Politics can get nasty, really nasty. Sometimes politicians argue with one-another and to a certain extent we should expect that because politics is something that generally makes some people quite riled-up. We normally expect our politicians to have a certain level of adulthood when they deal with things and people they disagree with – after all, they are the people we have elected to run the country – but the sad fact is, even politicians are human beings (despite what the Internet might have you believe), so they make mistakes. Occasionally, those mistakes end up with drastic, even dire, consequences.
So let’s take a look at some of the worst results of politicians letting their heart speak rather than their head when it comes to political arguments.
5. South Korean Politicians Fight Over Kids’ Lunches
We’ll start with something mild, to get us into the swing of things. The idea of providing free school lunches to children might seem like a pretty minor thing to come to blows over but in South Korea, the politicians took it very seriously.
Look, we’ve all been there. It’s a hot day, you’re tired because you didn’t sleep well the night before and now someone is telling you you’re evil because you want to spend taxpayer’s money making sure some child you’ll never meet doesn’t go hungry at school. Or maybe someone is telling you you’re evil because you think wealthy parents shouldn’t be subsidised by poor taxpayers through a system that indiscriminately pays for every child’s meals, no matter how much their mum and dad have in the bank. It’s a contentious issue, so you’re going to get a bit heated in the debate. That happens.
Then someone throws a haymaker at you because they think you’re a pick and it all kicks off. You’re not going to take that kind of behaviour lying down, so you get up off the floor (we’re going to go with the idea that they took you by surprise, okay? Feel free to substitute in an action sequence where you expertly dodged their attack and delivered a flying kick straight to their groin if you’d prefer) and you give them what for.
Naturally, the rules of “Fight! Fight! Fight!” have to kick in at this point and soon the debating chamber looks like a seedy inner city bar on a Friday night. Everyone’s settling old scores left, right and centre and the hungry children are long since forgotten about.
Now that’s a political tv channel we would all watch. We could even settle the national debt by charging for it as a pay-per-view scheme! Someone should get on that.
4. President Jackson Shot A Guy
The seventh President of the United States was the living embodiment of an Internet Debate, long before the Internet was even thought of. Even the slightest of insults, or perceived insults, could land you in hot water with Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson; the craziest man to ever lead America.
After serving in the Senate of Tennessee for some time, Jackson was libeled in the local paper by a rival horse breeder, Charles Dickinson. Dickinson accused Jackson of reneging on a bet worth $2,000; which is a lot of money even today but back in 1806 that was a handsome fortune, the equivalent of around $42,000 today. Oh, and Dickinson also accused Jackson’s wife of bigamy because hey, when you’re insulting a guy who’s already known for being insane and violent, why not go all in?
Jackson was displeased at the accusations leveled against he and his wife so, naturally, he challenged Dickinson to a duel. Jackson liked duels and would participate in something like 100 of them during his lifetime. If that’s not enough to demonstrate how ludicrously insane he was, Jackson also attacked an assassin with a stick after the guy had shot at him twice. He’s not the most even-tempered of people.
So anyway, the duel took place and Dickinson shot first, striking Jackson in the chest and barely missing shooting him in the heart. Jackson, because he’s basically a Saturday morning cartoon that’s taken human form, held the wound closed with one hand and shot back at Dickinson with the other. The gun misfired.
Normally, that would end the duel because the rules are pretty simple: you get one shot and that’s it. However, Jackson is the Dick Dastardly of dueling, so he decided to cheat. He re-cocked his gun and shot again, killing Dickinson.
In a twist of fate that you should have seen coming by this point, Jackson did not suffer any repercussions for murdering a guy while cheating in a duel. He didn’t even suffer much of a backlash when all this came out during his Presidential campaign. The only real setback he received from this duel was the lifelong pain and discomfort caused by having almost been shot in the heart in an era where medical assistance was barely above sticking leeches on your wounds.
Sometimes cheats prosper. Life is unfair.
3. Britain Declares War Because A Farmer Shot A Pig
For most of its history, the United States has been a staunch ally of the United Kingdom, as long as we put that whole nasty “War of Independence” thing aside for now. This doesn’t mean the two nations have always seen eye-to-eye on everything, however. Take the island of San Juan, for example. It’s a nice enough place, somewhere you can raise a few pigs, so both nations wanted it; and both nations had settlers on it.
Unfortunately for history, those settlers didn’t always get on. One day, a pig from a British farm wandered onto the land of an American farmer. Being an all-round great guy and so very understanding, that farmer shot the pig. This led to something of a disagreement; as guys shooting other guys’ pigs tends to do.
Now the normal and reasonable thing to do here is for the local law enforcement to separate the two parties in the dispute and get them to calm down before everyone does something they regret. During this process, the guy who shot the pig, Lyman Cutlar, managed to get himself arrested. The Americans reported this to the local American military; who acted in the most reasonable and understated fashion they could so that the whole incident could be dealt with quickly and without further problems.
