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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Wed 01 Nov 2017, 15:30

More to the point can democracy survive free speech combined with the ignorance, idiocy and gullibility of many people. Or can Facebook for that matter.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Wed 01 Nov 2017, 22:32

@Vizzer wrote:
@nordmann wrote:
Leaving the EU involved an arbitrary consultation conducted via plebiscite but without any constitutional requirement regarding why and how this should be done, and what should be done as a result of the plebiscite.

The use of the word plebiscite on this thread is significant. It’s a word which seems to have fallen out of favour in recent years to have been replaced by referendum.

The original plebiscita were pieces of legislation which had been passed by the concilium plebis (the plebeian assembly) of ancient Rome and their terms only applied to the plebeian class. The modern concept of a plebiscite as a general public vote on a major issue, however, only really stems from the 1790s and revolutionary France. In order to bolster its credentials, the republican regime in Paris would organise consultative plebiscites on such things as the constitutions of 1795 and 1799 and also border polls in places such as Avignon, Nice, Savoy, Piedmont, Geneva and other Swiss cantons, Alsace, the Rhineland and various states of the Austrian Netherlands (Belgium). Those polls were essentially organised (or orchestrated) in order to provide an element of de jure validity to their de facto annexation by France.

A series of similar border plebiscites were held in western Europe during the 19th century mainly relating to Italian and German unification during the 1840s, 1850s and 1860s. But there were also some held further afield such the Britain’s ceding of the Ionian Islands to Greece and Denmark’s ceding of the Virgin Islands to the U.S. Similarly Sweden’s ceding of St Bartholomew to France in the 1870s was confirmed by plebiscite as was Chile’s annexation of Arica in the 1880s.

There was a whole flurry of plebiscites held after the First World War mainly relating to settling Germany’s new borders and again a few held following the Second World War on the same issue. Since then the word ‘plebiscite’ has fallen out of use with ‘referendum’ being the preferred substitute. This change of usage, however, is linguistically clumsy and is often imprecise. The 2 words are not necessarily interchangeable. Intriguingly, in Northern Ireland Sinn Fein’s call for a ‘border poll’ (i.e. not a referendum) to be held in Northern Ireland within the next five years (presumably to coincide with the 100th anniversary of partition) shows that there is an awareness in some quarters that the word ‘referendum’ can be problematic.
   
With regard to the UK’s referenda on the European question, then the 1975 referendum was in fact rightly named. In fact it was a case of a plebiscite which was also a referendum. The accession to the European Economic Community was a de facto and de jure done deal as confirmed by parliament and the referendum merely put the accompanying public debate to bed in the form of a plebiscite. This it effectively did for half a generation. When the European question re-emerged in the 1990s (there was even a political party at the time named the Referendum Party) the then UK prime minister John Major rejected the idea of a referendum and characterised such an exercise as ‘the tool of the dictator’. The 2016 ‘referendum’, however, wasn’t a referendum at all. It was a non-binding plebiscite which at best can be described as an official, state-sponsored opinion poll.

Returning to the plebiscites of the 1790s, then those held in Belgium on union with France make for interesting case studies. Of all the territories occupied by French forces at that time, Liège was probably the most sympathetic to the ethos of the republican Convention in Paris. Not only that but Liège did not even feel itself to be an integral part of Belgium as exemplified in the contemporary use of the term ‘la Belgique et le pays de Liège’.
   
The Paris Convention had hoped for results from the Belgian communes (including Liège) for ‘union prononcée sans retour et sans condition’ i.e. unqualified and unconditional union with France.  This, however, turned out not to be the case – not even for the Liègeois. There were in fact plenty of qualifications, clarifications and conditions requested by those eligible to take part in the plebiscites.

The first of these conditions related to the very qualifications under which eligibility to take part in the plebiscite had been established. It had originally been declared by Paris that all officials of the former Austrian regime in Belgium would be excluded from taking part in the plebiscites. This condition alone was deemed unreasonable and even unworkable by many middle-class Belgians (even those sympathetic to the revolution) as it essentially described the generality of them. They were also keenly aware that the urban working class and rural labourers (including village idiots) might well be inclined to be much more conservative minded regarding public affairs than might be lawyers, doctors and other members of the professional classes. This qualification was then changed so that former officials could vote provided they took an oath of liberty and equality and renounced their privileges and prerogatives - ‘sans avoir prêté le serment à la liberté et à l’égalité, et sans avoir renoncé par écrit aux privilèges et prérogatives’. And even this criterion was then dropped.

Another qualification which was requested related to the right to raise local taxes which the Convention had initially wanted to abolish and to centralise in Paris. This too was deemed impractical by the Belgians not least because the pay of many local officials had already been a devolved matter under the Austrians. And then there was the question of currency union. Even the Liègeois had sought clarification on this ‘que le papier monnaye ou assignats de la République française n'aura point d'effet rétroactif’. They basically wanted to ensure that there would be no back-dating of the effect of currency union so as avoid penalising Belgian banks and depositors with a potentially unfavourable exchange rate.

So an almost comical picture emerges. Firstly we get the invading French revolutionaries making all kinds of dramatic and extreme declarations regarding liberté and égalité etc including chilling threats against those who oppose union with France as being guilty of being unfriendly towards the French people ‘ne vouloir être amis du peuple français’ and who would thus be treated accordingly as befitting those who refuse to adopt government based on liberty and equality ‘qui refusent d'adopter ou se donner un gouvernement fondé sur la liberté et l’égalité’. Let’s remember that this was in 1793 when the Terror in France was at its height. And yet the response of the Belgian bourgeoisie is altogether phlegmatic and even patronising. One gets the impression that the French commissioners in Belgium are treated like so many over-excitable adolescents by the Belgians with the latter basically saying “tiens, tiens, mes petits, that’s all very well and rather admirable of you but now let’s discuss the practicalities and the detail.” The commissioners were left sending desperate messages back to Paris unsure of how to proceed with the replies coming back from Georges Danton and Pierre-Joseph Cambon etc in the Convention saying that the commissioners should basically agree to any demands made by the Belgians but just make sure the plebiscites produce the right result. Even under these circumstances there still wasn’t unanimity. In the province of Hainault, for example, 300 communes voted for union with France while 30 communes voted against. Even with 90% voting in favour, the fact that 10% voted against stuck in the craw of the commissioners who sought to massage the figures further by saying that, of those 30 dissenting communes, some had abstained while most dissenters had, nevertheless, stated an adherence to the wishes of the unionist majority leaving only ‘a very small number’ voting against union - ‘un très petit nombre sur les 30 a émis un voeu contraire à la réunion’.
   
It seems that the liberal and republican element among the Belgian bourgeoisie were quick to appreciate that the revolutionary French needed them a lot more than they needed the revolutionary French. As far as union with France was concerned, from a Belgian point of view at that time, it was pretty much a buyers’ market.



Vizzer,

I learned a lot from your message. You seems to have a rich grasp of interesting facts about history.

"The use of the word plebiscite on this thread is significant. It’s a word which seems to have fallen out of favour in recent years to have been replaced by referendum."

Of course nordmann was right that it was a plebiscite and not a referendum. And you are right that it is usual used to day in all kind of senses: referendum for plebiscite and the other way around...
In Dutch: plebiscite is rightly: "volksraadpleging" (consultation of the people)
But I sought for the Saar plebiscite of 1955, not the referendum of 1935 (or was that also a plebiscite? Wink )
And indeed as you said: "The 2016 ‘referendum’, however, wasn’t a referendum at all. It was a non-binding plebiscite which at best can be described as an official, state-sponsored opinion poll."
https://www.moadoph.gov.au/blog/referenda-and-plebiscites-whats-the-difference/

If I understand it well the referendum is something that is voted and they call the people to give their approval or not? A plebiscite: is a consultation of the people before voting something to know what the people thinks before the parliament votes (and that is exactly what happened in the 2016 people's consultation? And perhaps "people's consultation would be better than referendum? Wink .
And yes the "volksraadpleging" in the King's Question was also a plebiscite...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belgian_monarchy_referendum,_1950
And it happens that wiki in the same referendum article uses the real name "volksraadpleging" Wink (I even recall all the turmoil around it:
"The Catholics, who generally supported the King's return, won a majority in the Belgian Senate during the general election of 26 June 1949. The Catholics formed a government with the Liberals. The date of the referendum (Consultation populaire) the King wanted was set by this government for 12 March 1950"
referendum (consultation populaire) (volksraadpleging) (plebiscite) Wink

The rest of your message is also interesting to me, as the Austrian Netherlands (one year been the United States of Belgium) becoming French territory: If I recall it well we overhere were the "département de l'Escaut". And the Netherlands became a kingdom under French tutelle...

Thanks again for your interesting message Vizzer.

