Inasmuch as I remain allergic to those who insist that, as they are always on the right side of history, everything must be moving around them, I am not exactly impressed by those whose political pirouetting has now made us all dizzy and frankly fed up.
While some are too quick to tell us how it’s not them who have changed but everyone else, there are those who have somehow taken the mantle of self-election to the extent that they are now convinced that they must be right and whoever disagrees with them must be corrupt. I am always reminded of a well-known MP who keeps insisting that it’s the party that has moved away, not the other way around.
While the argument against the abuse of power is not to be tolerated, one has a right to demand that those who insist on this political virtue must also stop and consider where they stand and tell us what they really represent. And this is because even an incessant insistence on virtue is a vice, which on the level of reasoning and political engagement, ultimately betrays a sense of self-righteousness that befits no one.
As Nietzsche writes in Beyond Good and Evil (§135), “Pharisaism is not a degeneration in good people: rather, a good part of it is the condition of any being good.”
Nietzsche was neither a fascist and less so a racist or anti-Semite. His style was provocative for a reason: to jolt one to think outside the expected ways; indeed, so that one could gain the indispensable ability to unlearn. Nietzsche scholars have extensively shown how far from being a man who believed in some super-race, he was a unique philosopher who questioned all that we think we hold dear.
When he speaks of the overman, he speaks of a time when human beings will overcome their inability to unlearn and to deconstruct those habits by which they have learnt to succeed by deceiving each other. This deceit, Nietzsche shows, does not come from power, but from the mechanisms by which modesty, humility, and even virtue, are used to oppress others through a dualistic mechanism of good and evil.
Nietzsche detested moralizers, not because he was immoral, but because he saw through the smoke and mirrors of morality. In playing people’s lives between the moving goal posts of good and evil, morality — which could be ideological, religious, as much as it is political and even pedagogical — becomes an expedient mechanism by which we elect ourselves as judges over each other, extolling our principles as if they were the immovable guarantors of our behavior.
As he puts it: “People use their principles to try to tyrannize or justify or honor or insult or conceal their habits: – two people with the same principles will probably want utterly different things from them.” (§77)
These self-elected guardians of political cleanliness have lost the ability to distinguish between their own ambitions for power and the fact that the same ambition is the very source which motivates people to discard the checks and balances
This is where I am reminded of the self-elected, who cannot really expect to be taken seriously when in their proclaimed principles they evidently want something very different from the same values that they claim to hold.
In effect, these beliefs are parroted narratives by which they promise everyone some new dawn, because according to them, “right will out” — though actually what they claim to be right is based on a fallacy that is betrayed by their own history. Let’s not forget that these same acolytes of truth justice and democracy, have always sustained a system of power which over many years has deteriorated to what they now denounce as being corrupt.
I say this not because the cause for good governance and cleanliness is wrong, but because those who have elected themselves as the guardians of such high moral principles want everyone to forget that in effect what they proclaim is an ideology based on a system of hegemonic power sustained by a socio-economic order of discrimination and class.
No matter what they tell us, this is a system which, in the name of liberal-democracy, is known to act as judge and jury over those who have been dispossessed by an economy that never stops from treating people as dispensable and as waste.
Bear in mind the subtlety of such deception. Those who now speak of poverty intoning their social credentials, used to say a few years ago, that poverty was just a perception. Even more problematic is that these self-elected guardians of political cleanliness have lost the ability to distinguish between their own ambitions for power and the fact that the same ambition is the very source which motivates people to discard the checks and balances that should be there to stop everyone from usurping democratic power.
It’s easy to denounce your opponent as a hypocrite and think that the one key to dismantle a whole hegemonic system is to declare that those in governance should be clean. Indeed, who can say no to that? Who would disagree that someone found to be corrupt should resign?
However, let’s not forget that the Orwellian scenario does not only come in the manner of Animal Farm where equality comes in various degrees of privilege; but also in the scenario where once the British Prime Minister John Major, paraphrasing the same George Orwell, wanted to reclaim a Britain that “will still be the country of long shadows on county grounds, warm beer” and “invincible green suburbs”.
For all I know, Major’s dream may have been well intended, but it badly backfired because everyone knew that such a description represents all that is deceptive in the conservative imaginary.
Those who today seem to want to tell us that they happen to be more Maltese than anyone else, because they claim to represent all the good and wholesome traditions which have somehow been undermined by the rude interruption of their established way of doing things, are evidently still telling the same fibs that they are known for.
No degree of shenanigans on the other side of the political fence will convince me that such pieties are nothing but the usual drone of conservative platitudes, which anyone over 50 would recognize as the signs of an outdated way of doing politics, and which as yet, no matter what we have been told by politicians of all colours, we still need to find an effective way of pushing back.