The post strike leaves politicians and reformers seducing the public while introducing the monarchy to a new vulnerability with explosive demands for a new civilization and revolutionary change. This government reform can be profound yet superficially stimulating depending on the moral, wisdom, logic, clarity, reasons and honest common sense of the political and government leaders. While this demand for a more democratic government in Tonga marks a genuine idea and a high minded objective, good and bad ideas have consequences. However, there are ways to gain ground and to progress with certainty by proceeding in order and to establish propositions. Lady Margaret Thatcher (the first woman British Prime Minster) wrote … ”No political system and no society can exist without change, because change is a source of renewal”.
Through war and inheritance, Taufa’ahau (King George Tupou I) claimed kingship, secured the absolute authority of the king, unified Tonga, and brought internal stability reinforced by code of laws. However, politics then and even today is a matter of strict obedience to the king rather than a matter of common sense, moral values, principles, private conscience and human sensibility. The system and policy created by King George Tupou I, upheld and practiced by his successors was designed to seize all power, control the population, and promote social barriers and political exclusions.
Tonga has seen four monarchs in 160 years (1845 - present) and while they found themselves reigning unchallenged from the citizens, their reigns reveal continuity and quite convincingly no desire for changes. The government has long been based upon an antiquated absolute monarchy system and not upon action, common sense, moral sense and practical meritocracy. Our place within the system determines our importance, prosperity, health and security. The ministers are appointed by the king to serve him and do specific things in strict accordance with the king’s order, guidance and direction. Those who are working directly for the ministers and are in positions of power with influence are also operating in the same submissive respect for royal authority. The system also does not require the citizens to contribute to the form and/or direction of the government; therefore the citizens are totally irrelevant to the system.
There are those who believe that the ministers are to blame for the ubiquitous corruption, unethical conduct and their lack of action and good judgments in establishing social order and harmony, tranquil and equilibrium government, and resolving economic crises. However the king appoints his ministers or should we say his surrogates.The king rules by abetting the divisions of his people while subduing his ministers as we have witnessed in the recent public servants strike. Is it fair and reasonable then for the citizens to blame the ministers when the king alone is responsible for the appointment of his surrogates? If the accusation are justifiably laid upon the ministers, is the king then really blind and oblivious to what is going on in his kingdom? It makes one wonders whether the king is receiving bad advice from his prime minister and councilors or if he simply refuses to listen to good advice. We all know that those who are fat, prosperous and suffering from severe gout are those whose services the king and his children employ. As a result, the government is a monument of intellectual vanity, dysfunctional, corrupt, unjust and immoral conduct and total disregard for human rights.
With a country that lacks natural resources, human resources should be valued highly however the monarchy and government leaders are continuing to administer the government with arrogance that the ineptitude of the present government can potentially take us back to the revolution among the various kings in Tonga in the late 18th century. Therefore, a practical constitutional compromise or mixed government may be desirable to the king and the people where the king can still govern with limited power and at the same time will not immune him and/or members of his family from any prosecution of injustice, money laundering, fraught and tyranny? Abbot Suger, the remarkable and incorruptible statesman and minister to the French kings, Louis VI (Louis the Fat) and Louis VII (Louis the Young), wrote, “It is shameful for a king to transgress the law, because king and law draw their authority from the same source”.
The monarchy must also recognize that while their 160 reigns have been unchallenged, they are courting disaster by assuming a brain dead and completely arid society, devoid of civilization and social evolution, and lacking in creativity and intelligence. Thatcher wrote … “Learn the lesson that as long as a free political system, a free society and a free economy are maintained, the ingenuity of mankind is boundless”. The success of Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria’s reign in England was due to a practical mix of democracy and oligarchy, where the head and all the members were united by one common interest, and animated by common spirit - a warm concern for the interest and honor of the nation, a tenderness for their people and a confidence in their affections.
On one hand, it does not make sense for the king to yield all his power to the people because there is not much in Tonga for them to do in comparison to the royal family in England and the rest of Europe. England has so much more to offer its monarchy in wealth, industry, charity organization, culture, social and public services. The royal family in Tonga is not well known for their charity work and dedication to public services so it creates a dilemma for the Tongan royal family with regard to their usefulness to society if their power is emasculated. But in the interest of the kingdom, there is no reason why the monarchy and the people cannot form a union based on mutual and sympathetic understanding by respecting for the wish and will of the people and preserving the legal rights of sovereign – a constitutional compromise made up of balanced powers with one interest, that of the whole. The tragic end of the French and Russian monarchies were not so long ago and we must simply accept that the world will continue to produce menace with capacity for wickedness and those menace will not hesitate to take violent action to achieve their goals.
