Thoughts on the myth of the ‘mysterious and miraculous power of the government’

During a conversation recently I found myself saying what amounts to this:

One of the words I jokingly call the government is the “company”.  The reason why I say this is to emphasize that it is only an organization and to put to odds the idea of the ‘mysterious and miraculous power of the government’.  This is because, in western society, there is often this idea that the government has this magical mystical god-like power.  It almost seems super-human with these almost magical powers.  In fact, it has an aura around it as if it were almost like a god at times.  People treat it that way too.

It is true that there is power in government.  That is to say, it is in a position to do things normal everyday people can’t do and in which normal everyday people are powerless to do.  But this, in actuality, is a result of its existence as an organization and that this is what it does, not because of any mysterious power. 

Over the years, I’ve found that the idea and belief of the ‘mysterious power of government’ is very prevalent.  Many people ‘overreact’ to this ‘mysterious power’ thinking it is far greater than it is, and ascribing things to it that it does not have.  Some people have even become frightened of the ‘mysterious power of the government’.  This tendency has created many myths and delusions about the government and what it is. 

But where does this ‘mysterious and miraculous power of the government’ originate?

THE COMING OF THE DIVINE IN GOVERNMENT

A thousand or so years ago, in the pre-Christian times, Kings were believed to be Divine, almost god-like, in western Europe.  Many were ascribed with magical qualities and abilities as a result.  Some Kings even thought they were god-like with Divine powers.  In many ways, this idea of kingship gave the idea in western society of the “Divine among us” or the “god among us” through the image of the King. 

Later, with the coming of Christianity, this further elaborated into the idea of the Divine rights of Kings.  This basically says that the King is “chosen” to rule by god.  This just reinforced, with Christianity, the original pagan idea of the King as Divine.  Again, god was among us through the image of the King. 

But, with Christianity, there was another god on earth called the Pope.  As a result, there were sort of like two rival “gods on earth”, one spiritual (the Pope) and the other secular (the King).  This rivalry lasted for centuries until the Protestant Reformation appeared.  With the coming of Protestantism the whole Christian world was put into turmoil.   In many countries the power of the Pope was destroyed leaving only the image of the King as “god on earth”. 

The role of the King, who is now the sole “god on earth”, and his role in secular government had this tendency to make the government appear even more “Divine-like”.  This was further strengthened by the fact that, at this time, the government was expanding and growing, making it more a presence in people’s lives.  This further strengthened the association of King and government. 

But, with the overpopulation and state problems of the 1600-1700’s, the King was generally blamed as the cause.  Because the King was “god on earth” it created this sense that the King was causing all the problems and that he was responsible.  In addition, being that the countries were becoming so large, many people became alienated from the King and lacked the ‘bond’ of former centuries.  As a result, it was easy for him to become the ‘scapegoat’ of all the countries problems.

Because of this, a fear and hatred developed of the King.  Being a “god on earth” people thought he had all this power . . . which he didn’t.  There eventually became rebellions against the King and the monarchy.  They began to make the King out as a tyrant, despot, oppressor, and such, which generally was not true.  In reality, people were rebelling against:

  • The conditions of the times (overpopulation, poor economy, war, etc.).
  • The failure of the ‘mysterious Divine image of the King’, as “god on earth”, to answer and solve the problems.

In actuality, the King usually had little control over what was going on.  In that sense, the King became a “victim” of social mania and panic.  Eventually, the monarchy was largely destroyed, or undermined, in western Europe.  In England and France the King was actually executed and was made out as if he were a criminal and even a traitor.  Looking back on it now we can see that they were more victims than anything else. 

This panic created all sorts of political ideas, such as freedom and democracy, in an attempt to replace the Divine image of the King.  Most of these ideas were done to decrease and obliterate the King himself, as a person and an institution, and to try to replace him with some other thing . . . a new “answer” to the problems. 

Despite this, these new “answers” really did not change things.  Many of the conditions actually worsened, even after the monarchy was destroyed.  This fact shows that the monarchy was destroyed mistakenly.  In effect, the people, and this point of view, were wrong . . . it wasn’t the King that was the problem.   The idea of the ‘mysterious and miraculous power of the government’ had misled everyone.  This, though, will not be the last time as the ‘mysterious and miraculous power of the government’ had a tendency to mislead.

