks of that. But when we apply this basic wisdom more abstractly, say, to an entity or an institution, the whole of society seems to be at odds with it. Take statism and all those who participate in the sacrament of voting. Politicians have rarely if ever shown themselves to be trustworthy, the entire political system even less so, but people will still queue at the voting booth, ready to have their good faith be taken advantage of.

Ironically, the more cynical amongst us, who rightfully question the legitimacy of this process, by way of an answer, invariably endorse a politics that will extend and not subdue the powers of the state. They seem to forget that in a society where power is proportional to wealth, and not official position, and where power is an extreme state of inequality, extending the powers of the Cat is therefore something entirely different to extending the powers of the Mice.

On countless occasions the official version of events has proven bogus. Indeed, a complete inversion of reality. Often at the direct expense of all those most caught up in the entanglements and iniquities of social life. Yet when we question and probe such matters – as we should – we are usually met with condescension and scorn. Immediately, our abilities are questioned, and we’re associated with names that have a bad smell. In light-hearted scenarios, the term “conspiracy theorist” is aired, in more serious ones, an ‘ist or ‘ism or ‘obic is thrown, forever to our detriment.

But if we were to ask the name-callers to prove some official dogma, without a referral to higher authority, they would be quite dazed, like somebody who was asked to defend their name. Because they haven’t really thought about it at all. Their knowledge is built upon taking things for granted; when in fact, if we’re being more observant, there’s every reason to not take things for granted. As long as honesty is rare, suspicion should be common.

To doubt the truthfulness of those who show themselves not to be trusted is wisdom so basic even a young child can grasp. But we need not be surprised if it’s repudiated by upper society and its sycophants; like an abusive lover repudiating a spouse’s well-grounded concerns by deceitfully flipping them on their head. Because it is simply gaslighting to denigrate timeless human wisdom as peculiar. As strange. As hateful. As suggestive of paranoia or even psychosis. Of course, gaslighting doesn’t work on all people. But it does work on enough of them to keep the Cats in business.

Honesty will always rankle with dishonesty. Whenever power is corrupt – and it is an abiding feature that it is – innocence and integrity are sure to be targeted. Such attacks will deter the thin-skinned amongst us who are unduly stung by opprobrium. But the thick-skinned, who are impervious to rebuke and ridicule, know that an attack on the person is never a reliable barometer of ultimate truth.

Nor is the schooling system and the various institutional frameworks through which society works itself, for they are in the image of Cats, and not in the truth which is independent of them. During an arduous, prohibitively expensive and time-consuming period of re-education, each Mouse is trained to think like a Cat and to be one that pretends ignorance when it comes to the threat of the Cat.

They no longer have the wisdom of the uneducated Mouse, which thinks for itself. They begin to have too much of the knowledge of the half-educated Mouse, which allows the Cat to do its thinking for them. Put together, they are no longer unsophisticated Mice that are sceptical of the Cat’s entreaties, they are sophisticated Mice that are trusting of them.

But whether the Cat is harmless or not is almost always to be ascertained. It requires an intellectual autopsy to see whether its skin is indeed stuffed with straw. If we are really to find out what power intends, we will surely find it, not in the self-examined fur which is sold to the public, but in the innards which the public examine.

Aesop’s tales still have relevance and meaning, and can impart wisdom all these thousands of years after they were first conceived. That probably says something; something about the immutable fabric of human organisation and management, and something about the type of things that are excluded from our attention, and the reasons why they are kept at a distance. Instead of being swept up in the hysteria of new political movements, we should take pause and reconsider what humans have always understood.

Fascism and the Weaponization of Words

Nigel Farage is a fascist. Tommy Robinson is a fascist. Donald Trump is a fascist. This term, among many others, has been shooting from lips like bullets from muskets in the front lines of an infantry. At first, such terms were supposed to fire at volleys, in regimented formation, at the command of the officers. In practice, however, as battle ensues, each soldier fires a musket at their own discretion. Which of course brings total confusion to the battlefield, soldiers being enveloped by the smoke of the discharged rounds, hindering accurate shooting. Fire at will!

