Government Satire Then and Now
Throughout the course of time there has always been a government to watch over the people of this harsh world. Seeking order and justice, various civilizations have tried and failed to create the perfect government for its’ people and its’ legacy. However, when in search of this perfection, there often resulted numerous bad decisions, countless wars, and a plethora of figureheads leading the “progress” of government throughout time. Accompanying the blunders of government officials were the opinions of the people it served, which included critical assessment and much jest. The struggles of their leaders often sparked much satire of the institution itself and aspects of its’ imperfection. The most notable satirical account of government was made by Jonathan Swift in 1726 with his novel Gulliver’s Travels followed by common satire in contemporary culture on television shows such as Saturday Night Live and Family Guy. Then as well as now, many laughs were and are made at the expense of human mistakes carried out at the most public and official level of life--the government.
Swift’s satire of English government begins with the emergence of miniscule feet upon a monstrously large man washed up on the beach. In Gulliver’s Travels, a traveling doctor named Lemuel Gulliver is introduced to the customs and history of a race named the Lilliputians; their government practices interested him the most. Satire of English government is introduced in the discussion of the division of the Lilliputians made by the wearing of “high heels” and “low heels” by its’ people to separate their opinions of government. The “high heels”, also called the Tramecksans, have
support for the emperor and Lilliput’s constitution whereas the “low heels”, also called the Slamecksans, are the party in power of the government. Within the Lilliputian government, the emperor will only put people in office that wear low heels no matter the skill of the individual or their qualifications for the position. This example in Swift’s work is a mockery of the Tories and Whigs, which were the primary political parties in England at the time. The Tories were a conservative party that wanted the power of the king and the parliament to be more limited. The Whigs, however, were a very liberal party and wanted the parliament to have more power. Following the Glorious Revolution in 1689, George I assumed the throne and because he supported the Whigs, he appointed them to the parliament until they held the majority. In other words, the Whigs were the “high heels” presented in Gulliver’s Travels. Because Swift was a Tory, much of what he wrote about the “high heels” and the “low heels” satirized the unfairness and stupidity of the appointment process as being solely a superficial selection that had nothing to do with the actual ability of the individual to perform the job (Swift 39-40).
Further mockery of the English government comes with the description of...