I can’t say I’ve ever watched Al Jazeera before, but I have caught it on and off while in Cape Town. Perhaps I should because it offers a decent news service, certainly things I didn’t know before, like Belgium setting a new world record for being without a government.
The Belgians don’t like it, of course, and men are refusing to shave until it is sorted out while the wives of senior politicians are being urged to withdraw “marital fringe benefits” to encourage a resolution to the impasse, but for me the whole thing is quite encouraging. It demonstrates that a modern European state can tick along quite nicely without interference from their politicians.
The trouble with democracy is that people get tired of the same government and what they stand for and demand a complete turnabout in policy, except the new policies become just as unpopular as the old ones and we never find out what really works.
It’s a bit like sacking a decorator halfway through doing your house and demanding a different paint colour from someone who prefers to hang the wallpaper horizontally, rather than vertically.
I was reminded of this when reading about the history of South Africa and Lord Milner who in 1905 was making “a sane and orderly success” of the reparation programme following the second Boer War and laying the groundwork for progressive policies in anticipation of self-government.
But there was a change of government in the UK and the Conservative policies were reversed by the Liberals, Milner was turfed out and retired to private life and in 1908 the Progressives were defeated by the South African Party and the Afrikaner Band.
The Conservatives felt that the war had been fought in vain and perhaps South Africa’s later sad history might have turned out differently if governments hadn’t been around, leaving things to people who actually cared about the country.