Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Ship Beautiful - A Twofold Tale

As a boy I attended Box Hill high school. While I was there I saw in a cupboard, a book called The Ship Beautiful, with the subtitle A Twofold Tale. I never had the chance to read it. That was 70 years ago, but I never forgot that book. Although I had not read it, I never forgot it because the title intrigued me, and clung to my mind as if there was some purpose in it. Recently I was passing the school with my son Peter and I mentioned this book and how I had always intended, or rather hoped, to get back to that book and read it. Some time later, at Christmas, Peter gave me a copy of this old book that I last saw in about 1937. He had located it on the Internet. I was much moved to see it once again.

The story within the story was about a boy who had a vision of a beautiful full-rigged ship which he saw through a window. In his vision he felt that the ship was calling for him. He was being called to an island in which the people were in trouble. In his dream He swam out to the ship and came to the island and found the people were rich beyond all wanting. But they were in a kind of bondage to an evil creature which gave them everything but stole their will to be free. The boy made himself some wings and attacked the evil creature. He found that the creature weakened considerably as he attacked and soon defeated it. But with the defeat of this creature all the magnificent gifts he had given were suddenly wiped away. The people however, although poor, were now free to be their own creative selves.

This story had a message for me. When things are not right, we should not give up, but try to do something about it. If we do take some action we will find that the evil thing which we thought invincible is not really invincible at all. So it seems to me that all these years I have thought about that book and its message, although I did not know the message, only the title stuck in my mind. This story is an allegory for me as I pursue the problem we have in our society, which is dominated by consumerism and a political torpor like those people on the island. The message is clear. Something needs to be done. It is not by any means impossible but requires the courage of faith, to be up and doing, so that the people might be able to throw off this incubus - the party system - which is the height of utter stupidity. Imagine a public company run like our parliaments!

In the world today political torpor is the common situation - just as it was on the island in the story of the Ship Beautiful. We, on this and various other sites are voicing our concerns but we are few. Where are the rest? John L. Locke, in his book The De-Voicing of Society notes that we are not talking to each other as we used to. Once it was the village well, then the village pub, but modern developments have led us into a wealthy isolation. He says (p154): ‘Individuals share their worries and desires only when they share in responsibility and power’. We, the people, do not rule.

Hilaire Belloc and Cecil Chesterton wrote in1911, in ‘The Party System’ ‘'Instead of the Executive being controlled by the assembly, it [the Executive] controls it [the House of Commons]'. One could not get a more accurate description of House of Representatives' malpractice today. And nothing’s changed. Further, they stipulated a concise version of responsible government:

  1. An absolute freedom (of the public) in the selection of representatives;
  2. The representatives must be strictly responsible to their constituents and to no one else;
  3. The representatives must deliberate in perfect freedom; and
  4. Especially must be absolutely independent of the 'executive'

. It seems we have made no progress in nearly one hundred years. It’s high time we resolved this impasse. How?

Simple. We, the people must demand that our parliaments vote on all debates by secret (electronic) ballot. Furthermore, ministers must be appointed (and retired, sacked etc) by ballot of all the members of parliament, to restore parliamentary government (and democracy). That should put to rest the problem of ministerial responsibility.

Some may wonder, but this proposal is eminently feasible. It will cure many a political ill, creating a strong, confident, united people; and an example for others to foll0ow. They certainly need it.

Way back in Athens, Pericles wrote: ‘We are an example to others, rather than others to us, as our decisions are made by the many instead of the few,’ That about says it all.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Is Islam compatible with Democracy?'

This question raised on

Democracy, if it is in good shape, which it is not, willl rule with the authority of the people. All other authority must bow to the democratic rule of the people.

The question: 'Is Islam, (or any other religion) compatible with democracy?' is to expose the weak helpless state our democracy is in. Why is this so?

Our democracies are all subject to the power of minorities, including religions. This is the crux of the problem - reflected in the above question. Why are minorities powerful?

Our parliaments (and presidents) are weak because they do not obey the will of the people from whom they derive their strength. They do not now respect the people, assuming mandates to do as they think fit without listening to the people's voice. That is the problem of democracy as we now see it. It's just not working.

In Australia we have party executive rule in parliament.

The answer for us is 'secret ballots in parliament' to elect (and fire) members of the executive, and to vote on all debated issues. All members will then be independent of minority powers, but very dependent on constituents, with whom they will constantly confer - or else!

It has been declared that this will change the face of politics as we know it.

Just so. The people will start to rule - a good way to keep all minorities where they belong - their concerns heeded but no longer powerful.

Action for this change is urgently needed.


Basil Smith