A friend recounted to me a meeting he had attended where a local politician had been invited to come and share in discussions with the group of local people. Perhaps she felt that she was being got at or that those at the meeting would be hostile; anyway, my friend said she “bulldozed” her way through the meeting, paying no attention to questions or comments.
She went away, presumably satisfied with her performance, and the group of people went away further disillusioned with politicians and the political process. Debate at even the most local level seems to have become almost impossible. Taking their cue from political leaderships, even the most mundane county councillors come along and deliver sound bites. The notion of answering the question that was asked seems alien to political life.
The bullies are destroying politics and in doing so they are destroying the sort of values western societies are meant to espouse. Those whose voice goes unheard seek redress elsewhere, if politicians will not listen, then there are officials that may be amenable to various sorts of pressure in dealing with bureaucratic issues; there are vigilantes and paramilitaries listening to the grievances and waiting for their invitation to become involved in public order issues; in the last resort, there is direct action.
Addressing a gathering in Northern Ireland and talking about the IRA, Gerry Adams once said “they haven’t gone away you know”. There are other features of Irish life that make a comeback when political bullies treat ordinary people with contempt, unpleasant features that include corruption, punishment beatings, and simply taking the law into one’s own hands. The arrogance that prompts political leaders to assume unchallenged power themselves contains within it the seeds of the destruction of that power.