“The tragedy of modern man is not that he knows less and less about the meaning of his own life, but that it bothers him less and less.”
~ Vaclav Havel
Yesterday, I wrote that “creative destruction” inexorably ties capitalism to our representative republic – I know that sometimes (OK, often) my philosophical rants are too long and involved, so let me cut that down by quoting two different documents, authored by two different men about a century apart and you will see my meaning…
First from the Declaration of Independence, authored by Thomas Jefferson (1776):
“That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Now from the Second Treatise of Civil Government by John Locke (1680):
“The reason why men enter into society, is the preservation of their property; and the end why they chuse and authorize a legislative, is, that there may be laws made, and rules set, as guards and fences to the properties of all the members of the society, to limit the power, and moderate the dominion, of every part and member of the society: for since it can never be supposed to be the will of the society, that the legislative should have a power to destroy that which every one designs to secure, by entering into society, and for which the people submitted themselves to legislators of their own making; whenever the legislators endeavour to take away, and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves into a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any farther obedience, and are left to the common refuge, which God hath provided for all men, against force and violence. Whensoever therefore the legislative shall transgress this fundamental rule of society; and either by ambition, fear, folly or corruption, endeavour to grasp themselves, or put into the hands of any other, an absolute power over the lives, liberties, and estates of the people; by this breach of trust they forfeit the power the people had put into their hands for quite contrary ends, and it devolves to the people, who. have a right to resume their original liberty, and, by the establishment of a new legislative, (such as they shall think fit) provide for their own safety and security, which is the end for which they are in society.”
Both Jefferson and Locke foresaw the nature of the nexus of men and power. They recognized that when power over others is at stake, representatives often seek to become rulers and rather than deposing them, the systems and methods of their tyranny must be destroyed, by revolution if necessary. That’s about the most creative of all destructions.
The Havel quote I posted this at the beginning gets at the root of our destruction – knowing little about who we are but caring even less. The philosopher Immanuel Kant (yes, I know he was a real pissant!) called it “nonage” – the self imposed immaturity of willful ignorance.
I often wonder if we would all benefit if one year out of every 4 years it takes to get an undergraduate degree should be spent on nothing but the study of philosophy.