Let’s All Lie Together

I don’t know when, or if there was a specific time, we all came to accept a low degree of honesty in politics. Across the board, in all ages that we have records for, people in power have lied to the people they rule. And the people they rule, in the majority, don’t seem to care.

Maybe we would all lie in the same situation. Maybe we feel if you have political enemies you cannot tell the whole truth because that would give them power over you. Gandhi always told the facts as he saw them and we respect his name above many, many others.

The fact is politicians were liars long before they went into politics and they were lied to by everyone all their lives, as we all are. Human beings are not truthful animals and that, sadly, is the foundation on all the problems we face in the world. It underpins our economics, our politics, are society for what you see around you – that is what you get when millions of people lie to each other every day.

Heroes

We, in our liberal society, say that peace is better than war. We teach dialogue and we seek the coming together of countries to work together not kill each other.

Yet all the countries that do this also have statues up to their military leaders who achieved conquest or victory. I don’t know of a single statue in a single country erected to a conscientious objector and even the great Gandhi inadvertently precipitated a war in which a million people died.

So here we are with the age old problem that our aim as thinkers conflicts with our animals natures. Warriors are deeply loved by their men, by their leaders and by their countries. Winners are always lauded even while we teach that taking part is what is important. But it isn’t.

We lie to ourselves because we know the kind of society we crave and want is unachievable given the way we are. Yet some of us never give up the hope and never give up trying because, after all, if we are wise enough to have the ideas then surely we are strong enough to make them a reality?

Those We Have Tortured

I have always liked Michael Palin, probably because he acts like one’s favourite uncle but also because of his hilarious take in the Python series about the Spanish Inquisition. And one has to laugh at the hideous and long lasting (nearly four hundred years) Catholic slaughter which burned people for not being good Christians and had a collection of torture equipment the Nazis would have been proud of (and probably were.) I remember many years ago discussing the Indian revolution against the British and it being suggested that Gandhi’s non-violence would never have worked against the Nazis.

Recalling how the Jews would not fight on the Sabbath and the Macabbees saw the Greeks wading into them and killing them were they sat in 300 BCE  I could not argue against the fact that the slaughter would have been significantly greater. I have wondered if those who believe in non-violence could all fly at once into Libya or Syria, millions of people, and just walk and say stop, if anything would stop. To put one’s life on the line that and know there is a good chance you will die takes more than bravery because it goes beyond making as political statement.

Which makes me wonder at the people on the Gaza Flotilla who all know the experience may be harsh but they won’t be hurt unless they hurt first, a certainty one never has with regimes that are truly tyrannical.

What Makes Greatness

I am sure the old saying ‘cometh the time, cometh the man’ (written in more chauvinistic times but still sadly very true) describes the fact that human history shows in times of crisis someone always bubbles to leadership and somehow gets peoples/nations/tribes through the crisis. As Toussaint Louverture boldly spoke out against slavery on behalf of his people, to Napoleon at once saving and mutating the French Revolution, to Churchill taking the reins of Britain. Irrespective of such great names we should also recognize the thousands of smaller names of little known people who also gave leadership when it was needed.

When Tolstoy was visiting the Caucasus he was asked by the tribal chieftains there to tell them about the great leaders in history (Tolstoy being an expert in the Napoleonic wars) and when he thought he had finished the chiefs asked him why he had left out the greatest of them all. So at their insistence he told the story of Abraham Lincoln.

Truly great leaders leave their nations, their shores, their tribes and transcend to another a plane where all people can understand their humanity, integrity and honesty. Men like Gandhi. Yes they arose in a time when they were needed, but they span history. We don’t need another Napoleon or another Caesar, but we we are always in need of men and women like Lincoln, who can inspire love and respect because they are not feared.

I Have Watched

the revolutions in the Middle East, the bombs falling in Libya, protesters shot and rounded up in Syria, the Bahrain dictators taking succour from the Saudi Arabian dictators and I am reminded of the dictators in Europe. The decimation of marching, unarmed people; the fight for votes, for even the right to be taught to read.

And I wonder just how much any of it supposes that we are not more animal than rational. It is easy to see the dictators as animal, wanting to rule, putting down with  brutality anyone who opposes their rule because their might is financially rewarding as their preeminent position is egoistically congratulatory. But are not those who march equally merely showing their animal behaviour? Is burning effigies, shouting in anger, fighting in the streets the sign of high intellect?

When Gandhi sat down and let the British strike out at the Indian protesters the world could see that when he replaced the British he truly would be different. He did not fight them on their own grounds but on his world vision in which they, the British, would not exist as empire builders.

Dictators always fight in the streets and those who fight them there will become them. You win by fighting on new ground, with new methods of behaviour that demonstrate to yourself that you could never be a dictator, because it is not oppression you are fighting but the struggle to make an animal, rational.

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