The proposition for a more democratic government is a representative government elected by the citizens. Thomas Jefferson (3rd President of the United States, 1801-1809) wrote much later after writing the United States Declaration of Independence… .”The equal rights of man, and the happiness of every individual are now acknowledged to be the only legitimate objects of government”. He also goes on to say that “the only device by which equal rights and happiness can be secured is government by the people acting not in person, but by representatives chosen by themselves”. Even though this concept is threatening the royal authority, if it is executed with wisdom and commission by the king, and guided by a moral compass, it can be the true window of bright light in the history of Tonga that will radiate and breathe new life, vitality, endless possibilities and great hope for the kingdom.
The reformers will no doubt have enemies in all those who profit from the old order, but they also need to be decisive and have good judgments in order to secure their position by proposing practical and reasonable new order, regulations and legislations. They must put the needs of the citizens first because it is not about getting themselves noticed; it is about sitting down with the citizens, discussing a particular program and creating a system that fits their needs, lifts people above poverty level and increase equality. This is a wonderful opportunity for any great men and women to demonstrate their capabilities and abilities to do great things for the kingdom. According to Plato, “a man should not aspire merely to master others, but should turn his ambition inward and master his own unruly impulse”. A government reform should not be a narrow focus on who should be in power rather it should be a new process of creating a better and fair society, rational and practical structure, and forming national and administrative policies … a policy that is made of the people and for the people.
This democratic concept and value requires common sense along with a man’s moral sense, wisdom, discipline, principles, integrity, honor, decisiveness, good judgments and supreme virtue of action. Jefferson wrote, “I sincerely believe in the general existence of a moral instinct. I think it is the brightest gem with which the human character is studded”. Madeleine Albright (the first woman US Secretary of State - Clinton Administration) also wrote, “I have very set and consistent principles, but I am flexible on tactics. I like to get the job done.” The great Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius stated (philosophically), “The man must stand erect, not be kept erect by others”.
History has also taught us to be careful of political leaders with dubious characters. When Napoleon Bonaparte came to power, not only it was a bloody victory where ten thousand were killed, he also exploited democratic vocabulary he did not believe in. He charmed the French people in believing he would form a Republic based on liberty, equality, morality, civil liberty and political tolerance until he declared himself emperor and became an absolute dictator. Ludwig van Beethoven considered writing his Symphony No. 3 for Napoleon but he soon realized that Napoleon was not a liberator, therefore changing the title of his Symphony No. 3 to Eroica. Adolf Hitler indulged in the same efficiency and rational methods, emotional instability, maniac ambition, egotistical and over bearing spirit as Napoleon. Then there is the Renaissance man and great statesmen such as Winston Churchill whose love for life equaled his hatred for injustice and whose great honor, integrity, principle, cultivated balance of contemplative and active virtue, and wisdom, with the support of his US ally destroyed Hitler’s deadly ambition.
Government reform requires time; not haste and speed because speed is only necessary when there is war. The citizens should take their time to understand the need for government change and the wisdom, characters, principles, values, moral, methods and approach of these politicians and government leaders whether they are driven by aimless desire for power, do they have swollen desire filled with deceit and iniquity, or is their interest in the people genuine and trustworthy? Do these political leaders share their qualities like honesty, loyalty, honor, courage and caring? Do these political and government leaders preach morality while cheating on their wives? Perhaps some of the citizens may lean more towards prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude. Or perhaps some uphold social justice - freedom, equality, democracy and human rights. Do these political and government leaders share your absolute bottom line in values you would not go against in family, friends and country?
We must also be careful not to confuse wisdom with the purely intellectual rigor of academia as Aristotle taught us that a young man can be a brilliant metaphysician or mathematician, and yet lack enough experience of the world to be wise in civic affairs, family relations, and ethical behavior. Wisdom is a character that has been tested and tempered by time, challenged by adversity and fortified by experience. Jefferson wrote, “A wise man is the best expert on his own weaknesses and failings, for he recognizes how little he truly knows”. When Harold McMillan was proposed as the new Conservative leader, Churchill said to Montague Brown about McMillan, “Intelligent, yes. Good looking, yes. Well-meaning, yes. But not the stuff of which Prime Ministers are made.” Whatever the citizens decide, they may lean more towards prudence and not install the power in the hand of a single person because history has taught us that in doing so will only glorify the unpalatable.
Some of the reformers may be obsessed with the concept of democracy in the United States. The people will only believe in what they have experienced. Democracy is a foreign concept to the kingdom that have not yet put into effect for the people to have faith in that system. The success of democracy in the United States as Lady Thatcher wrote in comparison to the European Union is because it is federally regulated, speaks one language and has a single currency. Thatcher also wrote … “the most important truth about America - namely it is the most reliable force for freedom in the world, because the entrenched values of freedom are what makes of its whole existence”. Both Senators and Congress are accessible to people’s needs and inquiries. The Senators are working on long term issues while Congress are working on popular and spur of the moment issues - - they are elected by the poeple and therefore, their efforts are towards the greater care and welfare of the people.
