Saturday, March 31, 2007

Van Ornum, Why Government at All? - Part IV, Chapter 8




If we have read man aright in these pages, if his springs of action, his natural promptings, the end and purpose of his life are as they have appeared to us in the long inquiry just ended, then he is himself the true Divinity, the sublimest fact in all nature, the crowning glory of all the sons of development from the lowest monad up to a Darwin or a Spencer. If this is true, the baseness, the greed, the vice, the crime and the brutality of men are but the remainders of an imperfect but progressive development, which only requires freedom from external and unnatural restraint to remove. If selfishness is the mainspring of human progress, and only becomes perverted from its true and natural expression into a debasing greed for wealth, as a result of legal enactments which violate the natural condition of property by setting up special rights of property, then the proper way to destroy that greed is to destroy the rights of property which have been set up by the law. The greed of wealth is but misdirected selfishness. The evils which come from it are like the inharmonious sounds which come forth from an imperfectly tuned violin. Nature is a wonderful musician, and is now tuning its instrument, eliminating its discords. The strings are bound together so that they hold each other in check. They cannot vibrate. Free those strings, and permit nature to tune them in her own way; and when she has removed the discords of poverty, vice, and crime, there will break forth such rapturous melodies, such divine harmonies that all nature shall dance together for joy. In the light of all this, and in all that our inquiry has shown, there arise [354] in thought the most enchanting visions of a social paradise that have ever flashed upon the imagination of the wildest social reformer. And those visions are endowed with a consistency, an almost present possibility, which bids us but stretch out our hands in order to grasp their substance.

The sacred fire of liberty which Prometheus stole from Zeus, in a hollow tubs, for the benefit of mortals, has remained hidden away, and concealed, cause men have not recognized its genial warmth and power. And as a result, the diseases, sufferings, and miseries which torment mortals; evils which Pandora, the daughter of the gods, released when she lifted the lid of the vessel in which the foresight of Prometheus had concealed them, have been permitted to work their way unhindered. It is for us to rekindle this Promethean spark, and again confine those torments which have plagued the whole race of mortals, and brought to naught their highest and purest aspirations.

How fair and radiant is liberty! She brings the olive branch of peace to soothe and quiet the angry passions of warring nations, to remove class distinctions, and heal the wounds that jealousy and bitter wrong have made. She brings no word of reproach, and no condemnation to the outcast, or the erring; but lovingly binds up the bleeding heart, and wipes away every tear. She brings joy, and peace, and love to the master as well as the slave, to the high as well as the low, to the rich as well as the poor. Her face is radiant as the sun, while the touch of her lips is as soft and fragrant as the kiss of a babe. But she permits no chain. She cannot be bound. Authority and obligation are alike repugnant. She does all from love, and her own desire, and nothing from duty. Duty kills, but love makes alive; the law destroys, while freedom preserves. Those who would enjoy her must also be free. They have no need to enslave themselves to authority. [356] They may not incur an obligation, assumes duty, or submit to the reign of law. Do this, and liberty flies. She brooks no restriction, and submits to no leaders.

To win her, we have only to break the chains, renounce the obligations, deny authority, repudiate duty, and give scope to man’s freest thought and act. His natural promptings are truer than the temporal or spiritual rulers would have us believe. If not, what is it that keeps those rulers aright? Wherein do they differ from us who are not rulers?

To break those chains it needs no violence; no angry passions. A widespread knowledge of the true principles of liberty is the first step toward its attainment. To this all can contribute by spreading the light, each among his own associates; and no power of any ruler can prevent it. Any efforts to do so can only help instead of hinder. Let us always seek to convince instead of to vanquish. Victor Hugo says: “I make little account of victory. Nothing is so stupid as to vanquish; the real glory is to convince.” And when the time comes to act, as I have outlined, in treating of the remedy, all that is required is steadiness and firmness, and withal kindness. The right, when it triumphs, has no need to be violent. And if the first efforts do not immediately succeed, it is only because a knowledge of those principles has not become sufficiently general; and it shows the need of further work. But every effort, whether at once successful or not, cannot do other than spread a knowledge of liberty, and kindle the hope of mankind. It is a warfare with ignorance in which there are no defeats. Every contest but makes more certain the final victory.

“A fire would cause a dawn, undoubtedly, but why not wait for the break of day? A volcano enlightens, but the morning enlightens still better.”—Victor Hugo.

Work and wait.

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