The Power elite

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. Abraham Lincoln

There’s a lot of elections this year. Britain had their general election yesterday, in the USA candidates have started warming up for nomination process, and in September Norwegians are voting for the municipal and county representatives. There’s also general election in Denmark, Finland, Italy and Greece this year.

Democracy has always puzzled me. I don’t know much about the theory behind it, other that I know the vast masses used to be ruled by a very small elite. This was especially true with the aristocracy. These were not the nice people depicted in a film or TV-series. They had a strong sense of honour and courtesy, but they didn’t concider the people, so there was a lot of abuse. I don’t think these royal families saw themselves as British, German, French etc. As long as they behaved according to the code of honour that only applied to them, they even had the right to kill. The crazy tradition of the duel is an example of that.

The problem was that they were not of the people. They had completely different lives from the rest of us. It’s very different today of course, or is it? Politicians are socalled normal people. They go to the same schools we do and have the same type of jobs. In short, we have something in common as our experiences are comparable before they become candidates. There are differences of course, but in socialist Norway this has been the case. I wonder, do they still see themselves as one of us, or are their new experiences as an elite so different from ours that they quickly forget where they came from?

I am also asking myself, who is really in charge? The problem with politicians is that they don’t know anything. Imagine a politician sitting on a committee that has to make important decisions about construction. They look at very technical drawings of highways and buildings, or when the parliament in Norway in the early 1990’s decided where to build the new aiport in Oslo. The politicians had to read expert reports from the National Weather Service and reports concerning the new railway that would transport passengers between downtown Oslo and the airport (incidentally, there are strong indications that a man hired to give an independent evaluation of the report from the National Weather Service was suicided). There is so much to read, and it’s very technical, so I suspect they frequently rely on someone else’s advice/order. They simply don’t have time to read the documents they are required to read.

In Norway we are experiencing something similar to what Americans are at the moment. We have a three party coalition, and one of its members, has never been in position before. They have always been a party in opposition, which is a very grateful task. Those parties can criticise everything the administration doesn’t succeed in, and state that this and that wouldn’t have happened if you voted them into office. I have no doubt that they meant it, but it is harder when you have to get support from other parties. So now they are being reminded of what they promised. Btw, I highly recommend the BBC satirical sitcoms from the 80’s, Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister. The politician is very vague and the bureaucrats are in charge. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was close to the truth. There are complete episodes on you tube.

I sometimes wonder what system is the best. Britain had its general election yesterday, and it was a very dramatic one. It also exposed a weakness in their system. The British parliament has 650 seats and the winner in each constituency wins the seat. That means you can have a lot of support across the country without winning any seats. The Conservatives actually got the 326 seats needed for a majority, which is very unusual with that many parties fighting for the votes.They actually had less than 37 % of the votes, but in this system that can be enough to get more than half the seats.

What doesn’t seem fair is how many ballots don’t matter. The UK Independence Party (they want Britain out of EU) got over 3,7 million votes (12.6 %), but that only gave them one seat. The Conservative’s coalition partner since the election in 2010, The Liberal Democrat, was one of the biggest losers this time. They were supported by almost 2,3 million people (7,7 %), but that only gave them 8 seats. The Social Democratic and Labour Party got 3 seats with less than 100 000 votes. This last party is Northern-Irish and that probably explains why they could get into parliament with just a handful of votes, while the Lib Dem of course had support from all over the union.

norwegian vallot
The ballot for the Socialist Left Party in the county of Sør-Trøndelag 2009. You can move candiates up and down on the list.
Wikimedia Commons

In Norway we supposedly have a similar system where we can vote directly on a candidate. The problem I have with it is that the party choose the candidates through a closed process in the party organization. A ballot has to have at least 7 names. The county of Sør-Trøndelag has 10 representatives, and in the election of 2013 the Socialist Left Party got 5,7 percent of the votes, which gave them 1 og the 10 seats from this county.

If no one makes any changes to the ballot that one seat will be number one on the ballot. We do have the option of moving one of the other names on the ballot to the number one position, and if enough people do that, the voters can change the outcome.

I like the option we have at local elections even more. Then we can add names from other parties. So if I like the Conservative party, but there is a candidate from the Green Party I want in the Council, I could put that name on the Conservative ballot. I would still like to choose my own cadidate, however. The only option then is to vote for someone independent, but they never get enough support. The Green has a seat in the Norwegian Parliament at the moment. Rasmus Hansson, biologist and former leader of WWF Norway is an interesting characterer, but as the only voice of reason it’s hard to influence the power elite. Most of the time when we have a new party with just one seat, they disappear after the next election.

