by A Uiet Bhor
The three greatest events in recent western history was the English civil war, the American Revolution, and the French revolution, all three were sparked by ideals, eternal and great, without which the west would be a tyrannical hell, but idealism brings its own tyranny.
First off there was the English civil war, the first fought against an absolute monarch, for democracy and liberty, the Leveller ideals of equality and the parliamentary concept of no taxation without representation. This was however quickly engulfed by the tyrannical dictatorship of Cromwell’s Puritan party. The ideals were lost, but not forgotten and England learnt an important lesson, which is why it still has a monarchy, to prevent any party, from taking too much power. The Queen my never use her power, but the army, air force, navy, and even postal service all swear an oath to her, not the party in power. English democracy is unique, rather than coming into existence through the epiphany of Greece or the revolution of America, it grew through the slow gradual process of reform. We are the nation of the cautious tinkerer, and this has proven to be the best method, as sudden change has no control and no one can predict were it will end. The radical new ideal becomes the justification for many horrors. Moderation in all things.
Then there is the American Revolution, this was started for exactly the same reason as the English civil war, a proud monarch this time a Georgian rather than a Stuart, creates war that no one wants and expects his colonies to foot the bill. The ideals that lay dormant since the Levellers, is revived and an insurrection begins that many back in England recognise, and agreed with. The colonies of the Americas were using the libertarian words of 17th century in the 18th and this time the idealists got into power, but once more the dream for some becomes the nightmare for others. This time instead of religious persecution, territory and economics is the catalyst, the natives of the new world are genocided, and the inhabitants of the first continent of mankind are taken and enslaved to bare the weight of the creation of the “land of the free”. That a civil war, and finally a civil rights movement should have to take place before the nation truly lives up to the ideals of its founders it to be expected. The ideas that are good, last longer, and teach it again with a different voice. The black man teaching the meaning of America to the white, as the woman teaches the value of the vote to the man.
Last, the French revolution, this time we see it so clearly, the Jacobites, so carried away with the euphoria of power, they fail to see were it will lead them. A city of guillotines was how Paris was describes by a passing visitor. Under the likes of the fanatical Robespierre and the “Cult Of Reason” the ideal became the altar, on which so much life was wasted. Napoleon would end it finally, his progressive ideals laid waste by his ego and ambition. The ghetto of the Jews, rebuilt after his defeat and the odious aristocrats restored. But the ideals none the less survived, and live on in France today, as well as many other nations.
These three events taught mankind the truth, that power is to be gained by the pen, the voice, and not just the sword or gun. Time and again since then we have seen dictatorships collapse, democracy begun in some new land, that before knew only tyranny. But the force that spawns freedom, often creates the opposite, let’s look at Russia and China, the ideals there were not the same as for England, America and France. No enlightenment reached here, this time Marxism was the rallying cry, not liberty, but a new prison for the old. Not ever was Communism a hope to those in need, the ideal, as seductive too the thinker as the peasant, in practice turning out to be incapable of serving humanity. But coupled with the tendency for the ideal to become justification for the actions of madmen, a secular hell is what resulted.
That some should still cling to that ideal is saddening, it has proven itself to be unworkable, whereas democracy, for all its weakness, is the only system, there is no choice here, no vote, but for the right to vote. When ideals our put to the test, and come up wanting, time and again, mankind should say, “it was worth a try, but best to stick to what has proven itself”. Democracy often fucks up, big time, but on the whole the people get what they disserve. I’d be willing to give any system a try, I’d probably be a leveller in 1640, and communist in 1940, but we can’t build on faith, but reality.
We can’t still hope that Socialism or Christianity can make the world a better place when they have had many countries, and millions of people at their mercy and have not treated them well. Xtians and Moslems need to stop judging their faith by its ideals but by its realities. In theory communism would guarantee the well being of all, instead millions starved to death, in theory Islam, gives equal rights to woman, in reality, you’d be hard pressed to find women more oppressed than in parts of the middle east, (more because of pre-Islamic traditional chauvinism than Islam itself). Xtianity, and it’s turn the other cheek philosophy hasn’t been in practice since Nero. I know the religious out there would say, “but these people who to do terrible things aren’t true _______” (insert your brand of faith here) but you have to ask yourself, “how much of what I consider good about my faith is ever lived up to in practice, by person or nation?” Is there not in fact something intrinsically unworkable about the entire idea? There comes a point when you notice the horse you are flogging is dead. And the smell is putting me of my lunch.
Two seeds are planted in revolt, the fast growing seed of corruption, resulting from the gaining of power, and the slow but longer lasting seed of the ideals. They appear at first to be too fragile to service the realities of politics, but they spread around the world and spark of new ideas, new events. History is the ultimate judge and the world can see for itself were certain ideals lead to, but some are blinded by them, out of ignorance or faith they cannot see were they are being led, it is up to the rest of us to show them. The truth is dictated by reality, not a book unable to see the world as it is, but only able to show a world that wasn’t.
Whether it is Das Kapital, Main Kampf or the Bible one person or group’s madness can’t be allowed to swallow us all. Change should be at the consent of the majority, after they have been educated in the details of any idea. No propaganda, no dogmas, but independent, unbiased, and impartial multiple sources. People need to know what they are doing, if you already have that, make sure no one’s trying to take it away from you.
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)