Tuesday, 4 November 2008


“What luck for leaders, that people do not think.” - Adolph Hitler

Today the nation stops for the horse race of the year: The Melbourne Cup. The first Tuesday in November marks this occasion, which has been celebrated since the nineteenth century all over Australia. Melbourne’s good fortunes built on the nearby goldfields ensured that the Melbourne Cup was a rich prize and soon its prestige and attraction went far beyond the shores of Australia. It is now well-known throughout the world and many a bet are made on the outcome of this race which is part of the Spring Racing Carnival here in Melbourne. I am not a betting man and even though most Australians “have a flutter” on the Cup, I rarely if ever do. Occasionally at work a sweep is organised, but I think everyone was too busy this year and I did not even enter into one of those today.

So now the Cup has been run and won and the Flemington Racecourse here in Melbourne must have been packed today as the weather was perfect: Warm, sunny with blue skies. I still have not checked to see which horse won or whether there were any “episodes” noted. I always feel rather sorry for the poor horses whenever I catch glimpse of a horse race. They are such magnificent looking animals that to get them to race and whip them into a galloping frenzy seems utterly uncivilised to me. But never mind, I am not a person to pontificate on such matters nor is my opinion worth much. The billions of dollars wagered today is proof enough of that.

Another race has been more on my mind than the Melbourne Cup. Two different kinds of candidates are in the race for the White House and the whole world is watching the neck to neck running of Obama and McCain. The prize is the presidential office and ostensibly the chair of the most powerful leader in the whole world. The President of the United States of America is truly the world leader par excellence as the decisions made in the oval office not only will determine the fate of the citizens of the USA, but through a web of intricate connections, the fate of every human being on the planet. Great power, even perhaps in this case, political omnipotence requires great responsibility. Government is a trust placed by the people on a few elected individuals and these individuals must be its trustees.

Is the President of the USA nowadays a person suited to this role of planet leader? The whole world has watched the last few presidents with disappointment as mistake upon mistake has been made by each of them and not only has their own country suffered as a consequence, but the whole world has felt the effects. Economic mismanagement, scandals, internal turmoil, social policy inequity, health system failure, foreign policy blunders, wars, trade bungles, industrial unrest, and now finally the economy meltdown. This is the time of decadence, when the whole world is crumbling and the people are worrying over the trifles they have been brought up to think as important. Is one man responsible for all of this?

I am personally rather indifferent to the outcome of the US presidential poll. It mirrors to a certain extent our recently run Melbourne Cup, except of course it’s a two-horse race. It hardly matters which horse wins, the gross majority of punters are big losers. The organisers of the race are the big winners. The horses will run as they are goaded by their jockeys. They have their blinkers on and the sweat runs off their sleek, beautifully trained, muscular bodies. The most they can hope for is for a good feed after the race, and perhaps a roll in the sand. The race organisers have the race planned and their bets are safe.

Whether Obama or McCain is in the White House next year, the USA will continue to be run by the organisers of the race. That is the nature of the capitalistic system. The people must have their race and their festival. They will shout themselves hoarse as they back their favourite. Most will lose, some will win but the race is rigged. The organisers can never lose, whichever horse wins.

The process of democracy will have been served. The President elect will be invested with the powers of his office and ostensibly he will be the most powerful person on the planet. Ostensibly. It’s funny how that word keeps coming up whenever I talk about politics. Ostensibly: “Apparently or purportedly, but perhaps not actually”… Who runs the USA? Who runs the world? Not the Democrats, not the Republicans (six of one, half a dozen of the other), not the congress, not the senate. It’s big business and the multinationals, it’s money. After all it is a capitalistic system. Ostensibly, there is democracy. But if you had to choose between the devil and deep blue sea, what would you choose?

Have you noticed that after the threat of communism blew over with the collapse of the Eastern bloc and the USSR, we have had to find a new threat to keep us living in fear? After the big Red Bogeyman died, we were kept ever on the alert by the big Muslim Terrorist Bogeyman. After the Cold War we had the War against Terror. We must always a have a Bogeyman, we must always have our champion to fight him and to preserve us from his clutches.

Watching the campaigning, I am amazed by the rhetoric of both sides. These people have been groomed, put through their paces, trained, just like the Melbourne Cup horses (but being humans they’ve been brain-washed also). They talk as if they really believe that they will save their country and the world from the current version of the Bogeyman. They have been given the chrism by their democratic process and their belief in their moral rectitude will install them as the world’s policemen. The US President, the world’s guardian will preserve us. And who will guard us from the guardian, that’s what I’d like to know…

“Of all tyrannies a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” -C.S. Lewis

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