Just because all you hear is mindless chirping, ignore the cattle at your peril

Politicians should learn to listen to the people.

“Because half a dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the shadow of the British oak, chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field; that of course they are many in number; or that, after all, they are other than the little shrivelled, meagre, hopping, though loud and troublesome insects of the hour.”

Edmund Burke, 18th century Anglo-Irish statesman, philosopher, and writer

I came across this quotation in an article on the recent UK election. I thought how pertinent it was – to the current situation and to so many other events in life.

Interestingly when used in the context of politics this quotation has been used by opposing parties to illustrate their argument that the electorate has been duped. The sub-text of this is that we, ‘the little people’ ‘the unintelligent masses’ ‘the sheep of society’, just haven’t a clue. We are so malleable, so easily persuaded, that we can’t see that we’ve been hoodwinked. In short, we are stupid and need to be led by the hand to the ‘correct’ decision. Like a child at school we’ll have to take the test again and again until we get it right.

Key moments when Burke’s words were used:

  • After the result of the referendum on Europe in 2016.
  • Churchill used it in 1939 in response to a call for him to be dismissed as a Member of Parliament.
  • It was used by Matthew Parris (writing in The Times December 2012) against the ‘rabid right’ in a call to not let the UKIP ‘obsessive reactionaries … shelter under the Conservative fern’.

There are other sayings that reflect this concept but few are as eloquent.

Here are some more sayings – on the power of silence – that are good for reflection and consideration.

It was the premise behind Burke’s quotation that attracted me and made me decide to share. The others grew from there.
I decided then that I did not want it to burgeon into a political rant as I find generally that these can turn rancorous and be counter-productive.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the quotations – perhaps you’d share some of your own – and thank you for reading.