The Greeks had a word for it: hygies, or the wholeness of the individual. The Romans took it a step farther – with their mens sana in corpore sano (‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’) routine. Cindy Crawford and a bevy of Hollywood beauties made a fortune out of exercise videos that barely covered the, er, matter at hand… Yes, folks, we’re talking about the all-important constitutional.
That brisk walk at dusk, the morning turn around what pass for parks in our city, an hour or so on the machines at the gym, a vigorous dip in the local swimming pool… Hobbies that help us keep fit, pastimes that are more a pain than a real pleasure. We call it working out; a previous generation knew it as their daily constitutional. I prefer the latter term… Not least because it reminds us of other weighty matters – and how our health, future wealth and all-round prosperity are being robbed in broad daylight. The game’s afoot, my dear Holmes?
The problem is, dear Watson, that it is not at all elementary! On the face of it, constitutionals – like constitutions – are a good thing and greatly to be desired in themselves. Imagine, then, the joy that wells up in the truly democratic hearts of the hoi polloi when they hear that there are plans to give them a new one. The genuinely republican breast swells with pride at the mention of anything old (old-fashioned values, custom and tradition, the way things were); but wave the prospectus of a new constitution under their noses, and you may well reduce them to a quivering bowlful of jelly. Problem is: is the prospect entirely constitutional?
Consider: we already have a constitution! As constitutions go, it is not an exceptional constitution – simply because those who are its guardians cannot be compelled to go anywhere near far enough to safeguard those who are meant to be guarded by it. The same satirical cove who thought up the merry maxim mens sana, etc. – Juvenal, a Roman satirist (do look him up on Wiki, would you, dear?) – also came up with the pithy phrase: “Who will guard the guards?” It took Bob Dylan (don’t bother googling him, girls) nineteen centuries to fashion a reasonable response:
“The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind…”! Be that as it may, my bonnie fellow-citizens, the point is that even after all the fuss and bother we’ve had with first and second republican constitutions, we have hardly achieved a state of affairs whereby we can safely say, all’s well and the constitution is in sterling hands. No, “it is more honor’d in the breach than the observance”, as that pretty witty city chap Hamlet uttered, glancing about him and muttering under his breath that there was something rotten in the state of, um, shall we say Denmark?
So, all this begs the question: if we have a sorry track record with the inalienable rights of our fellow citizens in the recent past; if we’ve taken poor care of our present constitution – warts and all – to the extent of negligence (did we forget parts of the 17th Amendment, dears?) and carelessness (is the 13th all it can be?); what makes us think that a future bill of rights will be anything but wrong? It may fit the bill for some… But the rest of us will be left holding the can – a feeling analogous to wanting to pass water, and finding that the urinal we’re at is actually a constitutional that leaks. Now that’s not a pretty pass…
Given what passed above, you may be taken aback to find that it is the people who are at the forefront of this move to usher in a new constitution. When we say “people”, gentle reader, of course we do not mean the likes of you and me who go the extra mile to keep our elected servants happy, safe and secure. No, indeed! Because the kind of personage who will soon be gently agitating for constitutional reform are the type who exercise professionally to thrill the nation with their athletic prowess (think international cricket); keep fit by regularly applying oodles of make-up to their cosmetically enhanced facades (think cellulite – ugh, celluloid screen); and workout at Body By Kris (don’t think too hard).
In a nutshell, dearly beloved, it is the country’s sportsmen, actresses, and part-time, two-bit hoodlums who are running the race that will hopefully grace the powers that be with a few extra decades in power.
Don’t let all this put you off, dear. Face up to it like a man. Or, if you are a woman, like a goddess! Because while you may not be able to countenance the prospect of change that will transform us overnight from a democratically challenged republic into (oh, say) a constitutional dictatorship, the real power lies in your hands.
By the time April rolls around, perhaps, the point would have struck home… So don’t forget to flex your abs to show that you won’t stomach it, even as you stretch a leg and put your best foot forward in the direction of the polling booth.