Power of Public Support

“In totalitarian regimes- communism, fascism, religious fundamentalism- popular support is a given. You can start wars, you can prolong them, you can put anyone in uniform for any length of time without ever having to worry about the slightest political backlash. In a democracy, the polar opposite is true. Public support must be husbanded as a finite national resource. It must be spent wisely, sparingly, and with the greatest return on your investment.” (Brooks 52)

In this passage from World War Z by Max Brooks, there is parallelism between totalitarian and democratic regimes for the sentences start with “In totalitarian regimes…” and “In a democracy…” (Brooks 52). In totalitarian regimes, the central government has most of the power, which instills fear in the heart of the people. Because the government controls all aspects of society, the people have so much fear that no one ever voices their opinions against what the government may implement, no matter how cruel it may be. Brooks’ choice of the word “given” when describing popular support emphasizes the fact that in totalitarian regimes, the opinion of the public isn’t even considered. The rulers of those regimes can rely on the fact that no one will go against what is proposed because “popular support is a given” (Brooks 52). Also, the list about what you can do in totalitarian regime provides visual evidence to the readers by showing exactly how much power totalitarian regimes have since public opinion is ignored.


Comic about how power is used in a totalitarian government (Image from Duck Comics Revue)

In contrast, in a democracy, the people have much more say in what the government does. Public opinion is much more influential in a democratic regime because the idea of a democracy is incorporating its constituents into the government through their input and participation. Public support in a democratic regime is so important that it “must be husbanded as a finite national resource” (Brooks 52). The use of the word “husbanded” shows readers how important public support is. Because in a marriage, a husband carries half the weight and responsibility of the relationship between the husband and the wife. A marriage is a sacred, legal binding between two people, and Brooks’ choice to use husbanded to relate public support and democracy shows how sincerely the government considers public opinion when deciding on democratic policies. Also, the metaphor comparing the public giving its support on specific, worthwhile issues to getting a good return on your investment suggests that some problems may arise because the public doesn’t always agree with what the government proposes. The public, unlike in totalitarian governments, won’t blindly agree to everything the government says. The public only gives its full support behind things that they know will be advantageous to their country, which is why Brooks says public support must be used “wisely, sparingly, and with the greatest return on your investment” (Brooks 52).

In addition, when comparing the two main subjects in the passage, Brooks uses different sentence structure to describe the two regimes. The sentences used to describe the totalitarian regimes are much longer than the sentences used to describe democratic regimes. The longer sentence structure gives the reader a sense that totalitarian governments have an unsure relationship with its constituents due to non-representation of the public. However, the shorter sentence structure used to describe the democratic regime shows that the lines defining the relationship between the people in office and the constituents are specifically laid out. The people know that they will have a say, and they know that they can determine whether or not they support the government on a specific issue. On a broader level, the contrasting sentence structure used to describe the two types of government gives more emphasis on how different the two types of government really are.

Image from: http://duckcomicsrevue.blogspot.com/2010/11/swamp-of-no-return.html


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