I was surprised to discover today (unless I have been more than usually let down by my internet searching “skills”) that this, by Douglas Adams, has never been mentioned here at Samizdata before:
“On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”
“Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”
“I did,” said Ford. “It is.”
“So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t the people get rid of the lizards?”
“It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”
“You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”
“Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”
“But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”
“Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in.”
That’s from So Long And Thanks For All The Fish. In the place I found it on the www (see the link above), it does not say on what page.
I was reminded about this snatch of dialogue by a recent episode of the BBC Radio 4 show Quote Unquote. A lady participant said she thought Douglas Adams very wise and very funny, this quote in particular. I post it here as a corrective to today’s SQotD, below, in which Paul Ryan says something good, thereby proving himself to be a more likeable lizard than nasty lizard Obama and his lizard gang.
But, alert readers will note that this is a classic example of a piece of writing that will have everyone nodding, but each thinking his own thing. It’s like if you say you favour “common sense”, “principled government”, or “democracy“. Each person listening to you agrees. Each has his own distinct idea about what each phrase means, in ways that often wildly contradict the ideas in the heads of his nodding neighbours. All agree, that these are fine things. Far fewer actually do agree about anything of substance.
For some, reading the Adams quote above, the lizards in charge of us are too capitalist inclined, for others they are insufficiently capitalist inclined. Some want the lizards to be keener on policy X, others curse the lizards for being insufficiently opposed to policy X. All agree only in being unsatisfied with the rule of the lizards, and that the lizards are indeed lizards.
Which is one reason why the lizards usually survive and thrive. We, their victims, can so very rarely agree amongst ourselves about what species, or indeed if any species, ought to replace them.