Guest Post: In this article Evan Fowler highlights the difference between those in opposition and those in power. He argues that whilst radical antics may have value in opposition, such antics from the establishment reveal only intolerance and a sense of illegitimacy.
Last week over dinner some friends light-heartedly accused me of double standards. Pointing out that whilst I was prepared to tolerate, and in some cases even support, radical or extreme behaviour by pro-democracy activists, I disapprove of similar provocations and antics from the establishment camp. “Shouldn’t one judge both sides by the same yardstick?”, I was asked.
My answer is no we should not, as we are not comparing like-with-like. Each side of the political spectrum currently represents not only an ideological difference, but a fundamentally different position within politics. One is in opposition and the other is in power, and expectations should vary accordingly.
The style of opposition is not the style of authority. It is a challenge to it. Even in revolution the wheel never spins completely. Power may not always corrupt but it will always distort as the role changes from questioning government to governing itself.
People Power and the League of Social Democrats operate in opposition, as a voice of dissent rather than a voice influence. It is their role to be critical, and to be sensitive to both the weakness in government and to public dissatisfaction. They may be theatrical, but it is because without the authority of state they must appeal directly to the people. I may personally not be inclined towards their behaviour, but I nevertheless appreciate that they represent those on the outside looking in. Like the character of the fool and bawdy humoured, they add an irreverence to what would otherwise be the dour seriousness of the political debate – an irreverence that grounds the politics in the language of the polis itself.