The story is told, probably apocryphally, that at the outset of the French Revolution in 1789 the Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, was told the peasants were rioting because they had no bread.
Her response, immortalized in history, was “let them eat cake.” The result of such an uncaring response was the end of the French monarchy and the creation of a Republic.
I have heard it suggested that Marie Antoinette’s response was not as uncaring as it first sounds. Her problem was that she came from a position of privilege and did not understand the issue. If you ran out of bread, you ate cake until more bread was baked. The idea that you would lack basic food was foreign to her. History records her as callous to the plight of her people when she may actually have instead been clueless. Her lack of understanding cost her her head.
I was thinking of that story as I read some of the myriad of year-end news coverage. The biggest news story of the year it seems was Donald Trump winning the US presidency. Or perhaps it was Hillary Clinton losing that election. There has been so much written about it that I am reluctant to add to the pile, but it occurs to me that Hillary Clinton is Marie Antoinette.
Somehow she (and her advisors) managed to become s out of touch that they missed the signs of the revolution,
Clinton’s story is a warning for politicians everywhere. There is little doubt she was one of the most qualified persons to ever run for the office but this was not a year when that was going to count for much.
Political strategists the world over began this year pondering their disasters of 2016. From Brexit to a Trump victory, the status quo took a beating. Now they have to regroup and figure out what advice their political masters need in 2017.
I have no political predictions for this New Year. Except for the assurance that if politicians lose touch with the people they represent, then bad things will happen.
I wrote the preceding paragraphs over the New Year’s weekend, but hadn’t gotten around to posting them. It is only the middle of January, but here in Canada we already have our first Marie Antoinette experience of 2017.
I won’t go into details. That is what search engines are for. Our Prime Minister though managed to amaze me this past week when he explained his failure to disclose a relationship with a lobbyist, as required by law. Whether the law has been broken or not will be determined by the Ethics Commissioner, who has a number of alleged Prime Ministerial breaches to investigate.
What boggled my mind though was Prime Minister Selfie’s assertion that he didn’t report the relationship because it was “well known.” My first thought was “to who?”
Until this week when the mini-scandal blew up, my guess would be that the majority of Canadians wouldn’t have known the name of the lobbyist in question. And I doubt even the PMs biggest fans have a comprehensive list of his family friends. Certainly, having such intuitive knowledge is not in the Ethics Commissioner’s job description – she is expected to deal with what is reported to her. Why would the Prime Minister assume otherwise?
Ask yourself this: what sort of person thinks his friendships are so important that they are “well known” to society at large?