Sometimes politics is very surreal. During the White House Kids’ State Dinner a couple of years ago, President Obama said that his favourite food was broccoli. This was a apart of Michelle Obama’s healthy eating initiative, so what could he say, unless he wanted to sleep on the sofa? He was accused of being elitist. I looked this up and it gets even better.

According to the L.A. Times the Democrat Lady Rothschild supported John McCain in 2008 and accused Obama of being elitist. When your name is Rotschild, you and your husband are addressed as Lady and Sir, that might seem like a strange opinion to have. I believe Obama was accused of being elitist when he ran against Romney as well, the man that at the time had an oceanfront property with car elevator. Didn’t he also say something about not being concerned about 47 % of the population? Of course, that’s just on of the guys talking.

On a personal note, I have ambitions for my daughter. I want her to make as much progress as possible, so I have her participating in a church choir, girl scouts and classic ballet. That’s not very poor or working class. I’m not acting like a man with low income should. Does that make me elitist or trying to step out of my place? I suppose I and my African American wife are getting uppity.

Today is known as Liberation Day in Norway. On this day in 1945 the Nazis admitted defeat. I do wonder about the men and women in government today. They are living removed from the people and they are being influenced by strong forces we can only imagine are there. I wonder how much they are of the people; how strong character they have. The Norwegian government was sleeping at the helm in 1940; what are they doing today?

I have always liked watching Charlie Chaplin-films. This is very mushy, but I listen to this speech from the Great Dictator (1940) from time to time. It shouldn’t be as relevant today as it was in 1940, or as the short Gettysburg address Lincoln made in 1863 for that matter. Unfortunately it is.

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12 thoughts on “The Power elite

  1. While some newer political figures probably do relate well to the commoners such as us, I doubt that career politicians have a meaningful connection.

    That said, I understand that Civil Government certainly has a rightful place as it helps to provide societal structure by way of recognized rules of conduct, punishment for crime and protection of the populace from external threats.

    It is ironic that we humans cry for liberty when we must live under an oppressive regime…and yet, when we are released from the bondage, many find this new state of existence to require too much personal responsibility for their liking.

    The dissenters often want the best of both worlds in their demands of freedom to live as they please (regardless of how immoral) while expecting the government to eliminate all risks of simply being born into a fallen world.
    This probably wouldn’t be huge problem if people were all inherently good. But, because most people tend to be easily influenced by access to money, positions of power or pressure to be popular, the potential for eventual corruption of a beneficial system is enormous.

    Regarding elitist power vs individual freedom, I don’t see how we can achieve a satisfactory balance in the US when some citizens want as little government interference as possible while others seem to be bent on inviting it into every corner of our existence.

    In the US, there is an insistence by some on the implementation of government-regulated safety net programs which limit risk, yet also limits the individual’s ability to fall outside of an officially recognized definition of “normal”. . The trade-off seems reasonable until it affects someone at a very personal level. I believe you’ve written about this type of issue in some of your past articles.

    Even more disturbing: if you don’t fit into the evolving societal mold, the government-run insurance policy will likely identify you as a poor investment and you will either be targeted for re-education or elimination. History indicates that this impersonal and sometimes brutal approach is viewed as a necessary element of a tyrannical ideology in order to maintain an efficient system.

  2. Sometimes politics is very surreal. During the White House Kids’ State Dinner a couple of years ago, President Obama said that his favourite food was broccoli. This was a apart of Michelle Obama’s healthy eating initiative, so what could he say, unless he wanted to sleep on the sofa?

    Interesting choice of favorite, in light of the Bush broccoli-bashing fiasco of the early nineties…

    http://www.nytimes.com/1990/03/23/us/i-m-president-so-no-more-broccoli.html

    Considering your point about elitist ignorance , is direction of nutritional education even a legitimate matter of political concern?

    I have some pretty strong thoughts of my own, but would appreciate your input as a means of expanding my perspective.

    I wouldn’t say you are doing anything wrong by trying to give your daughter a wide base of skills from which to build her future.

    But, then, I’m not familiar with the social structure of Norway. I suppose that in some cultures there is a stigma attached low income individuals as being unable to appreciate anything beyond subsistence-related activities.

    Is it considered improper for Norwegian “poor people” to involve themselves with the performing arts?

    1. I hardly think Obama was trying to order Americans to eat broccoli, but I do think it’s smart of him to encourage children to eat healthy. Personally I am conflicted about how much centralised control there should be. I think there should be free competition and as little government interefence as possible, but when you see how much sugar, GMO, E-numbers and generally unhealthy food there is available in a free market, it makes me wonder if there ought to be some restrictions. At the very least there should be labels that makes it clear what the product contains, and lying should be severely punished, but that’s not how things work.

      Ballet is not concidered to be elitist at all.

  3. Thank you for the response, John.
    There does appear to be a need for better food labeling practices. Some of it can be misleading or just silly.