Kind regards, Paul.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Wed 01 Nov 2017, 22:46

@nordmann wrote:
I remember Major's comment, Vizzer. He was in fact simply echoing Thatcher before him, who previously had also called referendums "a device of dictators and demagogues", and she in turn was in fact quoting Attlee. All of them will have pointed to fascist use of referendums to apparently endorse seizure of power in the first half of the 20th century to support this rather sweeping summary of what is a concept as understood elsewhere obviously well beyond the intellectual grasp of most British politicians. And this is not surprising - a referendum in Britain does not mean quite the same thing as in constitutional democracies and in fact all three of the above were quite correct to equate one in a British context with earlier misuse of the plebiscite in other countries. These countries at the time were also in the process of dismantling their constitutions to nefarious ends and wished to give their actions the veneer of democracy while they were at it. In a country without a written constitution there is in fact nothing even to dismantle and a referendum is almost by definition whatever anyone wants it to be at any particular moment - which when you think about is not too dissimilar in fact from the earlier fascist interpretation. In that sense all three prime ministers were bang on the money, at least when describing the political milieu in which they themselves operated.

When Major made the comment I recall quite a few eyebrows being raised outside of Britain - not least in Ireland where the same government of John Major was well into a process in which the plebiscite in the form of referendum was about to play a huge role in advancing a permanent peace deal between the antagonistic parties in Northern Ireland. At that point in what was called the "peace process" nothing of any real import with regard to a lasting cessation of violence had been officially agreed, though in the background there was quite a lot of frenetic diplomatic activity which was throwing some rather unlikely combinations of negotiators together in safe houses, back rooms, and - though everyone denied it at the time - even in Whitehall. At one point in one of these clandestine meetings a Sinn Féin delegation (ostensibly representing the Provisional IRA though all involved knew what this really meant) sat across from Major, his NI and Home Secretaries, and several senior civil servants while they patiently explained to them what a plebiscite actually was. According to Martin McGuinness he found himself (a "terrorist" according to those he was facing) in the odd position of having to explain to the British contingent present (all committed democrats) how, if the armalite was to be removed from the picture, it would have to be replaced by something quite a bit more solid in terms of representation and constitutional guarantee than what passed for such in "mainland" Britain - "rule by decree" is a term of contempt often used by republicans to summarise the British political process and it was important that Major & Co understand that anything that smacked of this just wasn't going to be feasible in the context of negotiating a ceasefire and a meaningful political solution. His explanations were falling on deaf ears, British eyes were glazing over, and McGuinness reckoned he was talking to people who distrusted constitutional procedure almost as much as they distrusted him and his fellow negotiators, until he hit upon the idea of recruiting backup for his argument. A call was made to the then deputy leader of the DUP, Peter Robinson - whose party at that time was very much opposed to any British government deal with republicans on any grounds whatsoever and who were even unofficially endorsing a recent UDA "plan" to jettison some areas of the North, "devolve" the remainder as a "Protestant state" and to "expel" or (rather sinisterly) "nullify" any Catholics remaining in the rump state - and McGuinness actually asked his arch enemy to please explain to the British Prime Minister the role of a plebiscite in any democracy, and especially one with such a divided community that required something more than ministerial endorsement to believe any negotiated measure represented progress any longer. Robinson - who also knew full well that further imposition by Westminster of political "solutions", no matter how well meant, could no longer cut the mustard in a Northern Irish context duly obliged, Major acknowledged that both communities in Northern Ireland would require access to plebiscite to advance any initiative (even if he was still very dubious as to why), and so the talking could go on.


Thanks again nordmann for yet again an enlightening message, especially about Northern Ireland. Reading your message I realized how difficult it is for an outsider to really have a grasp of someone's own country's history, because only insiders can provide the exact details of the local events. But of course you have to have then an impartial reporter as I am nearly sure you are from my former conversations with you. And not a biassed, parti pris, one as I have given as example on the Tumbleweed suite to Lady in Retirement about the two historians who distort history to prove their own nationalistic views on certain facts in Belgium...

Kind regards, Paul.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Thu 02 Nov 2017, 08:07

@Islanddawn wrote:
More to the point can democracy survive free speech combined with the ignorance, idiocy and gullibility of many people.

Oh heck - what an alarming utterance. The trouble is, who decides who are the ignorant, the idiotic and the gullible? We all fall into the trap (I did yesterday on the Reformation thread) of assuming it is simply those who do not think as we do. Tolerance is good, but should we tolerate the idiotically intolerant?

And if most people are pretty stupid most of the time, and simply not to be trusted with any important decisions that affect all of society, who should actually get to make all these vital decisions if and when we do decide to abandon what passes for "democracy"? Is the answer the ancient one: that we need "philosopher-kings" (or queens?) - these days not so much an individual, but a group of statesmen and stateswomen who make up an outstanding ruling élite, men and women of recognised (who does the recognising?) superiority who have been rigorously schooled in philosophy? But who decides which philosophy or philosophies? And can even the best thinkers be trusted to be always wise? Even the cleverest of the philosophers, being human, have their flaws after all. Some philosophers have ended up in asylums. Madness in great ones must not unwatched go, as someone once tweeted. Who would "watch" - or "guard" - these brave new philosopher-rulers/statespersons?



I read the following nice simple article earlier and note that, like Plato himself at one time, I rather hanker after the life of the idiot.

Plato: The Failure Of Democracy


Plato was in his early twenties when Athens was defeated by Sparta, and when the second oligarch dictatorship was established. His inclination was to turn his back on politics—it seemed altogether too hopeless a mess. He had no faith in the rule of the rich, nor any confidence in the ability of ordinary citizens to run a city like Athens. The rich, as he saw, had mostly their special interests in mind, and during the time of their short-lived regimes they had shown to what length they could go to defend the advantages of the few against the majority of ordinary people. But the rule by the many was no remedy for the ills of oligarchy, according to Plato, because ordinary people were too easily swayed by the emotional and deceptive rhetoric of ambitious politicians. It was the demos, after all, the majority of ordinary people, who time and again had supported the disastrous campaigns of the Peloponnesian War by their votes, who had condoned numerous atrocities and breaches of the law, and who were also responsible for the questionable trial and execution of Socrates. Athenian politics, in other words, seemed an irremediably corrupted affair, and all a rational person could do was to attend to personal matters, and to pursue wisdom in the privacy of one’s solitude and a small circle of friends.

Such a retreat into privacy went strongly against the grain of Greek thinking, however. The citizens and inhabitants of Greek city states were generally far too aware of the social base of their personal lives to simply ignore the politics of the community on which they depended in one way or another. An individual who retreated from politics and public life was called an idiotes
- a person who lacks the knowledge and social skills that mature individuals can be expected to posses. Even Socrates, an outspoken individualist, had always been concerned with Athens as a community in which his, as well as everyone else’s, life was inescapably grounded.




But I still think, as I have mentioned earlier in this thread (probably several times), we need as our leaders not so much brilliant Oxbridge philosophy graduates (Cameron is one, and Boris can read Plato in the original Greek which is a tad worrying), but decent men and women who have real integrity. Integrity is a quality even the most idiotic among us recognise - on the rare occasions when we encounter it. It is what is referred to in the gospels as Christ (sorry) speaking "with authority". And when I ask above who should keep an eye on the philosopher-kings, I wonder if Socrates got it right? He usually did, I believe. One of Socrates' interlocutors in The Republic, Glaucon, says "it would be absurd that a guardian should need a guard" - Socrates later returns to this point where he says that the best person "has a divine ruler within himself," and that "it is better for everyone to be ruled by divine reason, preferably within himself and his own, otherwise imposed from without."

What exactly did Socrates mean by that - by "divine reason"? The same quality Marcus Aurelius (who has been mentioned earlier on this thread) was referring to when he spoke of the *god within your breast" ; and was it also what those Hellenised Jewish writers were writing about? But how on earth should this tricky idea be taught to our budding philosophers and future ideal rulers? Can it also be taught to the idiots and their children? Or is it idiotic to harbour a hope that any such teaching can - and should - be attempted?


Last edited by Temperance on Thu 02 Nov 2017, 14:54; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : punctuation etc.)
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Thu 02 Nov 2017, 08:54

Temp wrote:
And if most people are pretty stupid most of the time, and simply not to be trusted with any important decisions that affect all of society, who should actually get to make all these vital decisions if and when we do decide to abandon what passes for "democracy"?

In fact idiocy is not the biggest flaw in the democratic process when it comes to plebiscite - it is ignorance. While some popular "votes" may appear to have all the classic hallmarks of absolute idiocy, if not even lunacy on occasion, under proper analysis they reveal on almost all occasions not a failure of reason due to stupidity but a profound misunderstanding of the point of the exercise and its actual consequences on the part of a sufficiently high number of those participating to produce a policy demonstrably injurious to the same participants' welfare potential.

There is only one solution to this that society has as yet devised, however it is one that works more often than it doesn't, so ranks as an intelligent provision in any serious analysis of society and how it functions. Education, plain and simple.

