All Have Fallen Short: The First Options
Christian thoughts on governance and society
Here are the quotes, free for the taking:
1. Humanity will never devise or establish a perfect society until people are perfect.
It takes no religious fervor to admit that neither you nor I nor anyone else is perfect.
2. Morality cannot be legislated.
For one, there is no way to legislate every possible circumstance in advance. For two, even if we could, it would only convict us all for one reason or another. As we already said, no one is perfect. And for three (the next quote):
3 People cannot be forced to either be good or do good.
We can ask, we can threaten, but short of some form of absolute mind control, we cannot force goodness. People can always find loopholes and a way around the block, and we are all so good at self-justification.
4 Everything we are, say and do touches others.
No man is an island. No one lives in a vacuum. We all share the same eco-system. My wife claims I live in some fantasy land and only occasionally touch reality, but that may be a separate issue. The point is, however you say it, we are all connected in one way or another. There is no such thing as a completely disconnected life. (Sorry Libertarians).
Given the above, the question is how then can we best structure a society that is both peaceful and harmonious? There are only three options after option zero.
0. The Zero Option:
Get rid of all human beings. Even a few years ago, this never would have come up. Sadly, there are environmental cultists who seriously believe the earth would be better off without us. The fact that the earth would not know it is better off (and we cannot know the future so we cannot say if it would really be better off or not) is beside the point.
I say the perspective is sad because what we really have here are the ultimate pessimists among us, and in that they are nothing new. Some see the imperfections of humanity (as described above) and it is all they seem capable of seeing. People are cruel, insensitive, hate-filled creatures who invent ways to torture and kill each other and destroy the environment. (The environment part is merely the modern twist or addition on this ancient point of view). There are poor souls who believe the only way to end cruelty, oppression and destruction of the natural world is to delete the human race. Sad.
Of course, most of us are not quite so pessimistic. Hopefully most mix their pessimism with a little optimism and come out somewhere in the ballpark of realism. In any case, the zero option is not really an option. It is an abdication, not a solution. So we move on and realistically we find this:
Historically, there are two options: two ends of the spectrum if you will. All of human history might be catalogued in the dance between these two. They are anarchy and tyranny, and while you might say neither option sounds appealing, there really are no other choices.
I’ll start with this option because no human society stays here for long. As a system, total freedom that some call license is unsustainable. It is the wild west, guns in the streets, but without sheriffs or federal marshals to uphold the law. Ordinary men, women and their children cannot abide chaos and crisis for long. They will willingly give themselves over to the strong for the sake of stability, safety and security. To be sure, Tombstone was once in the grips of anarchy. But the shootout at the O K Corral was to decide which group of strong men would take over.
Anarchy is the dream of all true libertarians, despite how they may masquerade as conservative thinkers. It is also the dream of “liberal” tyrants because as even that idiot Nietzsche noticed, out of chaos comes order. And that is really the key. Sometimes, the search for stability is cast in the most noble terms, like the British looking for a King and unifier in Arthur. Generally, though, people will willingly give themselves over to whomever can “fix” things.
Mussolini made the trains run on time. Napoleon restored both order and pride in the French after that anarchistic horror they called the French Revolution. And the Roman Republic was under such stress and falling apart they tried to force the crown on Julius Caesar. He turned them down, but we see how that turned out. War can feel anarchistic. Chairman Mao understood that. A power vacuum can leave anarchism in its wake. Ask the Khmer Rouge. Sometimes, and it is true, people deliberately cause the chaos, crisis and panic in the streets in order to take advantage and gain power, like Lenin or Hitler or… others.
Anarchy, everyone for themselves, is not a viable option for a human society, but it always seems to be on the horizon or just around the next bend in the road. In some ways, that level of freedom sounds intriguing. Some people think they can handle it, but the truth is when faced with real anarchy, people fear it like zombies in the streets. And almost invariably, as history is my witness, it has lead to the few, the strong, the tyrant taking over.
The tyrant will have to take over next week.