Thursday, 17 February 2000

From "The Crowd in History"

By Elias Canetti.

A parliamentary vote does nothing but ascertain the relative strength of two groups at a given time and place. Knowing them beforehand is not enough. One party may have 360 members and the other only 240, but the actual vote is decisive, as the moment in which the one is really measured against the other. It is all that is left of the original lethal clash and it is played out in many forms, with threats, abuse and physical provocation which may lead to blows or missiles. But the counting of the vote ends the battle.

[...] The solemnity of all those activities derives from the renunication of death as an instrument of decision. Every single vote puts death, as it were, on one side. But the effect that killing would have had on the strength of the enemy is scrupulously put down in figures; and any one who tampers with those figures, who destroys or falsifies them, lets death in again without knowing it.

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