To usefully participate in contributing to their own welfare potential through a democratic process the electorate participating requires to have a basic knowledge of three things going into the exercise: a comprehension of the issue which a proposed policy addresses (ie. its nature and its potential consequences), a comprehension of the nature of the task in hand itself as a democratic tool, and finally a comprehension of their own society's standard values as defined within what we call a "constitution" which, after all, is simply a statement of limitations beyond which any attempt to formulate policy is a step outside what has been agreed is democratic and/or injurious to rights as defined for the same citizens through the same document.

In Britain the electorate cannot escape ignorance on the last point - the people there are subjects, not citizens, and traditionally therefore are engaged in democratic processes only when it suits the "establishment". They cannot have a good knowledge of their constitutional rights because they do not actually have any, or at least none which cannot be summarily ignored when it suits the establishment. On the first point their ability to comprehend is extremely curtailed on occasion, depending on the issue at the time and how much has been invested by the establishment in educating them beforehand. Sometimes this level is good - or at least comparable to most other democratic countries - but often it isn't, and in the Brexit charade it was practically non-existent. The second point of course requires the first and third being in place, so is never there to be comprehended by the electorate anyway - even if they conscientiously and diligently learn to appreciate the function and power of the tool they are about to employ in one instance there is no guarantee that this comprehension will assist them on the next occasion, and so on.

Regarding what we "need from our leaders", I would suggest we "need our leaders" to be subject to the same constitutional restrictions and parameters of principle as everyone else. Having leaders who make it up as they go along simply exacerbates an already serious flaw in what passes for democracy in Britain. In fact when you think about it this is the wide open door in the British system through which idiocy will almost certainly come howling in at any opportunity - and indeed Brexit demonstrated this very well. It is not a question of which school a person goes to - it is a question of how much they know about their own constitution and what it implies regarding their duty, responsibility and required level of functionality within the democratic process. An establishment with no actual committed, clearly defined and obligatory responsibility to its fellow citizens does not even have to think about this at all. And on this occasion they most certainly didn't.

I need to think about Socrates and whether he's useful in this debate at all. He certainly had sound ideas regarding public responsibility, which is apt, but in fact the British malaise requires rather more practical and basic a solution than philosophy alone tends to address. It requires a liberal application of common sense, an urgent dismantling of the elite level which is now working so assiduously against everyone's interests, and probably a "velvet revolution" of sorts in order to face down those who would certainly employ the usual tools at their disposal to resist such an awkward development involving them actually having to behave like citizens too. However centuries of being held in your place as subjects may mean that even this modest proposal is beyond the capability of the British people, alas.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Thu 02 Nov 2017, 09:40

Interesting approaches about democracy Temperance and nordmann.

Have a lot to say about it. I hope to have time this evening.

Kind regards to both from Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Thu 02 Nov 2017, 11:22

To briefly return to the 'village idiot' it's worth remembering that the old definition of 'idiot' was , roughly, one whose mental facilities were so impaired that they were unable to make  decisions on their own behalf and, until 2008, were barred from voting. Who would have thought that there were quite so many in the UK and US?

Nordmann wrote:

In fact idiocy is not the biggest flaw in the democratic process when it comes to plebiscite - it is ignorance. While some popular "votes" may appear to have all the classic hallmarks of absolute idiocy, if not even lunacy on occasion, under proper analysis they reveal on almost all occasions not a failure of reason due to stupidity but a profound misunderstanding of the point of the exercise and its actual consequences on the part of a sufficiently high number of those participating to produce a policy demonstrably injurious to the same participants' welfare potential.

There is only one solution to this that society has as yet devised, however it is one that works more often than it doesn't, so ranks as an intelligent provision in any serious analysis of society and how it functions. Education, plain and simple.


This is undeniably true but, to return to my current hobby horse, this becomes much less likely to be effective when so many derive their information from platforms which are expressly designed to restrict their exposure to contrary views and opinions but to reflect back their own. 'Me' has indeed become 'Us' and complex argument reduced to 144 characters and an emoji.

I could ramble on about the differences between the Eu referendum and Indyref (Run-up time, residence based franchise and information available - at least from one side - for starters) but there has not, despite what one might believe reading some parts of the media, the same degree of toxicity following the result and I would suggest that this is because, as well as there being a 10% gap in votes, it was generally seen as being legitimate as a reflection of the stance of the country and opinion split (mostly) across all sectors, groups and classes.  In fact one reason the vote went for 'No' appeared to be because of the impossibility of having concrete predictions of some implications of independence such as currency and EU memberships and this implied at least some considered thought on the effects of a 'Yes' majority. One effect, however, of the outcome has been the realisation in the country that what nordmann has said about the lack of a constitution is scarily true as demonstrated in the response by Westminster at the time and now even more clearly in the questions that are being posed - and not answered - by how, and to where, devolved powers will be returned after Brexit. The Devolution agreement has been exposed as being simply a form of words and utterly ineffectual in practice.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Thu 02 Nov 2017, 12:15

@ferval wrote:
This is undeniably true but, to return to my current hobby horse, this becomes much less likely to be effective when so many derive their information from platforms which are expressly designed to restrict their exposure to contrary views and opinions but to reflect back their own. 'Me' has indeed become 'Us' and complex argument reduced to 144 characters and an emoji.

True - and this is especially noticeable in the behaviour of the American electorate when choosing their last president. However in fact this is not as much of a departure from the norm in the case of presidential elections in the US as it may first appear. These have been for many years conducted in over-simplistic terms of personality rather than policy, and in fact the social media blight in this instance could be seen as just an exaggeration of what was already a worrying but well established trend.

Of course acknowledging this doesn't get one much further in understanding how the "Brexit debate" also became reduced to a rather inane and inarticulate clash of populist and extreme misinterpretations of that which was really going on in the people's name - a phenomenon that certainly lent itself to be phrased and conducted through the most inane of modern social media, and this certainly made an already bad situation much worse. However this too cannot be the whole explanation.

The Irish for example have embarked on several important referendums in the very recent social media past, and are about to embark on another flurry soon in which they will be asked to remove the reference of "woman's life within the home" that's been there since 1937, abolish blasphemy as an offence, give the Speaker added powers, allow Ireland join the European Patent Court, yet again dilute that stupid abortion amendment, allow Irish living abroad vote in presidential elections, allow local authorities elect mayors directly, reduce the divorce waiting period after decree from 4 to 2 years, allow government committees table bills directly to the lower house, and finally ensure that ownership of the water mains never ends up in private hands and will always be owned by the people.

Not a bad little list of things to be getting on with, and one or two of these will certainly cause a flurry of facebook/twitter crapology as they are "debated" (social media is as prevalent in Ireland as anywhere else, with all the dangers of misperception and misinterpretation this media encourages), but they will all also be debated in a myriad other ways and - crucially - those then voting on these issues will do so in the realisation that an irresponsible or misinformed approach to the task in hand will come back and bite them in the bum. That to me is the crucial difference between the Irish and the British public's attitude to referendums - even an intelligent one properly organised by the British authorities carries no guarantee it will be conducted responsibly by the public on the day. After all, when was the last time a British subject was asked by "their leaders" to actually behave as a citizen and not just like one?
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Thu 02 Nov 2017, 15:54

@Temperance wrote:
@Islanddawn wrote:
More to the point can democracy survive free speech combined with the ignorance, idiocy and gullibility of many people.

Oh heck - what an alarming utterance. The trouble is, who decides who are the ignorant, the idiotic and the gullible? We all fall into the trap (I did yesterday on the Reformation thread) of assuming it is simply those who do not think as we do. Tolerance is good, but should we tolerate the idiotically intolerant?

And if most people are pretty stupid most of the time, and simply not to be trusted with any important decisions that affect all of society, who should actually get to make all these vital decisions if and when we do decide to abandon what passes for "democracy"? Is the answer the ancient one: that we need "philosopher-kings" (or queens?) - these days not so much an individual, but a group of statesmen and stateswomen who make up an outstanding ruling élite, men and women of recognised (who does the recognising?) superiority who have been rigorously schooled in philosophy? But who decides which philosophy or philosophies? And can even the best thinkers be trusted to be always wise? Even the cleverest of the philosophers, being human, have their flaws after all. Some philosophers have ended up in asylums. Madness in great ones must not unwatched go, as someone once tweeted. Who would "watch" - or "guard" - these brave new philosopher-rulers/statespersons?



I read the following nice simple article earlier and note that, like Plato himself at one time, I rather hanker after the life of the idiot.

