Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Every country has the government it deserves.

"Every country has the government it deserves." - Joseph de Maistre

On election day, when my fellow countrymen and women (honestly, it will probably be the women) elect the leader of our nation for the next four years, it only seems appropriate to spend a few words on the topic.

The quote above - Every country has the government it deserves - has always resonated with me.  Succinct, self-evident.  Simultaneously accusatory and inspirational.  It invests the responsibility for the course of a nation and the actions of its government in the citizens of that nation rather than laying all that blame at the feet of the individuals those citizens permit to lead them.  It says to me that if you don't like it, change it; and that applies as much to this party as to that, as much to democracy as to any other form of government, as much to the Tea Party as to the Occupy Movement.

And that is fascinating - individuals from every political disposition can see in these words something for themselves.  I recognize that one of the highest goals of writing as a form of communication is its clarity.  But I also recognize that, as an artform, readers see what they see, often based on what they bring to the reading, and not always what the artist intends. 

I knew little of the philosopher who first said this, so I looked him up today.  I knew he lived around the time of the French Revolution and I always assumed he aimed this statement at either King Louis or Napoleon in an attempt to incite or support insurrection against those authoritarian regimes.  My assumption reveals my worldview.  I was right about the timing, but completely wrong about the writer's intent.  I read something into his words he never meant.

It turns out Joseph-Marie, Count of Maistre, was a royalist.  He believed the only morally legitimate government derived its authority from divine providence and, in order to be sustainable, must be grounded on religious principle as interpreted by the leaders of a single organized church.  He blamed all the suffering of modern life on the godless elevation of reason and rational thought resulting from The Enlightenment.  The horrors of the Reign of Terror were a direct result of humanism and atheism - God's divine, and well-deserved, punishment.  He believed his country had a holy purpose on Earth as a tool to further God's righteous will.

Sound familiar?  

We see with our eyes what we believe with our hearts.  One socio-political disposition leads one group to see one thing while another sees something else entirely.  Same words.  Same objective reality.  So what's the difference?

Believing is seeing, unfortunately.


  1. I love the line, "We see with our eyes what we believe with our hearts". Thanks for the thoughtful post on election day. Thank god the barrage of campaign material will soon end.

    1. It has been exhausting - 4-5 calls every evening. And since I'm registered independent, we are getting it from both sides. I actually got a robo-call from Obama this morning at 7:05 as I was making breakfast for the boys!

  2. About seeing what you believe... I think it's a defense mechanism built deeply into the human psyche. Our world views must be strengthed to hold up the ego. Ego must survive or a person feels that they will shake or fall apart. Egoless times are when we experience the world as it is.