Greetings, dear friends,
These are strange times we're living in. My answering machine and e-mail inbox are full of messages, some desperate, some funny, some furious. Perhaps you'll be comforted to know that I feel calm, even happy, because events have made decisions for me that I was slow to make for myself. Regardless, if you are in Los Angeles, I hope you'll join me on 6 November at the intersection of Hollywood and Highland, and we will have a chance to express our displeasure.
Other than the United Nations, a bureaucracy without much teeth, the largest government bodies in the world are the European Union and the African Union. The experiment in a world government, if we survive it, is being tested by the idealism of these two places. Communism was not the answer to unifying disparate ethnicities, as the Russians learned, and the Chinese are learning. Colonialism did not raise up the African, the Indian, the Arab. And Christianity is not going to save America. We are all going to live together, and the intolerant will be destroyed.
Let's all take a moment to reflect on our place in the world, which for all of us is pretty lucky, I would think. I have no cruel links or tragic maps (they are coming along later) to send you. I have two speeches to cheer you...the first is by Charlie Chaplin from "The Great Dictator". The Jewish barber Hynkel, posing as the dictator, speaks to a rally of the Party:
I'm sorry, but I don't want to be an Emperor - that's not my business. I don't want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone, if possible -- Jew, gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another; human beings are like that. We all want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's misery. We don't want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone.
The way of life can be free and beautiful.
But we have lost the way.
Greed has poisoned men's souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.
The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men, cries out for universal brotherhood for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women, and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.
To those who can hear me I say, "Do not despair." The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass and dictators die; and the power they took from the people will return to the people and so long as men die, liberty will never perish.
Soldiers: don't give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you, enslave you, who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel; who drill you, diet you, treat you as cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don't give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don't hate; only the unloved hate, the unloved and the unnatural.
Soldiers: don't fight for slavery! Fight for liberty! In the seventeenth chapter of Saint Luke it is written, "the kingdom of God is within man" -- not one man, nor a group of men, but in all men, in you, you the people have the power; the power to create machines; the power to create happiness. You the people have the power to make life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.
Then, in the name of democracy, let us use that power! Let us all unite!! Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give you the future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie! They do not fulfill their promise; they never will. Dictators free themselves, but they enslave the people!! Now, let us fight to fulfill that promise!! Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men's happiness.
Soldiers: in the name of democracy, let us all unite!!!
Hannah, can you hear me? Wherever you are, look up, Hannah: The clouds are lifting; the sun is breaking through. We are coming out of the darkness into the light. We are coming into a new world. A kindlier world, where men will rise above their hate, their greed and brutality.
Look up, Hannah: The soul of man has been given wings, and at last he is beginning to fly. He is flying into the rainbow -- into the light of hope, into the future, the glorious future that belongs to you, to me and to all of us. Look up, Hannah. Look up.
You can hear the speech here:
Secondly, a speech made by the Athenian general Nicias to his defeated troops in Sicily, according to Thucydides. During the long war between Athens and Sparta, Nicias negotiated a peace treaty with the Spartans. Seeking to expand their sea empire, the Athenians decided (as a democracy, natch) to send an army all the way to Sicily, to "save" their friends from the Syracusans. Instead the Spartans saw an opportunity to weaken Athens, supported the Syracusans, and destroyed the Athenian army, an action which eventually helped topple the democracy of Athens itself. Nicias had argued strongly against the Sicilian Expedition, but when his argument was ignored, he volunteered to lead the men. He gave this speech as they were fleeing for their lives, hundreds of miles and across a sea from home:
23.37 "Athenians and allies, even in our present position we must still hope on, since men have ere now been saved from worse straits than this; and you must not condemn yourselves too severely either because of your disasters or because of your present unmerited sufferings. I myself who am not superior to any of you in strength--indeed you see how I am in my sickness--and who in the gifts of fortune am, I think, whether in private life or otherwise, the equal of any, am now exposed to the same danger as the meanest among you; and yet my life has been one of much devotion toward the gods, and of much justice and without offence toward men.
23.38 "I have, therefore, still a strong hope for the future, and our misfortunes do not terrify me as much as they might. Indeed we may hope that they will be lightened: our enemies have had good fortune enough; and if any of the gods was offended at our expedition, we have been already amply punished. Others before us have attacked their neighbours and have done what men will do without suffering more than they could bear; and we may now justly expect to find the gods more kind, for we have become fitter objects for their pity than their jealousy. And then look at yourselves, mark the numbers and efficiency of the heavy infantry marching in your ranks, and do not give way too much to despondency, but reflect that you are yourselves at once a city wherever you sit down, and that there is no other in Sicily that could easily resist your attack, or expel you when once established.
23.39 "The safety and order of the march is for yourselves to look to; the one thought of each man being that the spot on which he may be forced to fight must be conquered and held as his country and stronghold. Meanwhile we shall hasten on our way night and day alike, as our provisions are scanty; and if we can reach some friendly place of the Sicels, whom fear of the Syracusans still keeps true to us, you may forthwith consider yourselves safe. A message has been sent on to them with directions to meet us with supplies of food. To sum up, be convinced, soldiers, that you must be brave, as there is no place near for your cowardice to take refuge in, and that if you now escape from the enemy, you may all see again what your hearts desire, while those of you who are Athenians will raise up again the great power of the state, fallen though it be. Men make the city and not walls or ships without men in them."
The entire chapter about the Sicilian Expedition of 415 BCE can be read here:
Remember, there is time enough in this world for anything:
Scottish Town Plans to Pardon Witches Executed Centuries Ago
06 November 2004
Greetings, dear friends,