Sunday, January 18, 2009

...Read All About It.

I found the following statement this morning in a quick perusal of Harper's Magazine - the online edition. The text of this particular article, actually excerpted from a speech made by Saint Augustine of Hippo, bears extraordinary relevance to modern society. Not in that I believe modern governments are over-grown pirates, but in that Augustine, an early Christian, was trying to navigate the integration of contemporary world (interpret his world at whatever scale you wish - although it was certainly not global in scope) political and social events with a burgeoning Christian moral attitude, and the resulting identity - and more importantly - responsibility.
"You will not prove that humans are happy who live steadily in the midst of the disasters of war. Whether the blood shed is that of their fellow citizens or of their enemies matters not, for in any case it is human blood. The dark shadow of fear and the lust for blood has fallen over them. If they know joy, then it is but the gleaming of fragile glass which they must fear will be shattered at any second. How then can it be wise or even rational to see grounds to be boastful in the building of empires?…
If it does not do justice, what is the government but a great criminal enterprise? For what are gangs of criminals but petty little governments? The pack is a group which follows the orders of its leader according to a social compact of sorts, sharing the spoils along the rules upon which they agree. Through a process of gradual accretion, the gang may acquire bodies and territory, establish itself in some place, and soon be possessed of all the attributes of statehood—then it may be known as a state, acquiring this title not by being any less avaricious but rather by having achieved impunity. Alexander the Great’s conversation with a pirate he had captured reflects this well. The king asked what possessed him to infest the sea as he did, and the pirate replied: “No differently from you when you pursue your crimes in the world. I act with a small ship, so I am called a pirate. You command a fleet and are called emperor.”
–Augustine of Hippo, De civitate dei contra paganos lib iv, capp iii- iv (ca. 410)(S.H. transl.) in vol. 2 of the Loeb Classical Library edition, pp. 12, 16.

What I find particularly interesting is his comment on justice. As an early Bahá'í - trying to navigate trying to navigate the integration of contemporary world political and social events with a burgeoning Bahá'í moral attitude, and the resulting identity - and more importantly - responsibility... I can't help but think of this excerpt in light of the Bahá'í Teachings on justice. Especially as it relates to political and social responsibility in an ever advancing world civilization. Bahá'u'lláh, the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, has stated, in a message to the leaders of the world:

"Be vigilant, that ye may not do injustice to anyone, be it to the extent of a grain of mustard seed. Tread ye the path of justice, for this, verily, is the straight path.
Compose your differences, and reduce your armaments, that the burden of your expenditures may be lightened, and that your minds and hearts may be tranquillized. Heal the dissensions that divide you, and ye will no longer be in need of any armaments except what the protection of your cities and territories demandeth. Fear ye God, and take heed not to outstrip the bounds of moderation, and be numbered among the extravagant.

We have learned that you are increasing your outlay every year, and are laying the burden thereof on your subjects. This, verily, is more than they can bear, and is a grievous injustice. Decide justly between men, and be ye the emblems of justice amongst them. This, if ye judge fairly, is the thing that behoveth you, and beseemeth your station."

He further exhorts the kings and rulers of the earth thusly:

"Beware not to deal unjustly with any one that appealeth to you, and entereth beneath your shadow. Walk ye in the fear of God, and be ye of them that lead a godly life. Rest not on your power, your armies, and treasures. Put your whole trust and confidence in God, Who hath created you, and seek ye His help in all your affairs. Succor cometh from Him alone. He succoreth whom He will with the hosts of the heavens and of the earth."
(Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 250)

So I've been sort of text heavy with this post - but I find it to be extremely timely. If you have any thoughts you care to share, holler at your girl. I, personally, find that a broad range of ideas (and the necessary sharing thereof) might just be the best way to learn to achieve the paradigm shift I'm aiming for - aka how to navigate this world responsibly.


amy said...

such an interesting read! thank you for sharing it!

j'taimee said...

hahahaha. I'm glad you liked it - sometimes even my jerk factor is high, and I think to myself: why is this person writing this much?

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