I’ve been picking on Nyan a lot recently, mostly in a positive way. Here’s a little more:
The Mandate of Heaven is the correct theory of legitimacy. Period.
— Nyan Sandwich (@nyansandwich) November 1, 2014
This is perfect, and precise. It’s something that needs to be said, and it says a lot.
The Mandate of Heaven (Tianming, 天命) couples authority to responsibility. The responsibility of the Emperor, and the Dynasty, is no less comprehensive than its power, and is in fact ultimately coincidental with it. The foundation is cosmic. Plagues, earthquakes, and foreign invasions are all encompassed by it, as are the reciprocal strokes of good fortune. There is no possibility of any delegation that is not internal to the subject of Tianming, preserving its absolute responsibility. The selection of advisers and administrators is an exercise of authority, for which there can be no evasion of accountability before heaven (or fate). Rule succeeds or fails, survives or perishes, in its own name.
Is not this standard the key to the profound dismay that results from the contemplation of democracy? As popular politics evolves — or ‘progresses’, as it most certainly does — it tends to incarnate a self-conscious strategy of irresponsibility with ever more emphatic ideality. ‘Passing the buck’ becomes the whole thing. Government and opposition participate mutually in an economy of responsibility, in which ‘blame’ can be pooled, circulated, and displaced. The rhetorical practices regulating this economy become the entire art of politics.
An election is a festival or irresponsibility, in a double sense. It is a crescendo of rhetoric, oriented to the dialectical evasion of social ills, and it is a relinquishment of authority, into the hands of ‘the people’ and — potentially — the opposition, separating the realization of governmental consequences from the deep core of the regime. To lose the Mandate of Heaven is to be erased from the future. To lose an election is a trivial penance, and even a tactical opportunity. (It is the prediction of this blog that as democracy advances further, calculated defeat will play an ever more significant role in its functioning.)
As NRx refuses to go to the polls tomorrow, its implicit political statement is merely: Take some freaking responsibility. This is all yours. Succeed, or disappear completely. The last thing we need is another opportunity for sharing.
ADDED: Don’t vote. (Duh!)
ADDED: “Another reason not to vote is that it creates real despair among the small number of Democracy-shepherds.”