Our dog eats shit. My wife and I were not pleased to discover, a few weeks ago, that our 21-month old Labrador has acquired a new habit of eating poo. It’s dog poo mainly, plus the occasional droppings from horses and cows. He seems to have really developed a liking for the stuff. We have asked friends and consulted the internet about what causes this new behaviour and what we can do to stop, or at least to discourage, it. The information and advice has been inconclusive and contradictory.

yellow labrador
Yellow Lab very like our own!

But a by-product of this research has been that we’ve found the technical term for such behaviour: coprophagia. The word comes from the Greek: kopros, meaning faeces and phagein, to eat. This led my mind to consider related words and, in particular, this one: coprocracy.

The Brave New World of Coprocracy

I was much struck by this thought, that this new (to me) word was just the right one for our times. Coprocracy, in its fullest sense, has clearly already arrived in the USA. The word can be used to describe the leader of the movement, in this case the Trump creature as kopros personified. Kopros can also be applied to the fake news or “alternative facts” that pour out from Trump and his acolytes. Closer to home, any number of coprocratic individuals spring immediately to mind. The more obvious would include the leaders of the EU Leave campaign: Johnson, Gove and Farage. But it can easily be applied to those wielding current power: Johnson (again!), Fox and their media cheerleaders in the “usual suspects” press. Theresa May, for reasons of internal party politics, is slowly turning into a coprocrat.

dog repulsed by Trump

Further symptoms of creeping coprocracy are seen regularly in press statements by government departments in response to some controversy. A good recent example was the (allegedly legally unsound) reason given for the Government’s further delay in publishing a proper plan to clean up the illegal, polluted air in our cities. It’s obvious the person who wrote the statement didn’t have their heart in it. I can imagine their mood swinging between the hope that that early retirement package may come through and the despairing wish that the ground might swallow them up. Shovelling shit wasn’t part of the career plan.

I feel nothing but sympathy for the long-serving civil servants who get posted to the press office of a government department. I can practically see their dead eyes staring into space as their fingers on the keyboard can barely get to the end of another flat, deadpan sentence “justifying” government policy. This phenomenon was particularly noticeable during Gove’s sojourn at the head of the Department for Education. But examples are seen almost daily in the press statements from other departments, including the Home Office, Cabinet Office and Department of Health.

Coprocracy and Corpocracy

I must give due acknowledgement to the QI Elves, who succinctly explained the difference between the easily-confused terms corpocracy and coprocracy. The former is “rule by corporations” and the latter “rule by shits”.

Corpocracy was, of course, the guiding principle of government policy in the years 2010 to 2016. But trends towards this state of affairs were evident during the Thatcher, Major, Blair and (to a lesser extent) Brown years. (There was, I believe, clear evidence that Brown was beginning to lead world political opinion away from the failed economic policies in the years following the 2007-8 global financial crash. One day, I must write my take on the tragedy of the failed opportunity for saner economic policy when Brown lost the 2010 election.) But there is a danger, too, that Britain is sliding towards coprocracy. A landslide win for May will only hasten the trend and must be avoided at all costs.

Let’s Hear It For Coprocracy!

But enough of this, and back, for a moment, to our shit-eating dog. The only solution in the short term is to keep him on a lead and to watch him like a hawk during his walks. Similarly, we can only hope that the famous “checks and balances” of the US Constitution, coupled with constant vigilance, will keep Trump on a “short lead” and curb his worst excesses until saner government can be restored.

In the meantime, let the rest of us call out shit policy and shit leaders every time they transgress normal moral decency – which is often. So let’s hear more about coprocracy. The word is derived from classical Greek, so lends the speaker an air of authority. It’s also a bit of a tongue-twister, so care is needed to get it right, aiding clear diction. And its similarity to corpocracy is a reminder of the close similarity of the two political systems.

So I want a lot more coprocracy: the word – as a warning to us all – and not the policy!! So, repeat after me: coprocracy, coprocracy, coprocracy…


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