Politics is the stupidest business in the world. Dietrich Eckart, promotor of the Nazi Party
Bolletje Blauw, Bully Blue, is a character by my favorite Dutch author, Daan van der Vat, in one of his children's books: De Reisavonturen van Professor Zegellak—Travel Adventures of Professor Sealing-Wax. A pseudonym of his is Daan Zonderland ("Without Country"): He spent most of his life in London and his books are very obviously very much influenced by Lewis Carroll, but he wrote in Dutch. A very funny man with a healthy distrust of authority. Alas, his books are untranslatable. To give you a mere taste:
[The "cuckoo" is one of those nervous wooden birds that keep hopping compulsively in and out of Schwartzwald clocks. Zegellak's little unfeathered friend runs, well, flies an errand for him here:]
It wasn't long before he heard a horrible noise in the distance. When he flew in that direction, he soon saw an open space in the jungle, where countless apes were sitting assembled in large groups. The apes cried and chattered loud enough to strike you deaf and blind. 'What's going on?' the cuckoo asked the nearest ape after he had landed close by one of the groups.
'We're having a meeting of the municipal council,' replied the ape. 'This group here is the Socialist Ape Party. That group over there, making such a big noise, is the Liberal Ape Party. The third group close by them, making that indecent din, is the Ape State Party. And the fourth group, the small one there, is the Communist Ape Party.'
'And who is that big ape sitting in the middle all by himself, scratching his body all the time?' asked the cuckoo.
'That is Bully Blue, the Head Ape,' answered the ape. 'He's a fascist. That's why he's scratching himself all the time. All fascists do that.'
'What is the meeting about?' wondered the cuckoo.
'We don't know yet,' said the ape. 'Right now we're in the debate. After the debate we'll have a vote. And once we know the results of the vote, Bully Blue will tell us what it was all about and who won. And then we start all over again.'
The cuckoo didn't understand a thing of it. He had never got the hang of politics and for years even had believed that politics was something like measles.
As you see, I Miss In-Formed you. Bully Blue really is not the "King" of the Apes, but merely the Boss. However, what's the difference, to come right down to it? I'll grudgingly concede Daan Zonderland exaggerates a bit, but not even that much. Especially not when you're used to the insane goings-on of the Antillean government.
Do I really need to add that all apes run to do Bully Blue's bidding, and very eagerly too? The humble cuckoo is quite right: Politics, like religion, is a disease.
(Jan de Hartog is a different case; he wrote in English, mostly. Also, don't confuse Bully Blue with Billy Blue, according to C.S. Forester in Hornblower and the Hotspur the nickname of Sir William Cornwallis—he's not even a relation.)
Say what you want about Kipling, his earlier work was great. Robert Louis Stevenson, P.G. Wodehouse and George Orwell all were fans of his; that's enough of a recommendation for me. He, too, solidly mistrusted politics and it comes out strong in
The Jungle Bookstory Kaa's Hunting. Mowgli gets kidnapped by a bunch of monkeys, the Bandar-log. These live in a deserted city, drifting "about in ones and twos or crowds telling each other that they were doing as men did." They really are not so far off the mark, either: The parallel is pretty obvious. The following quote has a strong flavor of the Curaçao carnival, with the oh-so-healthy sports just about the only "cultural" event the government still finds it worth while to subsidize.
Sore, sleepy and hungry as he was, Mowgli couldn't help laughing when the Bandar-log began, twenty at a time, to tell him how great and wise and strong they were, and how foolish he was to wish to leave them. "We are great. We are free. We are wonderful. We are the most wonderful people in all the jungle! We all say so, and so it must be true," they shouted.
[...] The monkeys gathered by hundreds and hundreds on the terrace to listen to their own speakers singing the praises of the Bandar-log, and whenever a speaker stopped for want of breath they would all shout together: "This is true; we all say so."
Any carnival, of course, by definition is a cultural event. But you can't help starting to think a bit when it has become the cultural event. One of the biggest deals is the "Tumba Festival", held to select the song all bands will play during the great parade that year. (You don't stand a chance of winning this if you're white.) The winning song always keeps going on (and on, and on again) about how good it is to be a "Yu Korsow" (Curazoleño) and how our carnival is the best in the world. Now, really! Mark the strong resemblance with the Bandar-Log. No wonder our politicians prefer to subsidize all that, even rather than keeping the money for themselves.
(But maybe they get their cut anyway.) For a really funny Kipling story on politics, try to lay your hands on The Village that Voted the Earth was Flat.
The Mob as seen by Sigmund Freud applies to carnival, street riots and election meetings - and then some.
A group is extraordinarily credulous and open to influence; it has no critical faculty, and the improbable does not exist for it. - The feelings of a group are always very simple and exaggerated, so that it knows neither doubt nor uncertainty. The orator who wishes to sway a crowd must exaggerate, and he must repeat the same thing over and over again. The mass is intolerant but obedient to authority... What it demands of its heroes is strength or even violence. It wants to be ruled and to fear its masters. Quoted in Adolf Hitler by John Toland, p.300. Freud may have been mistaken in many cases, but here he was entitled to one of his notorious foul cigars.
All the world is a stage... but not all people players — most are mere spectators.
Most people are much more susceptible to suggestion when they're part of a crowd [...] and the larger the crowd, the more suggestible it is.
The toughest audience is the smallest one [...] the crowd response seems to validate our own feelings.
The critical analysis we usually impose on our feelings, decisions and behavior is set aside because we accept the suggestion—reinforced by hundreds or thousands of crowd members—that a particular response is appropriate. Secrets of The Amazing Kreskin by the World's Foremost Mentalist /small>
Straight from the Steer's... uh, Mouth? It is always a simple matter to drag people along whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.
Nazi minister of propaganda Hermann Goering during the Nürnberg trials. Presumably, he knew what he was talking about.
Anatole France Penguin Island About an island full of penguins who walk around dressed up like humans. Just like most of us, right. All very good and much subtler than I describe it.
Richard Leakey Origins Reconsidered In Search of What Makes Us Human Kenya paleo-anthropologist Leakey describes the political machinations in a group of chimpanzees in Burgers' Zoo in Arnhem, Holland. In a power struggle between three males, two of them finally join forces to castrate the third one with their bare hands. Not so subtle as Penguin Island, that. Might this be what makes politicians, after all, human?
Jonathan Swift Gulliver's Travels Almost everybody has read some castrated version of this as a kid and never looked at it again. A shameful pity. Illustrated Classics, forsooth. Great and funny book. Swift introduces the Yahoos (sounds familiar?) in it. The guys who thought up the name for the .com found it in a dictionary, no kidding. Even their pronunciation is wrong: Emphasis should be on the oo; how like the yahoos they are!