Reading Oscar Wilde, pt.1

“There are three kinds of despot. There is the despot who tyrannizes over the body. There is the despot who tyrannizes over the soul. There is the despot who tyrannizes over the soul and the body alike. The first is called the Prince. The second is called the Pope. The third is called the People.” Oscar Wilde in The Soul of Man under Socialism.

Today’s petty popes and princes labour too severely under the humiliating task of acquiring popularity to be capable of a generous idea. Both are tyrannized over by the people. In the case of the petty popes, the people tyrannize them in the cruelest way – by ignoring them. In the case of the princes, the people give their fickle approval, having been shamelessly begged so to do for months on end. Only if the political discourse is crude do the people consume it; only if the politics is tight-fisted do they approve it; and as for the popes, they ignore them. There’s no need for sympathy, neither for petty prince nor petty pope – and there is certainly no need for sympathy for the people. When the people complain about their popes and princes today, that’s the well-spring and the low-water mark of popular society – the very bottom – lower even than when petty prince and pope complain about the people.

“Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.” To overthrow the tyranny of the people – that’s the aim for socialism.


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