Representation Not Rule

Paul Harper (Victoria)

The fundamental principle of democracy is that of representation, not rule.  Our representatives carry our values, our wishes, our structures for society, our beliefs and vision for the future of the country.  As Jesus said: “you shall not rule over them, but you shall be their servant” (paraphrasing Mk 10:42-44); which is where the idea of a public servant comes from.

What we have witnessed in recent times is, under a state of emergency, this principle is set aside.  We now live under a strict set of rules (not legislated laws), that we did not choose by means of election.  Rather, the governments we chose have acted on our behalf to protect us, much like parents do with a child.

They know what is best for us, because they have access to a world of knowledge about the virus that requires quick action to save us.  There is no time for consultation with the public.  And so, it is out of trust in our representatives, combined with a fear of the virus, that we comply with the set of new, unprecedented rules.

Resistance is useless because we put them there.  You cannot argue with that, because to do so would be to argue with yourself.  The way things have turned out is in line with what we voted for.  It is perfectly sensible, and democratic.

But there are two things, in the new set of ‘precedents’, that are of real concern. Thing one and thing two are set to threaten the harmony and balance in the household of democracy, every bit as dramatically as in the Dr Seuss story.

One is the proposition that every person’s safety is the top-most value in our society.
Two is the result, where now, our leaders have for the first time really tasted what ruling is like – and in an extended form – where the state of emergency is no longer temporary.

In an environment where we have ceded all responsibility to our leaders for our safety, the expectation of what ‘safety’ means has gone over the top.  No more is personal responsibility assumed; the state must protect us to the nth degree, or we’ll sue them for negligence.   And this happens every day.  There is simply no room for mistakes in government anymore – our expectation has become that the state will keep us safe, all the time and in every situation.

Safe from car accidents, safe from slipping on the pavement, safe from drought, safe from bushfires, and the exceptionally long list goes on, including safe, especially, from disease.

But this is an impossible expectation!   And that is why there are so many lawsuits, because it is impossible, and the odds are stacked in favour of the litigants winning a case, because you can always find some level of human negligence in any system of society.  By setting up our leaders as our saviours, we have set up a straw man.

Only God himself can be expected to be a saviour to this degree (See Psalm 118: 6,8,14,21,25).

And so, if we have accepted our elected leaders as our saviours, then it follows – as has been demonstrated – that when it comes to a crisis, we expect them to save us.
And we do this even to the extent that we no longer use education to raise the level of a citizen’s awareness of personal responsibility towards one’s neighbour, to be a servants to each other, because we are obsessed with our own ‘rights’ to freedom, riches, glory and so on.   We won’t freely exercise a responsible attitude, even in a crisis, so restrictions have to be imposed upon us.

Again, we have reduced government to old-fashioned school teachers who punish the whole class because a few have misbehaved, because we aren’t allowed anymore to impose an agreed set of values on our neighbours, like decency and mutual obligation, since that could impinge on someone’s rights (and I get sued).

And this makes us further withdraw from engagement with society, and depend even more on our saviours, who alone have the skills to tell us how to operate as a society.   In the end, we have inverted the democratic accountability structure; we no longer tell our leaders what we want, they tell us what they want, even though we employ them, pay them, and elect them to represent us.

The second thing consequently walks hand-in-hand with the first, where since we have given them ultimate authority, our leaders now feel – quite rightly – impelled to use it.   The proof of their rightness will be seen at the ballot box in Queensland as it did in NT a few weeks ago. ‘They kept us safe’, therefore they can now have even more power.  And things like the constitution, which ensures free travel across state borders, can be entirely ignored, even when there are next to no cases of virus, because the fear of a breakout is greater than the fear of losing our base for democracy.  And the proof of numbers is greater wisdom to us than any other wisdom that warns of a far greater problem to our entire society.

Therefore in Victoria, our leader can continue ad infinitum to refuse to answer questions of accountability, because he has been proven to save us (regardless of the fact that he put us in the problem in the first place).   And in Victoria, there is absolutely nothing we can do to remove a corrupt government for a whole two more years.  And all the while, we trade off democracy for something that more and more resembles the rule of Xi Jinping.

Daniel Andrews is the Cat in the Hat who will only leave the house with his Thing One and Thing Two when he feels like it, because he rules over children who have no power to kick him out.

A1 does not necessarily support all views expressed in our Supporters’ Forum, but we do uphold and value the right of people to hold their own views and for these views to be considered and debated in the community