In this post, we will consider the principles upon which our leaders govern us today.
Upon What Principles Do We Base The Government We Have Today?
In my last post, Wish Hillary Clinton a Happy Mother’s Day, I reblogged a video posted by boudicabpi. ‘s is an angry blog. Therefore, had some choice words for Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the rest of that mob. Were ‘s words appropriate? No, anger is not a sin, but name-calling is not constructive. So why did I reblog that post?
In the middle of the The Sermon On The Mount, Jesus spoke these words.
Matthew 7:6 Good News Translation (GNT)
6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs—they will only turn and attack you. Do not throw your pearls in front of pigs—they will only trample them underfoot.
Do we not give something holy to the people we elect? When we give people leadership over us, isn’t that responsibility a great pearl? So how are we to react when our leaders demand the transformation of our once great republic into a crude tyranny? By cursing our leaders? That won’t do any good, but we must most certainly get angry enough to replace them.
How Did We Get Into This Mess?
In the last part of this series, we consider a portion of the Introduction to THE ETHICS OF ARISTOTLE. That excerpt explained how Aristotle defined the relationship between virtue and happiness. Aristotle believed that in order to become happy we must become virtuous. Unfortunately, Aristotle was a pagan. Therefore, Aristotle ends his analysis of the relationship between virtue and happiness by asserting that government must work to transform the People into virtuous beings. Here is an excerpt from the last section of Book X.
The formation of a virtuous character some ascribe to Nature, some to Custom, and some to Teaching. Now Nature’s part, be it what it may, obviously does not rest with us, but belongs to those who in the truest sense are fortunate, by reason of certain divine agency,
Then, as for Words and Precept, they, it is to be feared, will not avail with all; but it may be necessary for the mind of the disciple to have been previously prepared for liking and disliking as he ought; just as the soil must, to nourish the seed sown. For he that lives in obedience to passion cannot hear any advice that would dissuade him, nor, if he heard, understand: now him that is thus how can one reform? in fact, generally, passion is not thought to yield to Reason but to brute force. So then there must be, to begin with, a kind of affinity to Virtue in the disposition; which must cleave to what is honourable and loath what is disgraceful. But to get right guidance towards Virtue from the earliest youth is not easy unless one is brought up under laws of such kind; because living with self-mastery and endurance is not pleasant to the mass of men, and specially not to the young. For this reason the food, and manner of living generally, ought to be the subject of legal regulation, because things when become habitual will not be disagreeable.
Yet perhaps it is not sufficient that men while young should get right food and tendance, but, inasmuch as they will have to practise and become accustomed to certain things even after they have attained to man’s estate, we shall want laws on these points as well, and, in fine, respecting one’s whole life, since the mass of men are amenable to compulsion rather than Reason, and to punishment rather than to a sense of honour.
The idea of man producing perfection in “other” men is old. Even ancient Aristotle thought masses could only be made virtuous if they were properly habituated by the state. Of course, since slavery was commonplace in Aristotle’s time, it never occurred to him to question the state’s right to do such a thing. After all, if the slaves were “virtuous,” wouldn’t they be better and happier slaves?
Unfortunately, we are sheep. Even when we begin with good intentions (and Aristotle probably had good intentions), we forget to listen for the voice of our Shepherd. So it is that unconsciously and unknowingly, our country has wandered into Aristotle’s age-old dream. Too many hoped in and believed in the words of the god-like aristocrats among us. Thus, we too have become pagans. Instead of trusting in God and His Word to build our children’s character, too many of us turned our children over to bureaucratic government institutions. And instead of raising virtuous children, we raised children ignorant of their nation’s heritage; we raised children almost without the knowledge of God’s Word.
Why Didn’t Aristotle’s Brilliant Idea Work?
Contrary to Aristotle’s hope, governments do not instill virtue into their People — when the People belong to the government, government has enslaved the people and wants docility, not virtue. The People instill virtue into their government. As Lord Acton observed:
Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. — Lord Acton in 1887 (from here)
That is why the founders created a republic. They understood the nation’s character depended upon the moral character of the People.
We have no government armed in power capable of contending in human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other. — John Adams, 1798, Address to the militia of Massachusetts (from here)
Their leaders also had the humility to admit their own human fragility.
Cherish, therefore, the spirit of our people, and keep alive their attention. Do not be too severe upon their errors, but reclaim them by enlightening them. If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress, and Assemblies, Judges, and Governors, shall all become wolves. — Thomas Jefferson, letter to Edward Carrington, January 16, 1787 (from here)
A Web Of Deceit
At this point, what I originally intended to do is speak the lies originating from our leaders, but there is no end to them. Besides, the people who most need to be convinced refuse to be convinced. So here I will just reference a couple of posts at Settled In Heaven. The subject is harmful speech.
When politicians make promises they cannot keep they lie to us. When we believe them, to believe them we must deceive ourselves. That is, we have to talk ourselves into believing them.
- Legal Theory Lexicon: Virtue Ethics (lsolum.typepad.com)
- The Nicomachean Ethics (watsonweltanschauung.wordpress.com)