Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

A famous epigram attributed to Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr in the January 1849 issue of his journal Les Guêpes (“The Wasps”), translated literally as “the more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.”

While this quote can and often is applied in a wide variety of circumstances, wherever change is cynically reviewed by those resisting it, but perhaps its most apposite use comes in politics.  Why?  Because whenever you get a change of government ultimately they still make the same bad decisions and govern poorly.  The other quote usually applied in these circumstances is: “if voting changed anything, they would abolish it.”

Reactions to today’s local council election results have demonstrated some awareness that there is serious apathy and reaction against politics when turnouts average just over 30% – such that if there were an option on the ballot paper reading “none of the above”, it would romp home to a vast majority.  The main reason for this disillusionment are often held to be any combination of the following:

  • politicians never keep their promises
  • they have their own, often secret, agendas
  • they are out to line their own pockets
  • they care about their own political ambitions and power but don’t give a toss about voters until elections come around again
  • they are governed by their party whips and unaccountable to voters
  • they have no honour – they will always blame somebody else for their own failings, and won’t resign unless caught red handed
  • they’re all the same – incompetent and/or liars.

That perception may well ignore a substantial number of MPs and councillors who are hard working and devoted to their constituents, but there is little doubt that they have not helped their own cause, aided by a media that is very keen to kick anyone in public office for any hint of sleaze, scandal or weakness.  They smell blood!

But evidence that they listened to people and responded to direct questions with direct answers would go a long way.  And the fact that none of them will do so means they all get tarred with the same brush – they only have themselves to blame.

The problem is the game of politics.  If politicos were less keen to blow their own trumpets and slag off their opposition rather than focusing on what matters to people and doing it simply and effectively, they would earn far more respect.  Whether or not they get re-elected is irrelevant.



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