We in general instinctively take a not very positive view of politics. The curated news and media don’t help, and there are enough affairs to back or rebuke nearly every side of the debate about what is right. But arguably, most systems of power that are stable aren’t always very good either. So why can’t we have benevolent kings?
CGP Grey’s Rules for Rulers (go watch it if you haven’t yet) debunks this and many other beliefs while teaching the most succinct lesson (like, seriously, with diagrams and flows) on political power ever. It introduces things by setting straight what it actually takes to make a change; the ‘guiding the apprentice’ tone of voice makes it all the more cooler. The video, with perfect narration and graphics, is effective, because it focusses on the one thing that is primary for rulers: remaining in power.
With all the hype that leaders get, it is easy to overlook the people that really keep them on the throne; which is why the ‘keys to power’ analogy for cronies blew my mind. So was regulating wealth — most of us feel that wealth should be rightly spent on citizens and maybe somewhat aware of the expenses that are also needed by a ruler. But what we probably end up skewing is the importance of one over the other. Grey’s explaination sets into perspective on what a ruler’s real priorities should be. With the constant reminder that ‘no man rules alone’, it shows, for example, that corruption is not just a necessary evil, but in reality a practical way to stay in power, which, if you want to make an impact, is what you wanted to do in the first place.
Grey is also quite comprehensive about not just power, but also its consequences. Ever wondered why we don’t see many revolts today in democracies as were historically much more apparent? Or how a nation gets its wealth apart from taxes? These are all but glimpses of some of the notions about how a political system works that are discussed.
Sure the negativity of great and powerful people has been potrayed and justified plenty of times — they are the only characters in fact that deserve to be called magnificent — the usual ‘evil is cool’ and ‘good is dumb’ sentiments. But this video isn’t about that; its argument doesn’t excel in stating the obvious or cliché, but in doing a wonderful job of abstracting out the details that generally get most of the attention nowadays (reminiscent of Richard Feynman’s style). It ends up getting the rules so right that they no longer apply to just politics, but to everything. And even though Grey acknowleges at the end that nearly every idea has been adapted from ‘The Dictator’s Handbook’, his doing it in a way that reaches out to millions of people, many of whom are citizens, is probably what makes it matter more.