Mack’s Craic



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The majority is never right

Every day I get to hear about another petition and I’m told about how many people have signed it in favour or against whatever it is that they’re not happy about. Now e-petitions can actually influence government policy in the UK. You can create an e-petition about anything that the government is responsible for and if it gets at least 100,000 signatures, it will be eligible for debate in the House of Commons.

The belief seems to be that if you get enough people on your side, then you must be right. That’s a very dangerous thing to believe.

In 1882, the Norwegian Henrik Ibsen wrote a play called An Enemy of the People. It was adapted in the 1950s by Arthur Miller. There have been lots of other adaptations since then. In the play, the main character, Dr. Stockmann, proclaims that in matters of right and wrong, the individual is superior to the multitude, which is easily led by self-advancing demagogues. Dr. Stockmann sums it up with the memorable quote “…the strongest man in the world is the man who stands most alone.” He also says: “A minority may be right; a majority is ALWAYS wrong. ” He asks the question “Was the majority right when they believed the sun revolved around the earth and let Galileo be driven to his knees like a dog?”

If the play was updated for today you could add lines like “Was the majority right when they said a man would never run a mile in under four minutes?”, “Was the majority right in the United States when they believed that slavery was good (even in the Northern states)?”,  “Was the majority right when they elected Hitler?”

Democracy is always held up as the be all and end all. Doesn’t it all depend on who gets to vote? Would it be fair if four wolves and one sheep got to vote on what they should have for supper?

I tend to agree with Henrik Ibsen when he said, “It takes fifty years for the majority to be right. The majority is never right until it does right.”

Craic to the Future.

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