THE ATTEMPTED REVIVAL OF THE DIVINE IN GOVERNMENT

Since the destruction of the monarchy and kingship there have been many attempts at resurrecting the King and the Divine in government.  In actuality, what people are wanting to resurrect is the ‘mysterious power’ more so than the King himself.  The ‘mysterious power’ gave people hope and belief and was a part of our culture and identity.  Because of this, there is an attempt to maintain it that continues on down to today.  As a result, once the King and monarchy were destroyed they tried to create new things that, they hoped, would have this ‘mysterious and miraculous power’ in it:  a “revival” of the Divine in government.  This has been attempted in ways such as:

  • The coming of specific “charismatic” people (Hitler, Stalin, Churchill, Kennedy, etc.).
  • The coming of various political ideas and ideals (democracy, freedom, communism, etc.).

Many of these new “attempts” have dominated the 1800’s and 1900’s, following the destruction of the King and monarchy.  In the end, though, nothing has been able to revive the Divine government and King.  Basically, the Divine died with the monarchy. 

This, though, is not what it seemed at first.  Initially, the attempted revival of Divine government appeared to work.  The people or political ideas seemed almost ‘magical’ in their manifestations and effects, almost seeming miraculous at times.  The person or political idea was even viewed, at times, as if they were like god.  But, as time went on, they began to fail and not work that effectively . . . flaws were appearing.  Some failed completely, some barely survived, and some continued but due to other reasons (such as wealth, the fact that it was the only system, etc.).  In actuality, they were really no better than the monarchial system they replaced. 

This failure is not surprising, as the Divine in government is based on religious-like belief.  Despite what people may say, most people’s “political” feelings are somewhat religious in nature.  This is one reason why politics gets into such hot and deep feelings.  But, in these non-religious times, the belief to substantiate the Divine simply isn’t there.  The fall in religion has, in effect, affected the political situation and the belief in the government.  In some ways, it’s caused a dilemma.  People want the government to ‘perform miracles’ but they, deep down, don’t believe in miracles.  In a sense, they are caught between two worlds, the previous religious world and the current non-religious ‘scientific’ world.  This ‘intra-world political dilemma’ creates a specific quality of frustration that, it seems to me, defines a lot of political feelings.  This disappointment and frustration permeates politics today, casting its shadow upon it all.  It seems, to me, that this dilemma of politics has created a sense of “now what?”  What’s next?  What do we believe in?  What do we look up to?  It seems that we are in an era of indecision, where people don’t know what to believe in or put their hope in.  The King and monarchy (which is the basis for much of our political belief) has been destroyed.  Our attempts at creating a new Divine government has failed.  What now?  Many people are stubbornly trying to continue the ways of the attempted revival of the Divine government . . . what else can they do?

THE MYTHICAL POWER OF THE GOVERNMENT

The attempted revival of the Divine government has created many beliefs of an almost ‘superhuman’ quality in the government.  In some cases, it is more extreme than the belief of the Divine power of the King.  Many ‘attempted revivals’ were looked at as if they were god (or god-like) and the attitudes surrounding them took on almost religious proportions.  This made many ‘attempted revivals’ appear almost like a religion.  This is further proof of how people so much wanted that ‘mysterious and miraculous power’ in their lives.

It has created a number of beliefs, such as:

  • There is a belief that the government can do miraculous things, as if they can wave a wand and all the problems will disappear or things will automatically happen. 
  • At other times, there is a belief that the government can do or achieve anything, as if it has the power to move mountains.  Because of much of the spending during the cold war and what it did (such as sending a man to the moon), this almost seemed to be the case and further enhanced this belief. 
  • Sometimes, it can go so far that people believe that the government has ‘secret knowledge’ of things.  In fact, there is often a great belief that there are secret “organizations” in the government dedicated to specific things.  One version of this is how the government is supposed to secretly have alien technology and may even be in contact with aliens.  I’ve even heard people say that they believed the government had ‘secret knowledge’ that would solve the worlds problems but won’t use it for some reason.  I’ve also heard that the government knows the answers to many mysteries (such a who killed Kennedy) but won’t release it.

