Friday, January 21, 2011

Of Gods and Demons and Mankind

There has always been those among us who believe it is their divine right to rule over other human beings. Back when the Roman Empire ruled over western civilization, the emperors used to believe they were gods. They would present themselves before the "lower classes" and demand to be worshipped. They could demand any human luxury or creature comfort their times had to offer and it would be granted to them. There are stories of a certain emperor even taking other men's wives, men of stature and power, and using those wives as he saw fit. Men of power, military men, were so frightened of the emperor that they dared not defend their own wives when he targeted them. But these emperors weren't really gods, were they? They were simply human beings who had been born into a position of status. They simply let the ability to command others that was a privilege of their birth go to their heads. They let power corrupt their humanity.

I don't know why it is that the power to command other humans has been equated with godhood, but it certainly seems to be the case. In my experience, the power to command shouldn't be equated with being a god, it shouldn't even be equated with being a better human. Usually, as far as I've seen, the power to command has done nothing but make someone a jerk. When someone starts telling others what to do, that person has a tendency to lose the ability to empathize and sometimes to reason. They have a tendency to concentrate on filling their own needs, not worrying so much about the needs of those doing the work. It doesn't always happen, but it happens enough to take note.

Think about what it means to be god for a moment. I've often heard the word love ascribed to god. I've heard him described as a loving and forgiving being. I've also heard of him described as a jealous god, but I'm going to forgive that characteristic for now and hope that he has grown out of that phase of his emotional development. I would also imagine god to be open and honest. These men who think they have godlike qualities when they ascend to power, these emperors, or kings, or whatever authoritarian moniker they attach to themselves, they are sorely mistaken. They have no godlike qualities. Men obey their commands not through love or respect, but out of fear. Usually the fear is based wholly upon the cruelty of man and the fact that these power elite have armed men who will do their bidding. The same is as true of the authoritarians in power today as it was at the birth of civilization.

When one starts to look at the bigger picture, when one starts to look at the wars, the death, the destruction, the injustice, one starts to wonder if maybe these people are even human. Perhaps they're less than human. Historians may glorify such leaders and claim that they spread civilization across the world with their authoritarian systems. They may claim that they have helped bring to pass our modern technologies and governments. They may claim that without such authoritarians we would still be living in chaos as tribal creatures in the wild. What we don't know is what we can't see. We can't see the civilizations that have been lost. We can't see what could have happened if other cultures had been allowed to develop free from the devastation wrought by the wars and influence of empire. We have no idea how advanced we'd be today if the power elite had simply left the peasantry alone to flourish rather than creating wars and strife in an effort to glorify themselves.

Isn't it interesting to consider the philosophers? They were almost always inevitably anti authoritarians. Their appeals to humanity were almost always scoffed at by those in power, often to the point of imprisonment or worse. It seems to remain so. People in general and philosophers in particular often venerate such characteristics as compassion, empathy, forgiveness, love, respect, caring for others, etc. as the best features of humanity. In literature and the arts protagonists who learn or become adept at experiencing these emotions and feelings are often portrayed as being better for it. They have achieved much on the road to reaching their full human potential. Yet the authoritarians at the top of the heap seem to be devoid of these qualities. The power elite seem to like to think they are above humanity, but time and again they seem unable to exhibit the best humanity has to offer in their behavior.

When you think about the behavior one would expect of demons, however, the picture begins to change. Demons are associated with evil, hatred, death, disease, and all manner of vitriol that has plagued mankind through the ages. They care not for humanity and take pleasure in causing pain and suffering. They are often portrayed as devious and deceptive in order to get their way in their dealings. This seems much closer to the qualities exhibited by the ruling elite in this world, both past and present. These qualities are, in essence, the very qualities needed to propel one to the top in the halls of power and political influence.

Mankind is not ruled by gods, we are ruled by demons. The structure of power is such that those with demonic qualities rise to the top while those endowed with godlike attributes are pushed to the bottom and brushed aside. Those in power are oft times not hesitant to use violence against others in order to get there. They are not hesitant to use violence against the innocent if necessary. They have no principles. They will do whatever it takes to achieve power, no matter how cold, no matter how cruel. The only thing that matters to them is their own glorification.

Why do we allow such things to happen? Why is it that ninety nine percent of us or more allow such a small percentage to rule over us? We don't have to obey just because they have money. We don't have to go along with their vision just because they were born into privilege. What about the vision you have for your own life? Likely their vision will put up barriers you'll have to overcome in order to realize your vision. A system that allows the demons of humanity to advance over those with more venerated qualities is more than broken, more than corrupted. Certainly humanity can come up with a better way.

At one time I would have said that the United States of America had created a better system. I would have pointed out that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution have enshrined certain principles above all others that those in power should not be able to easily violate. But those documents were shredded long ago and are completely ignored by too many of our current congress critters and public masters. From the first moments the governing bodies of this nation convened they started working at changing the Constitution to garner more power for themselves. All monopoly governmental systems, even the best intentioned, seem to fall to corruption as the demons battle to rise to power. Ours has been no different.

With the new congress, there is hope. Already they have managed to vote to repeal the health care bill that so many protested against. This is a good start, but has so far been nothing but a symbolic gesture. It heartens me that the house is threatening to remove funding from the program and that states are threatening to nullify the law. This is a good indication that the people are trying to take power back and realize that we should have choice in the markets, not restrictive government monopolies stifling competition. But this is not enough. There is still too much power controlled by those exhibiting demonic qualities in the form of laws such as The Food Safety Modernization Act, The Patriot Act and The Military Commissions Act. These laws also need to be repealed. The Patriot Act is up for renewal soon. The new congress can take another step in the right direction by simply letting it sunset thus reducing the tyranny we find ourselves living under.

We need to stop expecting gods to come to our aid. We need to stop letting demons use fear to command and control us. We need to stand tall and declare our humanity. It is, after all, humanity that has the most at stake in this world. We need to let those in power know that we are not going to willingly go along with their dictates and that we wish to be left alone to take care of our own lives. It is my hope that we are taking a turn in the right direction, albeit an agonizingly slow one, and that one day we shall live in a voluntary society where aggression of all forms, even government force, is frowned upon. I hope to live in a society where exhibiting behavior venerated by humanity is rewarded in the power structure and exhibiting those behaviors condemned by humanity is excluded from power. This can only be achieved with the eternal vigilance of principled people watching over those who would be gods.

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