Monday, January 29, 2007
We all know the story of Romulus & Remus...Trekies aside...and the ideals that the parable presents, yet how does it apply to the 21st century?
Romulus killed his brother because his brother mocked his power, nation, and literally 'the wall.' Once ridiculed, Romulus took hiss brother's life. Possibly, Romulus felt that "It is the decisive ideological struggle of the(pre-1st) 21st century, and the calling of our generation." Now, I do not mean to credit the red-staters' president with even a pretense of forethought or classical education, but unwittingly stumbling into historical folly is certainly well within the realm of 'Captain Clueless & the Devious Three.'
Unfortunately for his imperial Majesty & his minions, the main lessons of history have been missed. Roman Imperialism was bold, financially motivated, and made no pretense of being just. Roman citizens reaped the benefits of imperial wealth and largely subjugated the conquered. Subjugation was not the only key difference between Roman & American imperialism; the Romans also made excellent use of slavery.
I daresay that had Nero--searching for a comparable emperor--conquered Iraq, he would have taken the 'terrorist' and made them into slaves. He would have crucified some of course, empowered those who supported imperial policy, recruited into legions the young, & enslaved the rest. Could it be that the Bush administration has simply taken the wrong approach, that they have failed to make appropriate use of historical precedence? Why claim to care about democracy, the Constitution, human rights, and freedom for all? True administrative goals are consumed by greed, power lust, oil, and religious bigotry, so why not subjugate the nation, steal its wealth, and enslave its people?
Of course the non-redstate-reader may detect a sense of sarcasm, irony, and hopefully disdain for the bush administration, but for those who find themselves uncertain, I am not advocating any of the affore mentioned. I am simply drawing a logical comparison between the Roman and American empires. It would be fair to say that I have a certain amount of reverence for the former & disdain for the latter. The America that was once great--by great I mean when it was led by Bill Clinton--has lost its way. Democracies tend to get lost when the religious right is mobilized. At this point, we are little more than a misguided theocracy led by an idiot. Our silence is our complicity; we cannot be silent any longer.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
The Republican Virtue
Imagine two brothers, dedicated to political reform, improving the life of the Plebeians of Rome; they were men who dared to challenge the political establishment & suggest that the status quo was not good enough. These champions of Rome even dared to suggest that the Roman Senate & its citizenry should hold off on invasions of foreign nations & concentrate on improving the lives of all Romans. How did their government & nation repay them, they were repaid in blood. While existing serving as tribune a decade apart, the brother Gracchus embodied the hope of Republican virtue & the death of the Republican ideal.
But what am I talking about, what possible lessons looking at 2000-year-old Romans could learn? I mean it is not as though we live in a nation that is ripe with domestic strife, poverty, racial hatred, & inequity. The United States is not a nation that feels the need to govern others--against their will--and impose its own special brand of 'culture' upon others, right? It is not like the United States ignores the will of other nations, sets aside international law when they deem appropriate, and invade nations under false pretense.
Furthermore, I must be way out of bounds to suggest that the nation's highest officials could ever conceive of setting aside national law, its constitution, political norms, or the will of the people for the sake personal/professional agenda. It's not as though the United States has a President who stole the office, lacks integrity, is a 'recovering' drunkard, bends the laws of our nation--or simply ignores them at will--and sends 2,500 kids to their death for the sake of vengeance & the right to line the pockets of his friends.
Wait, now that I think about it, maybe there are some similarities b/w the Ancient Roman Republic & the 'Bush States of America'...maybe, just maybe there are some lessons that we could learn from our past. Fortunately for us, the president cannot really be described as a reader, so there is no danger of him actually learning anything. Besides, when someone can manipulate the laws & principles that govern, how can he be wrong?
In the end, maybe the Ancient Roman Republic was a better place than the current incarnation of the United States; the Romans at least had a few men like the Gracchus who were willing to try to bring about change, even if it meant their lives. Today however, bread & circus is more than enough to keep the average American happy.
Who Should Stand in Judgment?
Who has the right to decide the fate of man? Many would argue that only God has the right to decide the course of life, others would argue that there is no 'God' and that man determines his own course. So where does that leave the fate of Saddam Hussein? Was Saddam an evil man? I would think that under the criteria and moral compass of modern man, few would argue that point. History will undoubtedly categorize him with the likes of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, & George W. Bush. Who of the previously mentioned is not responsible for the death of thousands of men, women, & children? But we will let the esteemed pseudo-president have a day off today, as he is not the focus of this entry & will only be referenced in connection with the fringe right-wing whackos that he represents.
The philosopher Marcus Aurelius often reflected upon the role that man played on his environment & the natural course of life played by man therein. Aurelius said, "The longest-lived and the shortest-lived man, when they come to die, lose one and the same thing." (II, 14) On a day as today where the mob will celebrate death, it may be worthwhile endeavor to give the issue a bit more thought.
Is the world a better place now that Saddam Hussein is out of power? For the majority of people in Iraq, the answer is yes. His removal from power and the imperial self-indulgence of the United States are more challenging questions that deserve their own discourse. It is enough to say that most people are amenable to the suggestion that the pseudo-president & his 'men' intervened in others affairs--at the cost of thousands of lives & billions of dollars (but george got his man)--and that the world is a far worse place than it was before. Still, beyond the obvious, there is the question of just & justice.
Was the United States 'just' in their actions? Do the ends always 'justify' the means? george's boys Hitler & Stalin would agree with that premise but maybe we shouldn't. Will Iraq ultimately be better off without a mad dictator in power; the answer to that question is probably, depending upon whether or not the pseudo-president is removed from the office (he never rightly possessed) and imperial powers leave the region, but I digress. Justice...if one accepts the premise that bad people should be removed from positions of power so that they cannot hurt others, than two questions should become immediately apparent:
- Is it necessary to kill an emasculated & powerless person regardless of his previous actions?
- Why is the pseudo-president still in a position of power in the United States?
There are many justifications behind the concept of capital punishment. Hammurabi's Code suggested--at least in principle--which what one does one should expect to receive. Most mainstream religions suggest something to the effect of doing onto others as you would have done to you, and modernists believe that simply removing the danger from society is not enough.
It is this last notion that applies to Saddam. Obviously he is no longer a threat to the people of Iraq or the world at large. Furthermore, his removal from power was supposed to be the first step towards imposed democracy. But what does his death accomplish? Did a noose around his neck bring back the thousands he killed, had killed, tortured, etc? If you accept that the Nuremberg trials & executions were done to deter future atrocities, then explaining the rise of Saddam, Bosnia, Africa become somewhat more complicated. If administering death were the key to preventing it, then the pseudo-president's "home" state would be murder free. Unfortunately for Bible-thumpers & natives of Grand Rapids, the empirical evidence simply doesn't support the theory.
The truth, as it pertains to the administration of death, is that it makes its administrators feel better. The United States put Saddam in power, supported him in office, & when American policy goals changed, so too did American support. The United States disregarded Hitler b/c the govt felt that Hitler could be a good buffer against Stalin. Nations act for the sake of self-interest & policy. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging this truth at the core of all nation-states. But when a nation supports a policy, say Osama or Saddam, it becomes incumbent upon the nation to stand by their actions, regardless of the outcome. The noose the Americans placed around the Nazi's is the same as the one that gripped Saddam. Yet the noose is not what the key ingredient that Nazi's and Saddam had in common; it was American Complicity.
To the victors go the spoils & the right to write history; I am sure that the view of America will differ thirty years from now, but what of the truth? The world is better off without the 3rd Reich and Saddam Hussein. Yet I think the world would be better still if American Imperialism would revise its policy & be accountable for its policies.