However, corruption is permeable in any culture, society and governments because there are thousands of lobbyists in Washington DC that are not looking to sell their products, but are looking to buy the votes of those in congress… .and then there are those in the Senate and Congress who are under investigation or indictment for money laundering or for moral issues. The founding fathers of the United States had the right idea and concept for democracy (liberty, equality and freedom from royalty and religious faction that was prevalent in Europe), however it was not too long ago that black people were given the same rights as white people and women were allowed to receive the same education and hold the same profession as men.
The reformers are focusing on amending the constitution while the monarchy is concerned about how to continue to rule without limiting his power. While they are focusing on political issues, there are social and moral issues that are affecting the public and need serious attention. We all know what dilapidating, inefficient and pitiful stage the hospital is and the healthcare administration, the level of poverty, abused women and children (morally and physically), sexual transmitted diseases due to promiscuity and unsafe sex, mounting crime whether committed by those criminals being deported to Tonga from overseas, poverty, high cost of living, drunk driving offense or domestic violence. In order for the kingdom to be prosperous, its citizens require nourishment, healthy and safe environment, great healthcare facility and education system where equal treatment is administered. Tonga must not become the hell of the Pacific in the 21st century as Samoas was in the 18th century.
There were and are people today who use their power, position and money to improve and fight tirelessly towards human rights, civil rights, social and public services such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Hilary Rodham Clinton, Marian Wright Edelman to name a few. Eleanor Roosevelt was First Lady and many historians consider her finest accomplishment the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that passed the General Assembly in 1948. Rosa Parks in 1955 refused to give up her seat in the bus for a white man that led to one of the most successful nonviolent protests in American history (Montgomery Bus Boycott); this also secured Parks’ status as the black woman who did the most to advance the cause of civil rights. Hilary Rodham Clinton after Yale Law School joined Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington DC. Like Eleanor Roosevelt, Hilary Clinton has long been dedicated to public services before moving into the White House. Marian Wright Edelman is very passionate with her crusade to improve the lives of America’s most vulnerable citizens and has contributed greatly to shaping national policy on issues such as infant mortality, day care, child abuse and tenable pregnancy. As Hilary Clinton said, “our global future depends on the willingness of every nation to invest in the people, especially women and children”.
Parliament needs ministers who are able, enlightened, level headed and with a sympathetic understanding as the likes of Maurus Tullius Cicero, one of the greatest men of the Roman Republic who defended constitutional government against the despotic ambitions of Julius Caesar. France also produced their long line of remarkable and enlightened ministers and statesmen such as Louis VI’s Suger, Henry IV’s Sully, Louis XIII’s Richelieu, Louis XIV’s Colbert. England also produced their men of quintessential action such as king Henry II and Winston Churchill (our modern day Leonardo Da Vinci), and let us not forget the “Thatcher Revolution”, the woman who changed the way England did business, Lady Margaret Thatcher. It also must be noted that best kings, statesmen, and leaders are not necessarily men.
For those politicians and government leaders who are campaigning for government change, while it is critical and deliberative, it should also espouse the spirit of compromise and conciliation. The character of people varies and it is easy to persuade them on a new form of government, but it is difficult to keep that persuasion. The pursuit for a happy, tranquil and perfect government is a serious undertaking and while it has its challenges, it is by no means unattainable.
While I do feel that it is important and at least noble to concern ourselves with what goes on in our society, in the world, and what shapes our future, it can become and obsession and potentially lead to a narrow-sighted view of life. Our happiness and our misery is our own making. The wise man learns more from a fool than a fool learns from a wise man. We can all better serve ourselves and others if we truly comprehend the suffering, pain, and aguish; the joy, compassion, and prosperity- all the realities faced in the world today.
We must also remember the fable about the Ass and the Old Shepherd:
A SHEPHERD, watching his Ass feeding in a meadow, was alarmed all of a sudden by the cries of the enemy. He appealed to the Ass to fly with him, lest they should both be captured, but the animal lazily replied, “Why should I, pray? Do you think it likely the conqueror will place on me two sets of panniers?’ “No,” rejoined the Shepherd. “Then,” said the Ass, “as long as I carry the panniers, what matters it to me whom I serve?’
In a change of government the poor change nothing beyond the name of their master.
To the journey of hope!
Mele Payne Lynch
Moss Beach, (Northern) CA
Mlpayne222 [at] aol [dot] com