Plato: The Failure Of Democracy


Plato was in his early twenties when Athens was defeated by Sparta, and when the second oligarch dictatorship was established. His inclination was to turn his back on politics—it seemed altogether too hopeless a mess. He had no faith in the rule of the rich, nor any confidence in the ability of ordinary citizens to run a city like Athens. The rich, as he saw, had mostly their special interests in mind, and during the time of their short-lived regimes they had shown to what length they could go to defend the advantages of the few against the majority of ordinary people. But the rule by the many was no remedy for the ills of oligarchy, according to Plato, because ordinary people were too easily swayed by the emotional and deceptive rhetoric of ambitious politicians. It was the demos, after all, the majority of ordinary people, who time and again had supported the disastrous campaigns of the Peloponnesian War by their votes, who had condoned numerous atrocities and breaches of the law, and who were also responsible for the questionable trial and execution of Socrates. Athenian politics, in other words, seemed an irremediably corrupted affair, and all a rational person could do was to attend to personal matters, and to pursue wisdom in the privacy of one’s solitude and a small circle of friends.

Such a retreat into privacy went strongly against the grain of Greek thinking, however. The citizens and inhabitants of Greek city states were generally far too aware of the social base of their personal lives to simply ignore the politics of the community on which they depended in one way or another. An individual who retreated from politics and public life was called an idiotes
- a person who lacks the knowledge and social skills that mature individuals can be expected to posses. Even Socrates, an outspoken individualist, had always been concerned with Athens as a community in which his, as well as everyone else’s, life was inescapably grounded.




But I still think, as I have mentioned earlier in this thread (probably several times), we need as our leaders not so much brilliant Oxbridge philosophy graduates (Cameron is one, and Boris can read Plato in the original Greek which is a tad worrying), but decent men and women who have real integrity. Integrity is a quality even the most idiotic among us recognise - on the rare occasions when we encounter it. It is what is referred to in the gospels as Christ (sorry) speaking "with authority". And when I ask above who should keep an eye on the philosopher-kings, I wonder if Socrates got it right? He usually did, I believe. One of Socrates' interlocutors in The Republic, Glaucon, says "it would be absurd that a guardian should need a guard" - Socrates later returns to this point where he says that the best person "has a divine ruler within himself," and that "it is better for everyone to be ruled by divine reason, preferably within himself and his own, otherwise imposed from without."

What exactly did Socrates mean by that - by "divine reason"? The same quality Marcus Aurelius (who has been mentioned earlier on this thread) was referring to when he spoke of the *god within your breast" ; and was it also what those Hellenised Jewish writers were writing about? But how on earth should this tricky idea be taught to our budding philosophers and future ideal rulers? Can it also be taught to the idiots and their children? Or is it idiotic to harbour a hope that any such teaching can - and should - be attempted?


Gawd Temp, forget philosophy it must be the biggest load of useless shite ever written. I'm running for the bunkers now...... affraid

Just a proper basic education would be enough, and as Brexit is the example being used, if people had been educated on the EU, it's purpose and parliamentary system, if people had been educated on the British government and parliamentary system, if people had been educated on Britain's history in the EU, if British history had not been airbrushed and people educated on Britain's place in the contemporary world then the Brexit vote would never have happened. But for any of that to have happened the British class system needs to be abolished, and that begins with getting rid of the Royals and the aristocracy, whilst they are still in place then the citizens of Britain will always be short changed to some extent.

Edit. Ah I should have read further, I see Nordmann has already given the education answer. And more eloquent than my scribblings it was too, a perfect example of the educated and the uneducated there.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Thu 02 Nov 2017, 16:13

On the social media platforms, there is nothing new about 'fake news' or the deliberate misleading of the public. This from 1894 Library of Congress, Washington.

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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Thu 02 Nov 2017, 16:30

ID wrote:
Gawd Temp, forget philosophy it must be the biggest load of useless shite ever written.

Don't forget all the religious crap too, ID!  Smile

I sort of mentioned education this morning, you know - before that nordmann did. It's been something of hobby for me, you see, over the years.

I wrote:


Can it also be taught to the idiots and their children? Or is it idiotic to harbour a hope that any such teaching can - and should - be attempted?  

Someone once said to me, noting my naïve belief in the efficacy of good education, "You can't educate pork."

I wonder if Aristotle and Seneca would agree, the former having educated a "psychotic, drunken brat" and the latter having tutored and advised a lad who went on to have his mother (and a few others) murdered?

But there's always a few who slip through the net.


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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Thu 02 Nov 2017, 16:38

I've known some highly educated porks in my time. I don't consider your belief naive at all, "this" nordmann says..

The level of education required to become a functioning citizen is not actually that high. Of course the opportunity to actually be a citizen is the seemingly impossible bit in the British case, which is rather a disincentive to acquire even the basic education required..
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Thu 02 Nov 2017, 17:01

@Temperance wrote:
"You can't educate pork."

Maybe, although as Churchill once remarked: "a dog will fawn on you, a cat will ignore you, but only a pig will treat you as an equal".

@Temperance wrote:
"You can't educate pork."

Maybe, although as Boris Johnson and David 'Piggy' Cameron both demonstrate, one can get a first from Oxford and so be 'clever' ... but yet also be completely uneducated.

@Temperance wrote:
"You can't educate pork."

Maybe, although you could simply be like David (pig-thick) Davis: "thick as mince, lazy as a toad and as vain as Narcissus"


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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Thu 02 Nov 2017, 17:17

@Meles meles wrote:
@Temperance wrote:
"You can't educate pork."

Maybe, although as Churchill once remarked: "a dog will fawn on you, a cat will ignore you, but only a pig will treat you as an equal".

@Temperance wrote:
"You can't educate pork."

Maybe, although as Boris Johnson and David 'Piggy' Cameron both demonstrate, one get get a first from Oxford and so be 'clever' ... but also seem to be completely lacking in any 'common sense'.

Actually I like pigs. A huge spotty one lives in a field near me: she is called Priscilla. Sorry, P.!! I have a piggery at the end of my garden, but alas no pig.

I mentioned both Cameron and Boris and their studies in my message above. I'm beginning to think no one actually reads my posts, except that there nordmann and Paul.  Smile



PS I do hope people note it was not I who originally made the nasty "pork" comment. I was quoting someone who said it to me.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Thu 02 Nov 2017, 17:21

@PaulRyckier wrote:
And indeed as you said: "The 2016 ‘referendum’, however, wasn’t a referendum at all. It was a non-binding plebiscite which at best can be described as an official, state-sponsored opinion poll."

https://www.moadoph.gov.au/blog/referenda-and-plebiscites-whats-the-difference/

If I understand it well the referendum is something that is voted and they call the people to give their approval or not? A plebiscite: is a consultation of the people before voting something to know what the people thinks before the parliament votes

That’s certainly one definition Paul – and a useful one at that. Thanks for that link by the way. It shows that the difference between a referendum and a plebiscite is something which is acknowledged in at least one English-speaking country (in this case Australia) even to the extent that the difference needs to be clearly defined. It’s no coincidence either that Australia also has a written constitution which of itself would necessitate such precision and attention to detail in the use of constitutional terms.

As nordmann has pointed out this is certainly not the case in the UK where it seems that constitutional law (and constitutional history) is a blur and a muddle which is also so often depicted as a political ‘turn-off’ in public debate. This phenomenon is particularly the case in England. It’s slightly different in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales (in that order) but even in those countries the framers of the ‘public debate’ are often quick to poo-poo ‘time wasted’ on constitutional discussions and suggest that the public are more interested in ‘bread and butter’ issues. Needless to say that much (if not most) of this precious-political-time-not-to-be-wasted-on-debating-constitutional-questions is then spent not even discussing the so-called ‘bread and butter’ issues but (you’ve guessed it) is spent instead gossiping about personalities. Such and such a politician made such and such an expense claim, such and such a politician sits on such and such an organisation’s board of directors and so on. And then after the ‘public outrage’ has blown over and the news media band-wagon has got bored and moved on, no bar to such activities can be implemented because that’s boring constitutional stuff and our time is too precious to be wasted on that and there are more important bread and butter issues people want to discuss don’t you know. And so the cycle begins all over again.

It is suggested by some (with regard to England & Wales at least) that the Magna Carta of 1215 and the Bill of Rights of 1689 (along with some other documents) together do indeed form a written constitution. The main problem with this interpretation is that any reading of the text of either Magna Carta or the Bill of Rights will immediately show them to be basically irrelevant to the lives of most UK citizens in the 21st century. And this suggestion is nearly always put forward by those who champion the ‘sovereignty of parliament’ in the constitution. Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights are merely used as fig leaves to try to mask this. Needless to say those who champion the sovereignty of parliament in the UK constitution are also often those who ridicule any suggestion that civics should be taught in schools as a core subject in the curriculum.

