To be governed……

To be governed is to be watched over, inspected, spied on, directed, legislated, regulated, docketed, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, assessed, weighed, censored, ordered about, by men who have neither the right, nor the knowledge, nor the virtue. … To be governed is to be at every operation, at every transaction, noted, registered, enrolled, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under the pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, trained, ransomed, exploited, monopolized, extorted, squeezed, mystified, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, despised, harassed, tracked, abused, clubbed, disarmed, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and, to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, outraged, dishonoured. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality.

Pierre Proudhon


About I Am Not A Number

I Am Not A Number is written by Chris Jury. For 30 years Chris Jury was a TV actor, director and writer best known for playing Eric Catchpole in over 60 episodes of the BBC’s antique classic, Lovejoy, and for directing over 50 episodes of Eastenders. In 2008 he was appointed as the Senior Lecturer in Recorded Media in the School Of Music & Performing Arts at Bath Spa University. He currently presents, Agitpop, a pop & politics radio discussion programme on North Cotswold Community Radio He is currently the Communications Officer for UCU at Bath Spa University and a UCU SW Regional Rep at SWTUC.
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11 Responses to To be governed……

  1. Craig McTaggart says:

    mmmnnnnnnnn…………….. ! thats all very well , but what would you suggest in its place. All government needs to be strongly monitored to keep it in check, not the other way round.
    Take part, dont ignore,that way its a citzens government.
    The above happens when people are complacent and do nothing .

    • Well, of course. My own view is that power corrupts always and that while I would prefer a more equal society based on Socialist principles I do not suffer the delusion that ‘come the revolution’ we will all live in eternal peace and happiness. Indeed, the Soviet experiment seems to back that up.

      In our highly complex urban world some form of government is clearly needed but it is perfectly possible to see governance as servants of the people rather than ‘rulers’.

      The historical development of our society has led to democratic governance still being associated with power derived from wealth.

      We are not living in a democracy we are living in an elected Plutocracy.

  2. Does the concept of government in human societies have analogies within the societies of other species of the animal kingdom? Is the formation of governments a natural product of evolution?

    • Well, homo sapiens (human beings) lived for 200,000 yrs in nomadic communal hunter gatherer societies with no government and sharing just about everything.

      10,000 years ago agriculture started (possibly stimulated by the end of the last ice age) and surplus crops allowed the development of cities about 5,000 years ago. Hierarchy and government as we know it came with agriculture and particularly cities.

      So hierarchical government is relatively recent phenomenon in human development and is clearly not ‘evolutionary’ as the time-scales involved are too small.

      You could argue that due to the characteristics of human beings as an animal species once cities had developed hierarchy and government was inevitable. But you could equally argue that the natural human condition is communist and as a species we lived as communists for 2000,000 yrs.

      200 years ago it was widely believed that a hierarchy based on inherited wealth and power (Monarchy & Aristocracy) was ordained by God and thus the ‘natural order’.

      The USA was formed from a violent revolution against those ideas and the Declaration Of Independence famously stated “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

      So frankly I don’t think the “it’s human nature” argument gets us very far.

  3. Please bear with me, I’m not through discussing this topic.

    I agree with Craig, especially the bit about citizens monitoring the government, which explains why we need unbiased news sources to supply us with the truth about what’s happening. Like FOX news for example.
    As IANAN pointed out, the Soviet Union proved that an unfettered government which doesn’t have to answer to the people can bring misery to the populace by governing – that is controlling – the citizenry without bounds. I agree with IANAN that I, in the US and he in the UK, are unfortunately governed by plutocracies not democracies. In the US every election cycle clearly displays the power which money has in determining the outcome.

    My “off-the-wall” comments about government possibly being a natural result of the forces of nature were made in earnest. If you consider other highly socialized animals like ants and bees you notice that anarchy would not be an option with them and probably not communism either. The members of ant and bee societies are not free to “do their own thing.” They have to do what is expected of them or else be banished from the hive. They are monitored and regulated by the “collective.” In essence they are “governed.”

    I contend that “government” will appear in any animal society whenever the members of that society are in any way dependent upon each other. I believe that in human societies “anarchy” cannot function unless each member of the society is self-sufficient. Likewise, pure communism cannot function either because none of us is truly created “equal” – we each supply society with different types and amounts of “work” and so we cannot be fairly remunerated if we are each “paid” the same. Some of us are bound to become wealthier than others in a society where we are fairly paid for our output. In a society where – in reality – each member is unequal to the next and our individual contributions to society are unequal as well, there must be a regulatory system – a government – to monitor and manage the members.

    • I think you are misrepresenting what ‘government’ is.

      All social animals have normative codes of behaviour and the group often shuns or even banishes individuals who consistently breach those codes (See Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind. By Dorothy Cheney & Robert Seyfarth). Social animals will also often aid and support each other on the principle of reciprocal mutual aid. This is not ‘government’ this is individuals collectively managing their own society, this is in fact ‘anarchy’ using the word in the positive and political sense. Social Anarchy is not ‘everyone doing their own thing’ it is individuals ‘voluntarily’ combining together to create social order for their mutual benefit. Indeed, anarchists claim that if left to ourselves human beings will naturally form such codes of behaviour based on reciprocal mutual aid and that therefore we do not need to be ‘governed’ by a hierarchical system that benefits primarily the rich and powerful and is ultimately underpinned by the threat of violence (the police & the army).

      And the danger of this form of political anarchy is in fact not the chaos you fear but tyranny by the majority. Some religious communities are good examples of societies in which people are legally ‘free’ but are oppressed and controlled not by law but by strict normative codes of behaviour and the fear of the disapproval of the group. And I would argue this illustrates one of the many contradictions in Conservative (Republican) thought. Republicans often to claim to value ‘freedom’ above all other virtues and yet they also often believe in very strict normative codes of behaviour. So you are ‘free’ to do as you wish but if you do you will be condemned as being immoral and exiled from your community!

      You say: “Some of us are bound to become wealthier than others in a society where we are fairly paid for our output.” This is of course a highly contested claim but even accepting your own terms of reference the crucial word in the sentence is ‘fairly’. If someone is born with an ability to kick a football accurately why is it ‘fair’ that they get paid more than anyone else? They didn’t do anything to acquire the skill? they were born with it. I unfortunately wasn’t, why should I live my life in poverty and the accurate kicker live a life of wealth and privilege? Or take a kid who is born as a mathematic genius. It’s surely a great and valuable skill but why should the kid who did nothing except be born live a life of wealth and privilege and the kid born thick live in poverty?

      Your moral framework assumes that being born with a talent somehow privileges some men and women over others. Why?

  4. Please bear with me while I take this opportunity to alert the public to the forthcoming “Operation Aardvark” which will introduce a new digital entertainment venue of my own creation. Stay tuned. . . . . .

  5. In response to what you said above: “I think you are misrepresenting what ‘government’ is,” let us not forget the profound logic of Bill Clinton illustrated by his famous statement – “it depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘IS’ is.”

  6. Before reading this article I had not heard of Pierre Proudhon. The name did remind me of Paul Prudhomme the New Orleans chef. After utilizing Wikipedia I learned who Pierre Proudhon is: the first person to refer to himself as an anarchist and the originator of the anarchist symbol. What I especially like about the guy is that he opposed the use of violence and also the fact that he and Karl Marx had a “falling out.” The fact that Karl Marx didn’t like him is a plus for Pierre Proudhon in my opinion.

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