    You’re probably right about the benign nature of the broccoli remark 🙂
    I don’t have a problem with the president’s encouragement of healthful food choices. Mr. Obama’s mention of broccoli was funny to me because of the previous president’s over-the-top avoidance measures.

  4. John,

    It’s not really a “free” market at all. All the “big agriculture” business/corporations are tax-payer subsidized. Through federal agencies the agriculture/food industry is able to seize a monopoly of the food production. That is why organic food costs more here in the U.S. Monsanto plows millions (or is it billions) into lobbying our so called “representatives,” so in all fairness and accuracy in the U.S. at least, it really cannot be called a “free market.” How is it in Norway? I hope it is different.

    Oh yeah, it’s not a “free market,” when the small, organic, independent farmers are raided by government agencies and their food trashed because they pose “competition” to the state financed big business.

    (Note: Despite the above, though, I take great umbrage with those who make the “free market,” or any other kind of market a holy cow, some kind of blasted golden calf. In some areas in the U.S. people seem conflate free market with Christianity, or capitalism with Christianity. I recall reading where Christ endorsed ANY political, economic system of any kind.)

  5. Jay,

    in the U.S. at least, it really cannot be called a “free market.”

    True. There’s far too much government involvement/regulation for us to be able to claim a free market system. I’m not even sure we could say we have a capitalist system, either, even though that’s the popular designation…

    Your view regarding any particular system being somehow “Christian” reflects some thoughts I’ve often had. And, I appreciate your willingness to separate the concepts.

    While the option of a free market rarely came up, I used to read a few online debates about whether capitalism or socialism is the superior form of economic management.
    Frequently, one side ended up claiming the other is pure evil; but I don’t see either system as being inherently worse than the other. Both have their pros and cons, and either one can be corrupted and horribly abused.

    It is interesting to me that the early believers in Jerusalem appeared to have practiced a form of socialism/communism as the Spirit moved them. But, I don’t think this narrative should automatically be taken to mean that God disapproves of someone owning private property or making a profit through various forms of investment.

    1. Heather,

      I agree. Those capitalism/socialism debates drive me up the wall when I hear them (particularly when Christians are equating one as somehow “holy”). I think they tend to forget that BOTH systems are man-made concepts, both have their flaws, both have their advantages…but both can become quite dangerous when they are elevated to absolute truths and become ideologies.

      With regards to government regulations, I don’t think they are always necessarily the problem….but when they just so happen to favor/benefit/promote the interests of certain corporations, whose political connections/donations etc. give them an unfair advantages…..In a true free-market, that wouldn’t happen, which has led me to suspect that the “free-market” is most likely a noble ideal, since humans have been abusing political connections and bribing officials, etc. as long as there has been even the most rudimentary forms of government.

      The observation you make in your last paragraph about the early believers practicing a form of socialism……..that example is what the “Liberation Theology” folks use to justify their views. I think that is another example of taking scripture out of context and elevating concepts into ideologies. They forget that the early Church did NOT legislate that “socialism” into existence, nor did they force or impose it on anyone. It was led by the Holy Spirit, and the believers did as they felt in their hearts they must do. The idealogues always seem to overlook this aspect. They can’t seem to see the difference between people acting out of genuine love and compassion and true unity and a government imposed set of rules. No doubt the Pharisees would have really related to them.

      But I can tell you see the difference! 🙂

    2. Jay,

      It is encouraging to note that you also recognize the difference.

      They can’t seem to see the difference between people acting out of genuine love and compassion and true unity and a government imposed set of rules.

      This is such a great observation, and is true for many secular socialists as well.

      When we remove gratitude for Christ’s love as the underlying reason for individuals freely choosing to share possessions, we are left with a humanism-fueled counterfeit which must rely on external force to ensure grand-scale participation in the program.

      I’m guessing this is a main reason why many pro-capitalism Americans are so opposed to anything that hints of socialism.

  6. Heather,

    I am not sure as to why so many pro-capitalism Americans are so opposed to anything that hints of socialism. I suspect there are a variety of reasons. Some (especially those that grew up in the Cold War) seem to think that even the slightest bit of socialism will inevitably lead to all out Communism, and this was the justification for U.S. intervention in other nations’ governments and elections for many decades. But what so many people don’t ask is where did such an idea come from? Karl Marx was the one who wrote in his manifesto that socialism INEVITABLY evolves into Communism. For him, this was an absolute. But it is MARXIST. So, those pro-Capitalists that freak out about anything appearing socialistic, are essentially saying that Karl Marx is right……And last I checked…Karl Marx is not God, or at least he’s not mine! 🙂

