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The duck in the cockpit
By Elson T. Elizaga, November 4, 2020. Updated September 15, 2023.

I don't care who wins in every election. I seek comfort in the wisdom of my political science teacher who said, “In a democracy, the people always deserve their leaders.”

He was apparently quoting the French philosopher Joseph de Maistre: "Toute nation a le gouvernement qu'elle mérite." Every nation gets the government it deserves.

Joseph de Maistre

The original, duckless painting of Maistre was created by Carl Christian Vogel von Vogelstein (1788–1868). A photo of it is in Wikipedia and classified as a "public domain work of art".

This saying doesn’t make sense to some of us. But my friend Tibags has an excellent illustration, a popular joke among the sabungeros (cockfighting enthusiasts) in Camiguin. The first four lines of this story are his. The last two are my additions, as what usually happens in folklore.

1. “Unsaon pagkabawan nga naay hangal-hangal sa sabungan?” (How do we know an idiot is present in the cockpit?)

2. “Kung naay magdala ug pato.” (When someone brings in a duck.)

3. “Unsaon pagkabawan nga naay mas hangal-hangal pa sa nagdala ug pato?” (How do we know someone is worse than the idiot in the cockpit?)

4. “Kung naay mopusta sa pato." (When someone bets on the duck).

5. “Unsaon pagkabawan nga ang tanan tao sa sabungan mga hangal-hangal?” (How do we know everyone in the cockpit is an idiot?)

6. “Kung mudaog ang pato.” (When the duck wins.) End



Three hundred years under Spain, 40 years under the Americans, and what do we have? Three Miss Universes, one Miss World, six Miss Internationals, three Miss Earths, 1.6 million idiots, and one psychopath giving orders to the police.

Elson T. Elizaga, 2017


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