The Public Versus the People


The word public and the word people are not synonyms.  We bear this confusion, though, in our current political science whereby we allow one to stand for the other, most pronouncedly, public for people. The people are Jefferson’s people, his We the People of the United States . . . and that’s people as in the Roman populus, never a synonym in Ancient Rome for publius, or, the public.  

The public is the people in service of the state, deferring always their status as the people for a more secure or lucrative role as one of the public.  We of course maintain a confusion between these terms, substituting one for the other, confounding as our understanding of English has become, an interest in etymology having gone the way of the study of philology.  

This confusion is also ever-present in the rhetoric of President Obama who envisions a people no longer the people, but only a public that serves–the masses who are everywhere alike as masses are also those who gravitate toward one form of pluralism or another, whether Bolshevik then, communist after, fascist or Nazis before or since; one totalitarianism successive with another after another in a long parade of political sleep-walking. America and Americans next: Totalitarian Bourgeois Capitalist America?

Obama, though, does not have to be a fascist to support a transforming pluralism in America, eradicating people and changing them into a state supporting public, one that would not remain the watchdogs of power and money elites. Obama wants you not to ask what your country can do for you because his managed country does not intend to do much for you.

Obama is looking a lot more like Hoover than Roosevelt. Obama does not to intend to spend enough; his political posture all pose–cracks in the poise becoming evident. Raising the debt limit a manoeuvre to appear like he wants to do something, knowing how divisive it’s going to be; Democrats all the time blaming Republicans for not letting them get done what they have no real intention of doing. It’s wonderful to position yourself as a man of the people.

I do not see Obama doing what he can do, only asking for what he knows the Republicans will oppose. Teddy Roosevelt wanted to protect the Grand Canyon, but to make it a National Park, he had to get the support of Congress. He couldn’t get it, so the Grand Canyon was not made into a National Park then. But he did not need Congressional approval to sponsor National Monuments, so through executive order he declared the walls of the Grand Canyon, a National Monument. The Grand Canyon was saved from strip mining. Obama can spend more than he is even without raising the debt limit or getting the help of Republicans.

Obama is in the pocket of the banks, as surely as Bush II was in the pocket of Oil, and I’m not saying that Presidents should avoid serving monied interests at least some of the time. However, Presidents are popularly elected, at least through The Electoral College, which I advocate, and for reasons to be found in another essay; thus, if popularly elected, then he at least must serve some of the interests of the people when those interests are opposed by power and monied elites. This, of course, is the ideal; Obama is far from this ideal, even as he masters the art of appearing as if he is. 

Everyone today in America is ready to become part of an overarching public, each of us to become a member of the great social en masse. The masses are always the same everywhere as masses are masses regardless of language, culture, history, political or religious belief; each mass is essentially ready to serve the state, or squander the self-hood of its numbers, as well in turn their collected identity as a people.  I am not ready to announce the death of the individual–but I am ready to announce that she is dying, or he . . . it will be dead soon?

In President Obama’s vision of our future, the people could only be a public, should only be, just only be . . . again, all of us subsumed by the Public that serves, not the people, not you, not I, no one but the state.

All pluralisms that tend toward publicanism are de facto statist; everything of the state, by the state and for the state, will not perish, cannot perish, anymore than styrofoam will degrade any time in the next ten thousand years. Yes, adding bureaus to  bureaucracy is like making more styrofoam cups. All my literary litanies aside, the truth should be plain to see, you and I are solvent; the Public dissolves the People.

In contradiction of Obama’s rhetoric, let me say that I am We–he would like to fractionalize us similarly to how blacks had been fractionalized–make everybody the nigger of Power and Money seems to be the scheme to make African-Americans feel better as a people–now that’s equality! I am politically we as in Jefferson’s We the People; that is, I am we the people as you are we the people, as each one us must be we the people if we the people are going to remain the first and last defense against the state’s eternal antagonism to all individuals and the idea of individuality.

No state is the friend of the people; every government serving the state through its agents, its civil servants (all of a kind everywhere less than civil), its administrators, all bureaucrats are never the friend of the people.  The people remains the only institution of society with enough density to counterbalance the weight of the state; without this attention to the integrity of the people politically, an integrity we are losing with ever-increasing absence of awareness, the people lose that density to counterbalance state.

When we wake all of us fully formed members of the public that serves, servitude for all will reign; and the rich who have gotten even richer than the greediest used to imagine will yield power over our lives because as in Pinochet’s Chile, in Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia, there will always be watch dogs for the state, always be people willing to be publicans that serve the state for a little more money or a slightly more secure job. More money will always be enough for some people; for too many, it is the only thing that has to be offered, the only thing necessary for most policemen to wield their truncheons, to fire hoses, rubber bullets, tear gas, or lead projectiles into crowds of unarmed people.

Do you imagine that Concentration Camp guards were well paid?No sane person would compare President Obama with fascists anywhere, any when, but a President does not have to be a fascist to support rhetorical strategies designed to promote the idea that a Public is what any people should aspire to–and the Nazis and Fascist comparison has ben thrown at presidents before the latest tirade against Obama.

Publius is In Excelsis  where the People are concerned, particularly in their transformative choices made in counter distinction to remaining the People, We the People, all in favor of becoming a more state serving Public.


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