I was thinking on this only recently when I was reading Some Thoughts Concerning Education written by philosopher John Locke in 1693. Some Thoughts Concerning Education is really an attempt at a handbook on parenting. It’s sometimes forgotten that as well as being a philosopher, Locke was also a physician. In the book he basically gives various tips on child-rearing on a wide range of things such as diet and what kind of porridge a child should eat as well as potage, fresh fruit and how much meat to how much bread etc, advice on appropriate clothing (not too tight), advice on the importance of exercise and fresh air,  advice about corporal punishment (he’s generally against it), advice on what to do if you suspect that your child in lying, advice on the importance of the company of other children in a child’s life, advice regarding ghosts and goblins (yes really), advice on the teaching of arithmetic and geography, advice on the best foreign languages to teach (he suggests French as a living language to be taught orally while Latin as a dead language to be taught literally), advice on the importance of teaching music and dancing ... and so on and so forth. What struck me, however, was his later section on the teaching of ethics & civil law to the older child. Locke writes:

... he will be instructed in the natural rights of men and the origin and foundations of society, and the duties resulting from thence. This general part of civil law and history, are studies which a gentleman should not barely touch at, but constantly dwell upon, and never have done with... I think the right way for a gentleman to study our law... is to take a view of our English constitution and government, in the ancient books of the common law; and some more modern writers, who out of them have given an account of this government... This will give an insight into the reason of our statutes and show the true ground upon which they came to be made, and what weight they ought to have.
     
It seems not only was he greatly in favour of the teaching of civics but (and only 4 years after the passage of the Bill of Rights) neither did John Locke think that the English constitution was something which was ‘done with’.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Thu 02 Nov 2017, 17:31

Odd that you should mention Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights. I was going to send this earlier, but didn't. But after reading your post, Vizzer, here it is.The article (link below) is interesting.

Nordmann has had much to say about the inadequacies of our antiquated British systems. Seems we are an enslaved island race, despite all our enthusiastic singing of Rule Britannia at the Last Night of the Proms.

For all British idiots out there who, like me, are a bit bewildered by all this talk of the abject failure of our sad old "unwritten constitution", the following article may be useful. It is written by Robert Blackburn (LLD, FRHistS), Professor of Constitutional Law at King’s College London, a chap who has published many books on political and constitutional affairs, among them The Electoral System in Britain (Macmillan, 1995), Fundamental Rights in Europe (OUP, 2001), Parliament (2nd ed., Sweet & Maxwell, 2002) and King and Country (Politico’s, 2006). He is a member of the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Committee.

So I presume he knows what he is talking about. I think he agrees with nordmann that a few changes here would be beneficial. Fair enough.

https://www.bl.uk/magna-carta/articles/britains-unwritten-constitution

But I still would like to look at the deeper issues. We can talk until we are blue in the face about constitutions etc., but how do we persuade a cynical, disillusioned and unhappy people that anyone gives a damn about them? Until we do that there is no point in any of this talk. I agree - always have done - that education is the key, but I still wonder if all this is not a political question at all, but an existential one. But that's probably just me waffling on, like I do.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Thu 02 Nov 2017, 17:44

Temp wrote:
...but how do we persuade a cynical, disillusioned and unhappy people that anyone gives a damn about them?

You see what you did there?

In a constitutional democracy (a real one, I mean) anyone who has attended even one civics class (in the Republic of Ireland a compulsory secondary school curriculum subject) knows that it is the people's duty to give a damn about themselves and that the constitution is there basically to facilitate this most important element of the democracy in which they live. One does not wait for others to give a damn about you - you yourself make it so that it is impossible not to. That is the essence of being a responsible citizen.

I agree with Vizzer about the irrelevance of Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights in the modern context of democracy. One can see how the latter especially could be deemed a stepping stone towards modern democracy, but that's about it. The accumulated suffrage reform bills over the years are probably even more of one, albeit one extracted from the powers that be at the time often like blood from a stone. However none of these steps in Britain addressed the core precept by which that country's society is structured in terms of power, from where it is derived, who holds it, and how it is used.

Now that's something worth giving a damn about!
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Thu 02 Nov 2017, 17:57

You miss my point entirely.

I am fully aware of the need for individual responsibility - no one else can make us "happy". But human beings thrive rather than merely function when we believe others (and not just family) care about us - that we do actually matter. Being a responsible citizen who regularly attends civics classes is all very well and good, but "without charity" it will get us nowhere. People are not units.

I'm all for civics classes, but, useful as such tuition undoubtedly is, I'm not sure it is the entire solution to our human dilemma.

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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Thu 02 Nov 2017, 18:12

It's still thinking as a subject, in my view. I think actually it's you who doesn't get the main point of what I'm saying. Your reference to basic human emotions, feelings of self-worth and the need for positive reinforcement to avoid despondency, especially when talking about children, vulnerable people of whatever hue, and others dependent on such reinforcement and asurance, makes total sense. But if this is what the success of failure of the democratic process hinges on then that process is seriously flawed.

When people feel marginalised from society itself then that is indeed a grave situation and a symptom of something seriously amiss within society - you are right there. But I am talking about marginalisation from and inability to influence the very process of power within the society in which they live, and when that marginalisation runs to the extent which it does in Britain, with no constitutional structure to ensure the people "matter" (as you say), then your valid point  about thriving applies with equal force to one's basic status and value within one's own society and by extension then the potential for that society itself to thrive (or even function).

And that is something one learns in civics, by the way, and once learnt and understood is very hard not to apply in analogy to all aspects of valuing individuals at any level, not just as citizens. While it may not offer "the entire solution to our human dilemma" it's not a bad bloody start!
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Thu 02 Nov 2017, 18:37

@nordmann wrote:
In a constitutional democracy (a real one, I mean) anyone who has attended even one civics class (in the Republic of Ireland a compulsory secondary school curriculum subject) knows that it is the people's duty to give a damn about themselves and that the constitution is there basically to facilitate this most important element of the democracy in which they live. One does not wait for others to give a damn about you - you yourself make it so that it is impossible not to. That is the essence of being a responsible citizen.

This rings true.

I remember in my sixth form in Kent we had 2 brothers from an Anglo-Irish family who had come from County Clare. Both were gregarious, outgoing and popular members of the school. They were also extremely confident and active members of the debating society and seemed to have an extensive grasp not just of the concepts and ideas relating to public affairs but also already had mastery of the attendant vocabulary and terminology. We English kids, on the other hand, were mere novices in this respect and seemed to be playing catch-up by comparison. The difference was clearly noticeable.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Thu 02 Nov 2017, 19:13

@Temperance wrote:
@Meles meles wrote:
@Temperance wrote:
"You can't educate pork."

Maybe, although as Churchill once remarked: "a dog will fawn on you, a cat will ignore you, but only a pig will treat you as an equal".

@Temperance wrote:
"You can't educate pork."

Maybe, although as Boris Johnson and David 'Piggy' Cameron both demonstrate, one get get a first from Oxford and so be 'clever' ... but also seem to be completely lacking in any 'common sense'.

Actually I like pigs. A huge spotty one lives in a field near me: she is called Priscilla. Sorry, P.!! I have a piggery at the end of my garden, but alas no pig.

I mentioned both Cameron and Boris and their studies in my message above. I'm beginning to think no one actually reads my posts, except that there nordmann and Paul.  Smile



PS I do hope people note it was not I who originally made the nasty "pork" comment. I was quoting someone who said it to me.


I read it Temp and was going to comment along the lines that all that expensive education and both Camoron and Boris still remain (willfully)...er pig ignorant. That being able to read whoever in the original αρχεια is meaningless as it has not made a bit of difference in preparing them for their chosen careers, but thought I'd said enough for one day. Smile
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Fri 03 Nov 2017, 05:36

@Temperance wrote:
You miss my point entirely.

I am fully aware of the need for individual responsibility - no one else can make us "happy". But human beings thrive rather than merely function when we believe others (and not just family) care about us - that we do actually matter. Being a responsible citizen who regularly attends civics classes is all very well and good, but "without charity" it will get us nowhere. People are not units.

I'm all for civics classes, but, useful as such tuition undoubtedly is, I'm not sure it is the entire solution to our human dilemma.


People are not units but governments think of them as such. The onus is always on the citizen to force politicians to address their needs, and they do that through voting as no-one is going to do it for them. How many of those who voted Brexit have never bothered voting in their lives before? Yet now complain that they've been left behind?

Anyway the older generations are a dead loss, they will always think as they do as that is what they've been groomed to do throughout their lives and all the civic classes in the world will not change that. The idea is to begin with educating the youth, but again the government will never change the curriculum unless forced to by its voters, and why should they when they've been on a good wicket for decades if not centuries and handed to them by the citizens themselves.  And the vote for Brexit is merely for a continuance of the same from the very same 'elite' that they rage against. It is catch 22, it really is.

This is what I find most puzzling in Britain today, where is the outrage? In Brexit we saw some but it was very successfully misdirected by those responsible and from those responsible, but where is the outrage from everyone? Why aren't people hitting the streets in protest at their treatment? This possibly comes back to Nordmann's 'still thinking like subjects'?
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Fri 03 Nov 2017, 07:44

ID wrote:

This is what I find most puzzling in Britain today, where is the outrage? In Brexit we saw some but it was very successfully misdirected by those responsible and from those responsible, but where is the outrage from everyone? Why aren't people hitting the streets in protest at their treatment? This possibly comes back to Nordmann's 'still thinking like subjects'?

