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We Have Nothing to Fear but Hope Itself


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Theodore Dalrymple

June 28 2017


There is a strange dialectic at work in Western society, or so it seems to me, between political apathy on the one hand and political rage on the other. In the recent French elections, for example, the rate of abstentions was the highest ever seen, more than half in the second round of the election of the legislature. But in the first round of the presidential election, the candidates of the extreme Left and extreme Right, both of whom drew their supporters by appealing to subliminal rage, had more votes than the eventual winner, a man previously almost unknown.

The very fact of the French people’s unfamiliarity with Emmanuel Macron was no doubt significant. I was reminded of the election in Peru a quarter of a century ago in which Mario Vargas Llosa ran against Alberto Fujimori (I happened to be in Peru at the time). A peasant was asked why he had voted for Fujimori. “Because,” he replied, “I know nothing about him.”

This was a very revealing answer, much more revealing than it would have been had he referred to the candidate’s economic policy (if he had had one). It spoke volumes about Peruvians’ mistrust of anyone entering the political field. It is not uncommon to hear it said that any candidate is disqualified from office by the very fact of seeking it; in fact, I have sometimes voiced this sentiment myself.

“They are all the same”—one hears this a lot. In other words they are corrupt, self-interested, untrustworthy, insincere, lying, hypocritical, never fulfilling their promises once in power, using their rhetoric for purely personal ends. Not much ever changes; the ship of state heads for the rocks whoever is at the helm, just as if no one were in charge. One thing is sure, however: the helmsman will be made for life.



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