Brilliant though our species is, we still have a long way to go. We have learned how to use finite natural resources to increase comfort, housing, nutrition, transportation, population, our knowledge of the universe we have evolved into, as well as Greed and Conflict. We have paid insufficient heed to the chorus of voices over the years that have tried to describe current situations and alert us. Just a very few:
Some 5,100 years ago, Egyptians scribes wrote, “The Sun God is supreme but she and her officials must rule according to Ma’at, the natural moral law that combines order, justice, harmony, goodness, and truth.”
About 2,420 years ago in Athens Thucydides advised: “Wars are fought because of the desire for power which greed and ambition inspire. Every schoolboy should know that victory in long, hard-fought, wars brings only exhaustion and weakness that prompt other nations to attack. The events that once took place will, by nature of human forgetfulness, take place again, and the scroll of history will unfold, forever stained by blood, if we do not learn that the best defence is all-conquering goodwill. Living in peace with the world will bring us the prosperity that will make us all secure.” He was not alone in his warnings, but to move on . . .
2,068 years ago, Cicero in Rome lamented: “We are taxed in our bread and our wine, in our incomes and our investments, on our land and on our property not only for base creatures who do not deserve the name of men, but for foreign nations, complaisant nations who will bow to us and accept our largesse, and promise to assist us in maintaining peace - these mendicant nations who will destroy us when we show a moment of weakness or when our treasury is bare, and surely it is becoming bare.
We are taxed to maintain legions on their soil, in the name of law and order and Pax Romana, a document that will fall into dust when it pleases our allies and our vassals. We keep them in precarious balance only with our gold.
Is the blood of our nation worth these? Were they bound to us with ties of love, they would not ask for our gold. They take our very flesh, and they hate and despise us. And who shall say we are worthy of more?
When a government becomes powerful it is destructive, extravagant, and violent; it is an usurer which takes bread from innocent mouths and deprives honourable men of their substance to buy votes with which to perpetuate itself.”
About 1,845 years ago in Rome, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus commented: “Often think of the rapidity with which things pass by and disappear, both the things which are and the things which are produced. For substance is like a river in a continual flow, and the activities of things are in constant change, and the causes work in infinite varieties; and there is hardly anything that stands still. And consider this which is near to you, this boundless abyss of the past and of the future in which all things disappear. How then is he not a fool who is puffed up with such things or plagued by them or makes himself miserable? For they vex him only for a time, and a very short time.
Think of the universal substance, of which you have a very small portion; and of universal time, of which a short and indivisible interval has been assigned to you; and that which is fixed by destiny, and how small a part of it you are.”
About 1790 in the UK, Edmund Burke advised, “Liberty cannot exist among a corrupt people. The use of force alone is but temporary. It does not remove the need to subdue again; and a nation is not governed which is forever to be conquered.” He also wrote: “To tax and to please, no more than to love and to be wise, is not given to man.”
After defeating Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, the Duke of Wellington cried: “Nothing, save a battle lost, can be so melancholy as a battle won.”
Moving on to the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote: A democracy, with universal suffrage, lends itself to the tyranny of the majority. The majority belongs to the most passionate and the least enlightened classes of society. Also frequent elections rob governments of perseverance and order, and permit officials to exercise a tyranny worse than the most despotic governments. Old France is dead in Europe, but alive in Canada. Under British protection and financial support French Canadians are the happiest and most tax-free people on earth, but their birthrate will one day swamp the British.
There is no end to such utterances. They are just a bunch or words to soothe the ears of the enlightened and are worthless unless we heed them.
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