The truth of the matter is that the government does not have this type of power.  It never has.  Many political views are going on the assumption that this type of power is there and, as a result, tend to be continually frustrated because it never materializes.  It causes a great blame game in government as well as intense anger.  In fact, I often feel that a lot of the problems of government, nowadays, is based on this assumption that the government has all this power it doesn’t have.  But, in finding that it doesn’t have this power, people get mad, upset, and blame things for it.  This, in a way, defines the political situations nowadays.  In reality, the problem is not the government but their erroneous belief in its mythical power!  They are expecting something to happen that isn’t going to happen.  It’s like me saying “abacadabra” above a hat and EXPECTING a rabbit to be inside the hat! 

PARANOIA OF THE GOVERNMENT

The belief in the ‘mysterious and miraculous power of the government’ has created an unusual side effect:  a fear and paranoia about the government.  It’s as if they fear that the ‘mysterious and miraculous power’ will work against them.  It is really the opposite extreme to the mythical power described above.  Instead of working for us it works against us.  As a result, there is often a great fear in the bad the government may do to us.  Sometimes, this is perceived as if it is a deliberate attempt on the part of the government.  This has created many unusual manifestations which can often be described as obsessional or even maniacal.  These include these themes:

  • An obsession over tyranny.
  • A fear of any ‘government power’.
  • A fear that the government is conspiring against us.
  • A great prevalence of conspiracy theories associated with the government.
  • A belief that the government is deliberately trying to restrict us.
  • A belief that the government is trying to control us.

Sometimes, these can be almost psychotic in their manifestations and can often get out of control.  Oftentimes, they appear strong in a crisis  or as a result of some historical situation.  During these times, it can reach “mania” proportions affecting much of the population (such as took place in about late 1960’s and early 1970’s in the U.S.).  It can even create a whole delusional outlook on things (such as how some Americans seem to think that some people, such as terrorists, are deliberately ‘plotting’ to take their freedoms from them). 

This paranoia was even seen in the founding of the U.S.  The U.S., really, is founded on the fear of the government.  This fear and apprehension of the government can be seen in the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights.  Basically, there is a great effort to ‘protect the people from the government’, almost as if the government is trying to take things from the people and conspiring against us.  As a result, they made an enormous effort to prevent this supposed government control of the people. 

THE NON-DIVINE GOVERNMENT – THE NEED TO LOOK BEYOND THE GOVERNMENT

In my opinion, government is really a form of ‘administration’, much like a company.  There is nothing miraculous about it nor Divine.  As a result, it is not the great ‘answer’ to everything as it seems, nor is it the great ‘power’.  I’ve often said that the government is nothing but an ‘organization’ the we have ‘contracted’, so to speak, to keep an order.  Its nothing more than that. 

In actuality, the government is very limited in its outlook and means, much more than people realize.  In fact, I feel that our reliance on government to solve our problems is one reason why we have many problems.  We’re expecting the ‘mysterious and miraculous power’ of the government to sweep its magic wand and solve everything.  Well, as we all know . . . . it doesn’t happen.  I tend to think that we need to start developing an ‘extra-government point of view’.  That is to say, we need to look at solutions that are beyond the government and don’t entail it and quit seeing the government as the solution to everything.  This is because government has a number of deficiencies:

  • Limited outlook.
  • Limited abilities.
  • Limited solutions.

In many cases, the government is completely paralyzed and unable to solve problems.  As a result, our reliance on it only paralyzes us.  By seeing the government as the ‘ultimate’ answer and solution is to be bound by its restrictions and limitations, which are many.  Therefore, we must look beyond it.

AFTERTHOUGHT

It seems to me that government needs to be looked at only for the organizational and administrative institution that it is.  We need to see it as limited and use it only when it has the qualities that are needed.  In fact, we need to see government as one of the many “departments” or organizations in society.  It is, by no means, the “main” one.  It is not ‘divine’ nor does it have miraculous powers and we should not expect this.

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