On ruler morality vs. peasant morality

published Sep 04, 2010, last modified Jun 26, 2013

"The rules are for the peasants, not for the rulers." Or, how the very same act is either "good" or "bad" depending on rhetoric, sleight of hand, magic, lies.

If a peasant does some act which is generally regarded as heinous, all of the other peasants and the rulers will gang up on him and destroy him.

But if a ruler perpetrates the exact same act with the exact same force, intentions, implications and consequences... oh boy. You are not supposed to notice, much less point out, that the ruler is committing a wrong.

As a matter of course, his act will be deemed by everyone a moral and just act. This is especially the case when the ruler is either wearing a magical costume during the consummation of the act, or regularly wears said costume, or his act stems from obeying the authority of some magical words in a magical paper. The ruler can do no evil, so long as he has deemed by fiat -- beforehand or sometimes even after-the-fact -- that his actions are good (only if he or his friends perpetrate them, of course). This is not to say that his actions aren't evil -- it merely means that everybody else will engage in complicated mental contortions to justify his actions as good rather than admit their rulers are evil. Look:

  • It's wrong to take people's property away, unless "the law says so", in which case victims who resist the taking of their property magically become "the thieves".
  • It's wrong to threaten people with physical violence to get their obedience, unless you wear a blue costume, in which case victims who resist "had it coming".
  • It's wrong to murder someone, unless you wear fatigues, in which case the victims "are the enemies and must be defeated" and refusing to murder on command is seen as "cowardly" or "traitorous".

See how authority manages to swap responsibility, with the victim being tagged and blamed as the evil person, and the perpetrator presented as the victim / the white knight defender?

When the abovementioned "reasons" that magically "transform" the ruler's evil into good cannot obviously be invoked, both the peasants (oh, ever the Stockholm syndrome victims) and the rulers will work overtime to come up with every single credible excuse under the sun, just to take the responsibility for the act away from the ruler / to blame his victim, or to minimize / dismiss the consequences of the act. This is "necessary evil" / "unfortunate consequence" / "not so bad" territory. This is why a peasant pedophile goes to jail 30 years, but a cop pedophile gets parole.

If no excuse can be manufactured to be credible enough -- or would be wrong if a peasant did it -- well, brute force usually shuts people up. Both the peasants and the rulers will simply mock, attack, ignore, deride or dismiss anyone who dares to point out that the emperor is naked. And if that isn't enough, the rulers have enough power to make these loudmouths live through hell -- even the most law-abiding person is in violation of at least a couple of laws, so the rulers can always threaten the inconvenient peasant with something. And if that isn't enough because the peasant is too resolute... well, he can always be made to "disappear".

If you are reading this, you are a peasant.