    Have you by any chance noticed over the last few years how an unnerving number of Christians who elevate capitalism to a near divine command have embraced the writer/philosopher, Ayn Rand? This trend disturbs me immensely. Ayn Rand was very anti-communist, but she was also a very anti-Christian atheist who embraced the Darwinian philosophy to its logical conclusion. Rand (for whom a certain politician was named) glorifies the Self. In her books, writing and philosophies, Self is god. And she believes that Selfishness actually leads to a better society…everyone never considering anyone elses’ welfare but their own. Essentially, Rand promoted the idea that morality did not exist. The only morality was what benefited one’s self. This philosophy is rapidly becoming the intellectual (and spiritual?) underpinning of the “new capitalism,” and seems to be infecting the libertarian oriented thinking. (though I am not suggesting that everyone who embraces any libertarian ideas necessarily embraces all this stuff).

    Ayn Rand also writes about freedom a great deal, and as someone who lived under a Communist regime, she naturally would have a unique perspective on the absence of that freedom. However, the freedom she writes of is a godless sort. (I know she rejected the economic aspect of Communism, but the atheist indoctrination seemed to stick).

    All this makes me think of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, and his exposition on the sin nature warring with the renewed spirit man.

    “Now the mind of the flesh [ which is sense and reason without the Holy Spirit] is death [death that comprises all the miseries arising from sin, both here and hereafter]. But the mind of the Holy Spirit is life and peace. That is because the mind of the flesh [with its carnal thoughts and purposes] is hostile to God, for it does not submit itself to God’s Law; indeed it cannot.” Romans 8: 6-7

    I think those verses sort of sum up why we should never deify any philosophy of mankind, or as Christians lump any political, economic, or philosophical construct created by a human along with Christianity. Those verses also encapsulate all the reasons why both capitalism and communism will always fail to bring a truly utopian society.

    Freedom without Christ is slavery.

    1. Jay,

      The passage from Romans 8 is certainly relevant. And, there is a tendency for people to simply move our attention from one idol to another when we are not rooted in Christ.

      Years ago, I was one of those who would begin to hyperventilate over the mention of American socialism. I believe the Lord prompted me read the OT account of Joseph’s life…

      https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=genesis+47%3A20-25&version=ESV

      Afterward, there was no way I could continue to presume that a government-run system which collects and then redistributes resources is inherently evil.
      But, I also cannot ignore the reality that a concentration of power does create a greater possibility of widespread abuse.

      Your final sentence really nails the point. Regardless of the earthly circumstances, we are all lost without Christ.

  7. Heather,

    Yes, it is interesting isn’t it, how we can just switch from one idol to another? I came to this realization recently, myself, as I had to face and then give up one of my idols, and then realized I was in danger of simply replacing one idol with another because I WASN’T truly rooted in Christ (I can’t say I fully am now, but it is a work in progress, and I have a healthy fear of adopting anymore idols and remain vigilant for the possibility.

    I realized I wasn’t fully rooted in Christ when I examined HOW I had become attached to that particular idol, and realized that if Christ had truly been the center and foundation of my life, and if I had truly surrendered that area of my life to Him, then the idol would never have taken root in the first place. It was quite an epiphany (though a seemingly obvious one).

    Your mention of the story of Joseph with regards to socialism is very interesting. I have NEVER really thought about that aspect of the story before in that context. I will have to remember that one when I hear a fellow believer “hyperventilate over the mention of American Capitalism.” Perhaps, though it makes more of an impression when a person reads it on the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

    I agree with the rest of your observation about concentrations of power. And yes, the more I live and learn and grow, I am realizing that the “freedom without Christ is slavery” really does pretty sum up most everything. Each day, I realize that more and more, and along with it that “doing things my way” really doesn’t create the freedom it promises. I suspect that for far too many of us, deep down for perhaps most of our lives, we see God as a tyrannical control freak who wants to keep us from the “good stuff.” Of course, I guess from the “flesh” perspective that is true. 🙂 since the “flesh” does not define good as God does.

    1. Jay,

      You aren’t alone in the struggle to maintain proper connection to our Head. I’m glad God is patient as He exposes the areas of our hearts we need to allow Him to help us clean up.

      The account of Joseph’s life offers a stunning parallel to that of Christ. The relevant part here is that Joseph ruled with Pharaoh’s authority just as the risen Christ has been given all authority by God.

      In both stories, everyone ( Jew and Gentile alike), is equally dependent upon the just and merciful oversight of the designated lord. Just as Joseph had complete control and dispensed life-preserving grain as he saw fit, so the Bread Who came from Heaven distributes temporal blessing and eternal life as His wisdom dictates.

      The Egyptians willingly gave up everything they had in order to receive life-sustaining physical sustenance. And those who have accepted Jesus as God’s anointed deliverer will eventually learn to gratefully submit our hearts and minds to be transformed into the likeness of the Son.

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