Just kidding, they annexed the entire island. This made the British quite upset, so they sent a massive and heavily-armed fleet to deal with the situation. The stand-off between the British and the Americans lasted for several weeks before everyone came to their senses and agreed that actually going to war over a dead pig might not be the best idea the world has ever had.
In the end, they agreed to joint military occupation of San Juan, which is pretty much the same as the situation they had been enjoying before this whole mess started; and the only difference was that one farmer had one less alive pig, which makes us wonder just how we as a species have managed to last this long.
2. Julius Caesar Invades Rome To Avoid A Trial
Julius Caesar is rather well known as the guy everyone thinks was a Roman Emperor but technically wasn’t. He’s the last leader in the Roman Republic and ended his time on Earth as Dictator For Life of Rome; a title that basically said to all his political enemies “hey, you know what you have to do”. It’s like painting a target on your own back is what we’re saying.
Caesar got into this position partly through his own actions and partly because of the actions of others. Take his early political career, for example. Caesar was always the guy the other politicians feared and disliked, so they went out of their way to make life difficult for him. When he was old enough to stand for a Consulship, the Senate awarded him the task of “watching over the Roman forests”, a role that had previously not existed and which was intended to prevent him getting control of any armies.
That didn’t work out too well because of a little thing called The First Triumvirate, where Caesar teamed up with Pompey The Great, a military commander of immense renown, and Crassus, a guy who was so immensely rich that he would only have dropped out of the top ten richest people in the world in 2009 if he were still alive today. Anyway, the First Triumvirate got Caesar a proper Consulship.
During this Consulship, one of his fellow Consuls declared every single day of the year to be a religious holiday. This meant that every time Caesar passed any legislation, he broke the law because you weren’t allowed to conduct public activities on a religious holiday. Consequently, when Caesar reached the end of his term in office, he could expect to be prosecuted by his enemies.
Caesar’s only option was to run for re-election but to do that, he had to enter Rome. You weren’t allowed to bring an army with you when you entered Rome (you’re still not, we checked) so Caesar would have to enter on his own if he wanted to be re-elected. This caused a bit of a problem because he knew he would be arrested and tried if he attempted that. So Caesar did what any power-hungry man in a desperate situation would do: he invaded Rome with his army.
This action had two immediate consequences. Firstly, it ensured that Caesar was totally not going to get prosecuted for a little thing like violating a few hundred holy days (because who’s going to try him for that when they can try him for treason instead?). Secondly, it started a whole mess called The Great Roman Civil War, where Caesar was pitted against his old friend (and technical son-in-law at this point, since he had married Caesar’s daughter) Pompey the Great. It was a battle neither Caesar nor Pompey wanted but sometimes these things happen.
What we can all learn from this is that Caesar’s enemies, who believed Caesar would attempt to wrest as much power for himself as possible, essentially set up the very situation they feared through their constant attempts to undermine the guy. Sometimes you just can’t win.
1. World War One
In 1901, a secret military society was formed with the ideal being to unite the Slavic people in territories not already controlled by Serbia or Montenegro. Their motivation was the recent successful unification of the Italian people through the foundation of Italy. This group was called “Unification or Death”, because they really wanted people to know what they were all about, but we more commonly know them as The Black Hand.
Anyway, the Black Hand were all like “yeah, we want to unite the Slavs” and the Slavs were all like “nah, we good”. So the Black Hand decided the best thing to do was terrorism because these guys weren’t playing with a full deck, you get me?
Now the Black Hand weren’t pleasant people and they also weren’t the best organised, despite being set up by military personnel. They established themselves into small “cells” that barely communicated with one-another and consequently when one cell decided to do something insane, like attempt an assassination on someone, it wasn’t always possible to get news of that to the central commanding group in time for an order of “hey, no, don’t do that” to percolate back.
That’s essentially what happened in 1914, when a group of the Black Hand crossed into Serbia with a mission to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. They had somehow decided that this would be a great way of stopping the Archduke’s attempts to pacify Serbia (presumably based on the logic of “he can’t keep doing it if he’s dead”). Anyway, their attempts to grenade him didn’t work, because these assholes just sucked in general, so they shot him while he was driving through Sarajevo.
This kicked into high gear a series of events that resulted in World War One. Austro-Hungary declared war on Serbia because of the assassination; which meant Russia had to declare war on Austro-Hungary in retaliation. Through a series of mutual defence pacts, most of Europe ended up sucked into a massive and bloody war that lasted four years and devastated entire nations. All because some idiots wanted to copy Italy.
Zoë Kirk-Robinson is a cartoonist and comedian who writes every day because she thinks it keeps her sane. Her latest book, All Over the House: Book Three, is out now.
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