There was a Day of Rage organised this summer, and it was reported that "thousands" would descend on the capital and that the government and the Crown would surrender. It was a very hot day and, in the event, only a few hundred quite polite and nicely-spoken young people, plus some sad old Marxists, showed up. From the Guardian report:


They eventually gathered outside Downing Street, where two smoke flares were set off. And despite fears that violent opportunists might hijack the protest the crowd remained peaceful and slowly began to disband, with half making their way towards the Palace of Westminster.

A male protester was later pinned to the floor by police following what appeared to be a skirmish with officers, the Press Asssociation reported. As he was being carried away he repeatedly shouted he was a “peaceful” protester.










I'm sorry, ID, I know you are trying to make a serious point; it's true we don't do violent outrage terribly well here. We generally have a cup of tea and a biscuit instead. "Mustn't grumble" is a popular observation, although these days an adverbial expletive often modifies the "grumble" bit. We British are a pathetic lot, all in all.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Fri 03 Nov 2017, 08:16

There was a report on Radio 4 a week or so ago about the many anti-Brexit protests that are indeed taking place and simply not being reported - one in particular in London I believe several thousand strong, but as the report said probably more important than the numbers at any one protest being just how many there are, how frequent they are, and all around the country.

They stopped short of ascribing the non-reporting to a media blackout ordered from above. But I wondered why - the only alternative reason would be the national media itself deciding these protests are "unimportant" and basically doing the establishment's bidding without even having been bidden.

The notion of being a subject rather than a citizen extends way beyond the individual status of each "ordinary" member of the population, though this is of course the constituency from which any change will have to be initiated. It is a mentality that is instilled through the simple experience of just being a subject, not one imposed through decree but simply through the absence of an alternative. In Britain it permeates all levels of society, and though it has a huge bearing on who benefits and who is disadvantaged within society, neither of these effects in themselves is considered by a typical subject as sufficient reason to examine alternatives.

The normal British person's reaction therefore to anyone who suggests alternatives from within their own society, or even who simply tests or questions the boundaries of the impositions that being a subject entails, is basically one of non-understanding and on that basis dismissive - through humour often, through brutality now and then designed to discourage such ideas popularly spreading, though by far most frequently simply by pretending that they are not there at all. That which is uncomfortable to contemplate (or too difficult for dyed-in-the-wool subjects to understand) is wished into non-existence, sometimes aided by officialdom but most often voluntarily by the bulk of the people.

The total failure even to contemplate the implications of Brexit on Northern Ireland, for example, was so conspicuous that it deserved and still deserves explanation, not just for the people within NI and the Republic of Ireland to start making plans to protect themselves against the terrible repercussions this potentially is bringing with it, but by all British people - at least if they genuinely want to address their head-in-the-sand default stance that so often self-inflictedly hurts so many British people. The current inability within England to understand the huge threat to "constitutionally" devolved powers in Scotland and Wales that is being presently prosecuted by the Conservative government, claiming a mandate from the Brexit referendum in assaulting, disregarding, and dismantling this important provision supposedly agreed democratically at the time, is equally conspicuous for the same reason.

About the only people behaving as citizens in all this mess are indeed the ones staging protests against this multi-faceted assault on whatever once passed as constitutional freedoms and rights within Britain. And according to the official media, these people don't even exist.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Fri 03 Nov 2017, 08:38

What utter tosh. The September rallies were reported extensively. Good Lord - even in the Daily Express! We aren't quite living in a police state here in the UK, you know.

Your concern for our welfare is very much appreciated, and I fully understand your anxiety about Ireland, but I cannot help thinking - and I'm probably being quite unfair - that both you and ID are rather enjoying observing our misery. Admit it - you are, just a tiny little bit.


http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/866470/Brexit-news-protest-stop-Brexit-12-regional-rallies-London-Edinburgh-Birmingham
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Fri 03 Nov 2017, 08:53

You are retreating into denial, sarcasm and ad hominem insults - and in danger therefore of simply affirming my point through your response. Your notion that I enjoy "observing British misery" is simply bloody rude and proof that you haven't actually understood a single thing I've said on this thread.

The issue of the very real threat to devolved authority in Scotland and Wales is being raised with increasing frequency and increasing alarm by Assembly members and leaders in both constituencies. And while you might dismissively say "I fully understand their concerns for their respective countries" my real question is why the English are not equally alarmed? A supposedly democratically achieved advance towards actual citizenship is about to be reversed, or at least overridden by a government claiming as it behaves unilaterally that it is also behaving democratically. If hard-won liberties and even limited self-governance can be so easily removed, why isn't everyone up in arms within England too? Is there nothing held by hard-won right worth defending?

I will say no more here about this. Being accused of gloating when I see such a blatant assault on democratic and constitutional rights is simply too insulting to merit response, especially coming from someone who apparently is complicit through inaction at the very scene of the crime. Or what else can I believe from such a rude retort as yours above?
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Fri 03 Nov 2017, 08:59

Ok - I'll delete my membership.

You don't want the likes of me around here.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Fri 03 Nov 2017, 09:28

That is not true either.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Fri 03 Nov 2017, 10:28

Studiously ignoring ID's comment about the 'older generation', can I say that the view from North Britain aligns much more closely with that of nordmann and ID, we have often been made very aware of our status as subjects and subjects of a lesser race at that, through centuries of being governed from afar with a quasi-viceroy and our political parties being seen as a branch office and only paid attention to when required as lobby fodder to bolster a majority or push through legislation in which we are largely at best an after thought.
When a nation votes, in every constituency and by a substantial majority, to Remain but is then disregarded, can we really be expected to consider that our democratic rights are being respected?

Yes, the lack of reaction and protest does make me wonder but then, remember the 'Not in my Name' demo? What did that achieve? What did sending 56 SNP MPs to Westminster in 2015 achieve? Up here we can participate in the electoral processes of any kind until hell freezes over but unless our objectives happen to coincide with those of big brother over the border we are buggered. Better Together ( Ha!) asked why the SNP wanted to leave the Union but join the EU where we would be just on of nearly 30 members but never addressed the fact that in the EU we would have the same rights and responsibilities as every other nation and our vote counted as such rather than being the perpetual junior partner in a a totally unequal Union.

Come on Temp, have a cup of 1706 and reflect on how much you would miss us, this place would be so much poorer without you.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Fri 03 Nov 2017, 11:00

@Temperance wrote:
What utter tosh. The September rallies were reported extensively. Good Lord - even in the Daily Express! We aren't quite living in a police state here in the UK, you know.

Your concern for our welfare is very much appreciated, and I fully understand your anxiety about Ireland, but I cannot help thinking - and I'm probably being quite unfair - that both you and ID are rather enjoying observing our misery. Admit it - you are, just a tiny little bit.


http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/866470/Brexit-news-protest-stop-Brexit-12-regional-rallies-London-Edinburgh-Birmingham


Sorry Temp but that is just not true at all. I have friends in England, Scotland and Ireland and my concern for them is genuine in these uncertain times, also my outrage at their treatment and by their own government. Well not my Irish friend's case, their problems from this vote are going to be rather different to that of England and Scotland.

It is beyond me why you take criticism toward government so personally. It isn't personal in any way, and shouldn't be considered as such.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Fri 03 Nov 2017, 11:17

@ferval wrote:
Studiously ignoring ID's comment about the 'older generation', can I say that the view from North Britain aligns much more closely with that of nordmann and ID, we have often been made very aware of our status as subjects and subjects of a lesser race at that, through centuries of being governed from afar with a quasi-viceroy and our political parties being seen as a branch office and only paid attention to when required as lobby fodder to bolster a majority or push through legislation in which we are largely at best an after thought.
When a nation votes, in every constituency and by a substantial majority, to Remain but is then disregarded, can we really be expected to consider that our democratic rights are being respected?

Yes, the lack of reaction and protest does make me wonder but then, remember the 'Not in my Name' demo? What did that achieve? What did sending 56 SNP MPs to Westminster in 2015 achieve? Up here we can participate in the electoral processes of any kind until hell freezes over but unless our objectives happen to coincide with those of big brother over the border we are buggered. Better Together ( Ha!) asked why the SNP wanted to leave the Union but join the EU where we would be just on of nearly 30 members but never addressed the fact that in the EU we would have the same rights and responsibilities as every other nation and our vote counted as such rather than being the perpetual junior partner in a a totally unequal Union.

Come on Temp, have a cup of 1706 and reflect on how much you would miss us, this place would be so much poorer without you.


Yes sorry about that ferval, I meant those who voted for Brexit many of whom will have popped their clogs by the time Brexit actually happens and who will have left one unholy mess for their grandchildren to deal with.  I'm well aware that there are just as many 'older generation' who voted Remain who are fully aware of the problems and risks.