Language suffers most of all in this melee because what we are left with is a smoky vagueness. Let me explain. This is the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of fascism:

“An authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization”

Here’s’s definition:

“A governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce etc, and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism”


“Fascism is a form of radical right-wing, authoritarian ultranationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition and strong regimentation of society and of the economy which came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe”

There’s a great deal of debate in academia over what fascism really means, but the one thing that everyone agrees upon is that it involves authoritarianism. The Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of authoritarianism:

“The enforcement or advocacy of strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom”

The prerequisite to qualify for this description is to either be in power or to advocate for it in a way that will subdue personal freedom.

How can Nigel Farage be a fascist when he is a leader of a minor political party, and is unlikely to be in power for at least several cycles given the fabric of the British political system? How can he be a fascist when his political position over many years has essentially been at odds with a political power which has refused to acknowledge the will of the majority of the British people?

Tommy Robinson has no power and is in fact the subject of power, Big Tech removing him from their platforms under increasingly draconian hate speech laws, which are effectively suppressing the freedom of speech under the guise of “tolerance”. He has also recently served a custodial sentence, being found guilty of contempt of court by the British justice system for exposing decades long child rape gangs, something covered up by other branches of the British justice system, for which he already served 10 weeks in jail.

As for Donald Trump, he does have the power to qualify for the term, but unlike Big Tech, he is not enforcing strict etiquette in the modern marketplace of ideas, nor monopolizes it.

These huge companies have power and they’re exhibiting striking signs of authoritarianism by curtailing personal freedom through censorship. As is the British justice system, which is swiftly prosecuting someone who has exposed endemic corruption within the system, rather than swiftly prosecuting those who were preying on children. These profiles are more befitting of the term “fascist”.

The entire political discourse is awash with insults and accusations. A fog bank of pejoratives sweeps in, blurring meaning and covering up understanding. If those engaged in political debate are using words so flippantly and without context how can anyone comprehend the debate itself?

Indeed, many political words have been so abused by dishonest and slovenly use that they’ve lost their original meaning. Terms like ‘fascism’, ‘far-right’, ‘racism’, ‘nationalism’, have become so broad and vague that they can hardly be distinguished from one another, like the polished stones on a riverbed which have been eroded by time and the torrent of water. As far as I can tell, in terms of use, they all now essentially mean the same thing: “something deeply unpleasant”. But, clearly, it’s those who are quick to use inflammatory labels who are the most unpleasant.

It’s axiomatic that in an intellectual tussle the first person who throws stones always loses. Not that those who try to control the lexicon are interested in winning debates. Their interest lies in suppressing them.

In Defence of Democracy

I expect many people won’t agree with what follows. But there seems little point in writing if the only objective is to imitate those around us, as if we were shadows on walls aping others’ movements. So much harm can come from this shadow dance. Not so much from what is said, but what is left unsaid. Because if we merely repeat what we consider to be the popular response, we will become a people who will be silent about many things.

It seems strange that I should have to qualify my support for the practice of rule by majority verdict. That it wouldn’t be the popular thing. Except it is. Our view of popularity is warped by the losers being much louder than the winners. By them thinking that they know better. But unless we respect other people’s opinions, we disavow our own, because in a democratic system neither can survive without respect, and they of course have no future without survival.

In recent times bashing democracy has become a popular pastime. Not a day goes by without the majority’s judgement being questioned, and without their choice being attacked. Many do so by invoking the spirit of the high ideals western civilisation has been built upon, including democracy itself. But in affirming democracy, it appears as if millions of people are actually rejecting democracy, without knowing the difference.

Democracy can’t succeed unless the losers concede defeat. What we have seen from some quarters is an increasing unwillingness to do so. A multitude of excuses have rained down on proceedings like a monsoon.

We have had personal scandals, Russian conspiracies, Ukrainian conspiracies, character assassinations, violence on the streets, rent-a-mob protests. And much else besides. We are led to believe that all of it is justified; that the establishment’s lamp is shining a light on corruption. But it’s as if the devil himself is lighting the lamp only to make everything appear as it is not. Because on both sides of the Atlantic nothing has come from these attempts other than an ongoing obstruction of government. In the US the failure to bring an administration down has certainly not been through a lack of will. In the UK efforts have been every bit as desperate, if only more civil.

In both countries what can only be described as the weaponisation of the legal system has been an unwelcome development. And for what? Either the winners’ heinousness is somehow escaping eagle-eyed justice, or the losers are emptying their arsenal of bad faith. But I would tentatively suggest that if these frenetic efforts had as much substance as billed, they would have met with more success than just the vitiation of democratic will.

