Of Rome and Rhetoric

A brief survey of world-wide power struggles could lead us to a sense that we are entering a golden age of reason and restraint. Consider the peaceful and hailed resolution to the election debacle in Kenya—powersharing. A similar truce resulted from the most recent Pakistani elections: two non-allied politicians have set aside differences to effect change, while their hated rival promises to work with them legally and in all good faith. Columbian, Venezuelan and Ecuadorian presidents stopped calling for each others’ physical and ideological dismemberment and resolved their differences in discussions that included both monetary remuneration and the highly unusual admission of wrongdoing. The official passage of power from Fidel to Raul went off without a single shadow of Cold-war era overt or covert ‘liberation tactics.’

Don’t buy it.

Allow me to remind you of the effectiveness of the longest-running peace talks in modern history. Israel’s ongoing discussions with her neighbors have accomplished approximately nothing. We’re talking multiple rockets launched across an arbitrarily placed and heavily fortified border into civilians. Daily. To say nothing of China’s relations with Tibet and Taiwan. Or the entire continent of Africa. And may I point out that half of the inhabited continents still admit regions controlled by self-styled ‘warlords’?

Lest you think the last paragraph a sulky reveling in unfinished business, I remind you that those regions not mentioned above are governed by politicians who, for example, play word games to pretend they are noble in their shameless power-grabbing or create new offices to work out of while their puppet holds temporal power.

And before you condemn this article as unnecessary schadenfreude, allow me to state the reasons for my nihilism. I recently finished reading (in audio form) Sir Winston Churchill’s History of the English Speaking People. I could find no point in the history of this great people—the founders of constitution-based government, the progenitors of modern democratic structure—in which political development was accomplished by disinterested parties. Indeed, that oft-cited paragon of the the recognition of the universal rights of mankind, the Magna Carta, was little more than the protection of a particular class’s rights signed and enforced only when that class had the physical strength to support it. Our great nation of liberties can be quite easily reduced to a list of the watershed interests that determined the governance of the moment.

Certainly there were selfless and far-sighted individuals—groups even—who acted out of a genuine desire to benefit mankind. Such individuals were quickly swallowed into or manipulated by systems highly efficient in heedless self-promotion.

It goes beyond government. This inability to survive as a society is deeply rooted in humanity and is patently obvious in our systems of education, religion, resource allocation and family structure. No thinking person really questions it, yet we can’t fix it. Think socialism. Think survival of the fittest. Think bread and circuses. Think Nash’s Equilibrium Theory. Think existentialism. Think nihilism.

And people call my faith a crutch.


2 Replies to “Of Rome and Rhetoric”

  1. wow,

    I don’t think I’ve ever read something of yours that you were quite so passionate about. Was there a particular incident that brought this to the forefront or was this the result of long-watched pot finally boiling.

  2. Something like the long watch to a boil. Various things all teaching the same thing. I don’t feel like explaining it all right now—that’s why I didn’t.

    And I don’t know about passionate. That seems too involved.

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