I have a Greek friend who has spent all his working life in Scotland and has now just retired. He loves Scotland and now thinks of himself as Scottish rather than Greek and is in a bit of a dither as to what is going to happen to him. At least he still maintains a house in Greece so always has a bolt hole, but all the others? I have so many similar examples from friends in the UK, what is frustrating is that it is all so unnecessary and all over a Tory party bun fight.  Really, heads should be rolling.

I fully understand and agree with your post btw.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Fri 03 Nov 2017, 21:53

@Temperance wrote:
Ok - I'll delete my membership.

You don't want the likes of me around here.


Temperance,

how came it that far again? Yes I read it all...And as you start to say that people are targetting "your country" with malignant allegations only on suppositions...even when you said  "a tiny bit"...but I understand the temper can go up in all this "national" questions...we have the same overhere now, with the Flemish nationalists getting mingled in the Catalonian question...and we are again up for a round of difficulties in Belgium due to these Flemish nationalists and now the ex-Catalonian president in Belgium...

Kind regards from your friend Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Sat 04 Nov 2017, 13:32

I do wish people (I'm not referring to people on this website - just what I hear in the media, I can get the news via my computer) would stop making the issue of Brexit one between younger and older citizens (or subjects if Nordmann wants to be particular) of the UK.  At sixty (and quite a big) something I guess I am an oldster whether I like to consider myself one or not. I voted "Remain" and I know there have been people younger than me who voted "Leave".  It is the classic tactic of "Divide and Rule" though I would have thought by now the public would be wise to that tactic. As far as I can tell in my telly-less state there are some folks jumping up and down because they dislike the idea of Brexit and others whinging because they consider it (Brexit) is taking too long to be brought into force so I don't think there is a failure to cover the matter in the media.

My late mother came from Wales and she said there had always been people in the Welsh population who wanted Wales to be separated from England and she would have been 100 now if she had lived.  I don't know the situation in Scotland so much so can't say anything about that land.

Minus the TV (though I have had an offer of an old one which I've just been too lazy to do anything about) I watch the BBC News 24 Channel sometimes and will get the news headlines off Sky (who have a YouTube channel) though I find their presentation style not to my taste.  I sometimes dip into what the Guardian is saying for my left-wing perspective on things and to Rebel Media for a right-wing perspective - not saying I agree with any of 'em but just looking intermittently to see what is being said.  Though I don't know what it says for the news media (though I appreciate the news is not supposed to be an entertainment channel) when the only thing that brought a smile to my lips was Tommy Robinson (the activist not the singer) calling an Hollywood (ex-Hollywood) mogul Harvey W*nkstein.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Sat 04 Nov 2017, 14:16

@nordmann wrote:
That is not true either.



I did actually delete my membership yesterday after your unnecessarily vitriolic response, but I have not been deleted. Is this you, fate, or an Act of God?

Here's a lesson in how to keep people on your side and still contributing to your site. A suggested response that could have averted an awful lot of tea-drinking and utter misery:

@nordmann wrote:


@Temperance wrote:
...and I'm probably being unfair"...

You are - hence my vitriolic response, which was, on reflection, possibly a tad harsh. I am not attempting to belittle either you or your country - can't you see that? But I am sorry if I have distressed you - that was not my intent. Please do not delete your membership, you silly cow.

But then again, pigs - even spotty Priscilla down the road - might fly.



PS Why didn't my "Delete membership" take? I ticked the box, saved it, and had my annihilation confirmed.



Last edited by Temperance on Sun 05 Nov 2017, 06:52; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Sat 04 Nov 2017, 14:33

Fine by me - vitriol is good for some belly aches but not all, I agree. I'll place mine back in the cabinet over the bathroom sink - for the moment. Here goes ...

@Temperance wrote:

...and I'm probably being unfair"...

You are - hence my vitriolic response, which was, on reflection, possibly a tad harsh. I am not attempting to belittle either you or your country - can't you see that? But I am sorry if I have distressed you - that was not my intent. Please do not delete your membership.

I left out the rude bit from your suggested response, didn't want to risk a vitriolic backlash.

PS. I don't know why your membership deletion didn't work. I could offer to help you with it if you like, but then that might be totally misinterpreted also!
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Sat 04 Nov 2017, 15:05

@Temperance wrote:
annihilation confirmed

That sounds like an album title from one of those awful thrash metal bands one of my nephews used to listen to. Thankfully that phase has now passed and he's currently going thru a retro (1960s) experience in his musical education. The Kinks seem to be flavour of the month at the moment. Talk about going from one extreme to another - but, hey, at least the sound he and his bandmates now produce seems to have improved too.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Sat 04 Nov 2017, 15:24

This is one of my all time favourites. I still love Ray Davies:





Lord, 1969...
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Sat 04 Nov 2017, 22:50

@Vizzer wrote:
@Temperance wrote:
annihilation confirmed

That sounds like an album title from one of those awful thrash metal bands one of my nephews used to listen to. Thankfully that phase has now passed and he's currently going thru a retro (1960s) experience in his musical education. The Kinks seem to be flavour of the month at the moment. Talk about going from one extreme to another - but, hey, at least the sound he and his bandmates now produce seems to have improved too.


Vizzer, I have not yet reacted to your reply...now very busy on a French messageboard in a debate about the Catalunia exit...
and now nearing midnight near the English channel... too late to start elaborated answers to you and to others in this thread...

Kind regards and with esteem, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Sun 05 Nov 2017, 22:25

Vizzer, and again in the same case...sigh...

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Tue 07 Nov 2017, 22:03

@Vizzer wrote:
@PaulRyckier wrote:
And indeed as you said: "The 2016 ‘referendum’, however, wasn’t a referendum at all. It was a non-binding plebiscite which at best can be described as an official, state-sponsored opinion poll."

https://www.moadoph.gov.au/blog/referenda-and-plebiscites-whats-the-difference/

If I understand it well the referendum is something that is voted and they call the people to give their approval or not? A plebiscite: is a consultation of the people before voting something to know what the people thinks before the parliament votes

That’s certainly one definition Paul – and a useful one at that. Thanks for that link by the way. It shows that the difference between a referendum and a plebiscite is something which is acknowledged in at least one English-speaking country (in this case Australia) even to the extent that the difference needs to be clearly defined. It’s no coincidence either that Australia also has a written constitution which of itself would necessitate such precision and attention to detail in the use of constitutional terms.

As nordmann has pointed out this is certainly not the case in the UK where it seems that constitutional law (and constitutional history) is a blur and a muddle which is also so often depicted as a political ‘turn-off’ in public debate. This phenomenon is particularly the case in England. It’s slightly different in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales (in that order) but even in those countries the framers of the ‘public debate’ are often quick to poo-poo ‘time wasted’ on constitutional discussions and suggest that the public are more interested in ‘bread and butter’ issues. Needless to say that much (if not most) of this precious-political-time-not-to-be-wasted-on-debating-constitutional-questions is then spent not even discussing the so-called ‘bread and butter’ issues but (you’ve guessed it) is spent instead gossiping about personalities. Such and such a politician made such and such an expense claim, such and such a politician sits on such and such an organisation’s board of directors and so on. And then after the ‘public outrage’ has blown over and the news media band-wagon has got bored and moved on, no bar to such activities can be implemented because that’s boring constitutional stuff and our time is too precious to be wasted on that and there are more important bread and butter issues people want to discuss don’t you know. And so the cycle begins all over again.

It is suggested by some (with regard to England & Wales at least) that the Magna Carta of 1215 and the Bill of Rights of 1689 (along with some other documents) together do indeed form a written constitution. The main problem with this interpretation is that any reading of the text of either Magna Carta or the Bill of Rights will immediately show them to be basically irrelevant to the lives of most UK citizens in the 21st century. And this suggestion is nearly always put forward by those who champion the ‘sovereignty of parliament’ in the constitution. Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights are merely used as fig leaves to try to mask this. Needless to say those who champion the sovereignty of parliament in the UK constitution are also often those who ridicule any suggestion that civics should be taught in schools as a core subject in the curriculum.

I was thinking on this only recently when I was reading Some Thoughts Concerning Education written by philosopher John Locke in 1693. Some Thoughts Concerning Education is really an attempt at a handbook on parenting. It’s sometimes forgotten that as well as being a philosopher, Locke was also a physician. In the book he basically gives various tips on child-rearing on a wide range of things such as diet and what kind of porridge a child should eat as well as potage, fresh fruit and how much meat to how much bread etc, advice on appropriate clothing (not too tight), advice on the importance of exercise and fresh air,  advice about corporal punishment (he’s generally against it), advice on what to do if you suspect that your child in lying, advice on the importance of the company of other children in a child’s life, advice regarding ghosts and goblins (yes really), advice on the teaching of arithmetic and geography, advice on the best foreign languages to teach (he suggests French as a living language to be taught orally while Latin as a dead language to be taught literally), advice on the importance of teaching music and dancing ... and so on and so forth. What struck me, however, was his later section on the teaching of ethics & civil law to the older child. Locke writes:

... he will be instructed in the natural rights of men and the origin and foundations of society, and the duties resulting from thence. This general part of civil law and history, are studies which a gentleman should not barely touch at, but constantly dwell upon, and never have done with... I think the right way for a gentleman to study our law... is to take a view of our English constitution and government, in the ancient books of the common law; and some more modern writers, who out of them have given an account of this government... This will give an insight into the reason of our statutes and show the true ground upon which they came to be made, and what weight they ought to have.
     