Many have welcomed these interventions. Their bias has afflicted them with a feverish misapprehension that the law is the last bastion of justice; that it is the guardian of public interest. But anybody with a trace of common sense must know that legal processes will probably work against democracy, but quite certainly in favour of an oligarchy. In a society where power goes with wealth and where wealth is in an extreme state of inequality, extending the powers of the law means something quite different from extending the powers of the public.

If those with material wealth or position can muzzle those they disagree with in an electoral system, the public become little more than chimpanzees at the ballot box. As it is the vote is reduced to scrawling an illiterate X in one of two boxes. But now it appears as if it’s effectively an X in one box. Because if we so much as dare to put an X elsewhere we are treated as primates who are not able to follow simple instructions. Not only are our wishes not respected, we’re insulted for having them.

This has a destabilizing effect. People don’t like to be treated as fools. They prefer their abjection to have the character of self-determination.

Put simply, we either have a democracy or we don’t. If we desire a system that is genuinely democratic, public choice must be the means as well as the end. Otherwise we live in a system quite different. One in which people are told to keep their minds on their work, pay their taxes and leave matters of the state to the state.

It requires tacit and explicit consent for a small class to rule over a much larger class. The democratic process is part of that consent. When you toy with it, you toy with the very basis of the social contract itself. A house with rotten foundations will eventually crumble, for we should always remember that there is a marriage that cannot be endured by anybody or anything: to be overworked and neglected.

Neither can a house at war with itself survive. Indeed, the constant barrage of negative, sensationalist media coverage has achieved little but impede governance and inflame tensions. Every stone thrown has disrespected the vote of hundreds of millions of people. And more troublingly, its long-term effect will be to threaten salubrious dialogue. I think it’s no coincidence that society has become more polarised since electoral results started to go against the established order.

As for those presently siding with an anti-democratic power smarting from electoral defeat, they may get what they prefer in the short-term, but in the long-term the surrendering of popular consent to the expertise of a ruling class is very dangerous. Because what happens when it is their democratic wish superseded by ‘expert’ edict? It’s surely foolish to think that it won’t be. To forgo your democratic say for favoured short-term results is akin to wanting to trade real beauty in exchange for its appearance, like gold for bronze. One principle is ageless, the other will only have its moment in the sun, before it’s lost to Time’s Caprice.

“The democratic tendency… leads men unceasingly to multiply the privileges of the state and to circumscribe the rights of private persons… often sacrificed without regret and almost always violated without remorse… men become less and less attached to private rights just when it is most necessary to retain and defend what little remains of them”

– Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

If we want to retain our rights and freedoms, we must keep one eye open like a watch-dog and keep guard even when rested; we must remain ever attentive to the ruses of those who wish to subvert them; we must never grow complacent, always remembering how hard people worked for them and under what harsh conditions. Because a “[Citizens’] chief business… is to remain their own masters”.

The surest way of doing so is by the upkeep of a democratic system fit for purpose, by the people and for the people, with public servants accountable to the electorate they serve. The surest way of doing so is to not be a part of a process that constantly denigrates our fellow citizens, scolding them as if they were wayward children. We must at least consider that we sit in the same schoolroom as they do. I’m afraid that in such a world, if Truth and Honour are the objectives, it isn’t the children who receive gold stars who are the most enlightened.

In fact, if we are unable to assert ourselves by making meaningful democratic decisions, we may as well be tots in a nursery. In other words, if we lose the responsibility for these rudimentary functions and forms of freedom, we lose not only our citizenship, but our adulthood. You only have to take one look at the television and cinema listings to discover that we are championing this infantilization in more ways than one.

There’s not a huge number of positives to take from this infernal mess in the play pit, but at least the people paying attention should realise that the liberal establishment holds them in utter contempt. All people. Because wherever your loyalties lie, the attempt to cancel a vote is the attempt to cancel every single vote cast; an attempt to constantly hinder an administration, not through debate, but by slinging mud, is itself an attack on every single person. Because democracy isn’t simply the public’s opportunity to ratify what has already been agreed; nor to be induced, through the art of manipulation, into accepting it. For democracy to have any real meaning it is surely that the masses can go against the wishes of a governing class, and for their wishes to be respected.