It seems not only was he greatly in favour of the teaching of civics but (and only 4 years after the passage of the Bill of Rights) neither did John Locke think that the English constitution was something which was ‘done with’.

 Vizzer,

I can only say in reply that I learned a lot from your as usual erudite message. I will later I think to nordmann comment on the education of civics in Europe and of the attitudes of the common men (the village idiots would Temperance say?), essential the voters for the parliament, which vote the laws and who can change the constitution, if there is one.

Kind regards from Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Tue 07 Nov 2017, 22:22

Ferval,

" In fact one reason the vote went for 'No' appeared to be because of the impossibility of having concrete predictions of some implications of independence such as currency and EU memberships and this implied at least some considered thought on the effects of a 'Yes' majority. One effect, however, of the outcome has been the realisation in the country that what nordmann has said about the lack of a constitution is scarily true as demonstrated in the response by Westminster at the time and now even more clearly in the questions that are being posed - and not answered - by how, and to where, devolved powers will be returned after Brexit. The Devolution agreement has been exposed as being simply a form of words and utterly ineffectual in practice."

I said it already on a French forum, for instance the Belgian situation cannot be compared with the Scottish situation as for instance to call somewhat the report of Francophones to Neerlandophones is roughly four to six and the Dutch speaking ones were during the last century always the demanding party. If you compare that to Scotland-England...? And the Belgians have worked out a constitutional basis for the living together of the two regions (for ease I reckon Brussels Capital (which is for the official contacts is bilingual, but de facto is nearly completely Francophone together with Wallonia. So I guess there is no comparison possible between Scotland and the nowadays Flemish region in Belgium? I think also the same for the Nord of Italy or the Italian German speaking part. And indeed also for Catalunia.

And thanks again for this inside information.

Kind regards from Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Tue 07 Nov 2017, 23:05

@nordmann wrote:
I've known some highly educated porks in my time. I don't consider your belief naive at all, "this" nordmann says..

The level of education required to become a functioning citizen is not actually that high. Of course the opportunity to actually be a citizen is the seemingly impossible bit in the British case, which is rather a disincentive to acquire even the basic education required..


nordmann,

I wanted to comment about the level of education needed to be a responsable citizen in constitutional countries as well as those without a written constitution and if that level is really that relevant for the level of the responsable participation into the democratic voting. I mean it is in my opinion more the will of the citizen to be informed correctly to act responsible in his right to give his democratic vote value. And on the first sight I don't agree with Ferval that one is nearly condemned to stay in his party limits and to read only what the party on the media says. (at least I have it understood that way from Ferval?). I read about all tendencies in the media. I look to the Francophone television debates as they many times say something others than the Neerlandophones. And if I learn something new I am always prepared to change my preferences...although I have to admit that I have something of a constitution in my mind Wink , some personal limitations beyond I don't want to go. But am I the average? Perhaps only a tiny tiny minority, which can not influence the general outcome of the democratic election?

I want to add populism, fascism and Hannah Arendt but too late to elaborate...

Kind regards and with esteem, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Wed 08 Nov 2017, 22:45

nordmann,

I am a subject but we have a constitution, but if that constitution is that important or if the difference between subject or citizen is that important I am not sure.
I think that the "feelings" of the average citizen are the most important, while most of the citizens don't vote with their brain but with their "feelings" (for lack to have found a better word). And in that they are that vulnerable to populists, who work on their "feelings" rather than on their "brain" (otherwise if they put the people to think their whole populist creation would collapse as a house of cards). In the Brexit it was that, I forgot his name...the one who fought in the EU parliament?...he has now left the party which he supported...Nigel...?

And one of this "feelings" is still the "nationhood" as in the 19th century...and the "feelings" are to a nation as constructed by narrative, and it is not important if the story is historical or not, but important is what the people "believe" as national history. You said it already on this board and it was the conclusion of a great discussion on Historum too.

I thought that it all was gone in the 21th century, but no, it is still alive and kicking and of course it is a grateful source for populists...as overhere in Belgium...the nowadays so-called rich Flanders against the so-called poor Wallonia...but have they with their "brain" already looked to the statistics...? and what of the gain of a bigger market? but the 19th century populists say look you have to pay for your poor brothers...you would be that better off when independent...but what with the socialist and christian solidarity?...and after all the populists have still the "roman national" of the Lion and the Cock. But they forget that there is now a Brussels' Iris in between...
And everywhere the same...as in North Italy...now the populist Berlusconi again in the arena...sexual harassment or was it all on the paylist...

No I still think that if the people had thought with their brains instead of with their "feelings" there wouldn't have been a Brexit independent from constitution or citizenship (although we are subjects in Belgium I am nearly sure we behave as citizens, especially as we are looking to the Prime Minister and not to the King). And to use your brain you need information and someone has to provide this information, so that one can make a balanced choice between all the elements of the question.

Thus would the problem be, how the people can learn to use their brains instead of their populist influenced "gut feelings" (basic feelings?)?

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Tue 05 Dec 2017, 22:23

Perhaps to add to the debate about of referenda and constitutions, one can somtheing learn from the five French Republics.
It was on this forum that I think Lady in retirement mentioned some singer of her French lessons club. I did some reseach abou the man and his songs and came on some rather nasty sayings about de Gaulle. As I am that long on French messageboards, I had nevertheless not considered the modern last halve of the 20th century, which is nevertheless in the limits of the forum (till 1991)

By that I came on the Fifth French Republic, which the singer could perhaps rightly say was usurpated by de Gaulle and broke the former constitutional order. There are at least in my opinion some anomalies as for instance the power of referenda and the Constitutional Council.
But in what circumstances? Murders by the OAS, the threath of a military coup because of Algeria, the disfonctioning of the contemporaneous government and all that...
I watched it all in the time from the save Belgium. I don't think any West-European land had ti that bad in the time. Perhaps Spain and Portugal but that is much later. 

I gave first the links to comment them tomorrow.
https://www.britannica.com/topic/Fourth-Republic-French-history
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Fourth_Republic
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Fifth_Republic
"The president was initially elected by an electoral college, but in 1962 de Gaulle proposed that the president be directly elected by the citizens, and held a referendum on the change. Although the method and intent of de Gaulle in that referendum were contested by most political groups except for the Gaullists, the change was approved by the French electorate.[16] The Constitutional Council declined to rule on the constitutionality of the referendum.[17]"
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/why-france-its-fifth-republic-180962983/

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Tue 05 Dec 2017, 23:31

From Middle English, from Old French idiote (later idiot), from Latin idiota, from Ancient Greek ἰδιώτης (idiṓtēs, “a private citizen, one who has no professional knowledge, layman”), from ἴδιος (ídios, “one's own, pertaining to oneself, private”); ἰδιώτης (idiṓtēs) was used derisively in ancient Athens to refer to one who declined to take part in public life.

Would that the last were true of modern British idiots.
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Wed 08 Aug 2018, 08:58

Well, well, well. Paxman - whose "village idiot" remark made down here in Devon (not the best place to talk about village idiots) last year prompted me to start this thread -  has admitted that he was going to vote "Leave" - just like all the other idiots (both rural and urban varieties). He changed his mind at the last minute. As his pencil hovered over the tempting "Leave" box, he panicked, and put his little democratic cross in the "Remain" one instead. I honestly am amazed.



As a forthright and often cantankerous interviewer, he was notorious for demanding straight answers from politicians.

But it seems Jeremy Paxman has difficulty answering questions himself, admitting to ‘flip-flopping’ on the Brexit vote when he reached the polling station.

Speaking at Countryfile Live at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire*, the former Newsnight presenter said: ‘I went on referendum polling day to vote Leave and when I got to the polling station I thought, “God it’s a loathsome institution but it’s all we’ve got in terms of European harmonisation”.

‘Although I dislike the political structures and I dislike the euro very much, I felt in the end the only thing to do was to vote Remain. Now that’s a flip-flop for which you could be held accountable, but on the whole, the more you think about things and the more you change your mind on the basis of thinking about them the better.’



* Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: The Village Idiot   Wed 08 Aug 2018, 21:36

Temperance,

still a backlog to answer all the messages as I want...I will later seek about Paxman...if that is the guy that was referred to on the French messageboard as written a historybook about Vichy France or was it on Pétain, I fear that it is a bit of a...don't finish the sentence...
From when I have time I will search it in depth...

Kind regards from Paul.
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