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On History

“One must live in constant renewal and in growth. I read that if the last day of the world came upon one when one was planting a tree one should continue to plant it.” Dr. Ian Dallas, The Ten Synphonies of Gorka Konig

Nothing is more important in life than life itself. Therefore the manner in which we choose to live it is of upmost importance. Yet, when the individual is born, he is fated to particular circumstances which may be conducive (or detrimental) to his ability to live a self-actualizing and robust life.

At first man is thrown into existence. Then the individual must operate within different zones – the historic epoch, the society and the family. These are outward zones, there are also inward zones he must traverse. The individual also maneuvers in the psychological sphere and with his inherited passions. The individual navigates these different zones within the climes of destiny.

Throughout this navigation, routing, maneuvering and steering there are dangers along the path, rocks and icebergs which may sink the ship into the sea and sirens which may call the pilot to the bottom of the sea and thus losing his individuality and being absorbed to the They. 

For example, after the First World War Germany’s economy had collapsed. The National Socialists responded by saying that they will manage the economy and all aspects of German life to restore it to its destined glory. However this proposal came at a high cost – the German people had to give up their individuality for this common vision.

This resulted in the German to being reduced to a cog in the German State machinery. Millions of Jews were killed. The question is by who? Some academics hint that those who committed to those crimes were some sort of monsters. However it makes no sense that an entire people somehow forgot their humanity.

Another example could be found in the Maost China. Chairman Mao asked his people to give up their individuality in order to develop China in the ‘Great leap’ program. Whilst millions of Chinese focused their energies towards building ports, railways and Power stations, the agricultural fields were neglected and therefore millions of Chinese starved to death.

Hitler, Mao and other autocrats identify the state with society and society with the state but they do not see the individual but only see the society. In their view sacrificing a portion of society for the sake of the whole is admirable. Both revive the cult of the state characteristic of antiquity. Both attack individual freedom.

The Second World War swept aside Italian, German and Spanish forms of democracy and British, French Imperialism replaced both with an American version of democracy whose motor force is consumerism. This era promised restrict ‘big government’ so that the individual can finally emerge.

Upon closer examination, Jacques Ellul, a French sociologist, noted that democracies, in any format, need propaganda to function. In today’s time the mass media does not produce an informed man but a crystallized man – the mass media are essentially not information channels only, but purveyors of social conformity which makes it increasingly difficult for man to affirm himself as an ‘I’. The modern age is left with the crystallized man who is passive and helpless obedience to following orders.

The implications of this analysis are important. The distinction that sets democracy against totalitarianism may have seemed convincing half a century ago – today it will not play! The massacres of the Israeli democracy, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, the tortures, and the imprisonment without a trial even envisaged – all this is the now passively accept face of democracy today.

This is the societal zone the individual fated to traverse, a Wasteland as described by T.S.Eliot. In barren landscape, where the life-giving waters of liberty are nowhere in sight, how is man to survive?

Two stories would be given to illustrate a vision in our country. The stories are protagorated by women who deal with contrasting events of life and death. The first story deals with life in the Old Testament of the Bible in order to control the population of the Jewish, the Pharaoh decrease that all Jewish babies must be killed. Moses’ mother refuses and hides her baby in the banks of the River Nile where a noblewoman discovers and raises the child in her household.

The second story deals with death and it is a play written by Sophocles called Antigone. Upon her arrival in Thebes Antigone learns that both of her brothers are dead. Eteocles has been given a proper burial. But Creon, Antigone her uncle and now king of Thebes issues a royal edict b banning the burial of Polyneics, who he believes was a traitor. Antigone defies the law, buries her brother and is caught. 

The two women, whose outcomes were different present a model for modern people to emulate. Not all laws issued by the state, or customs of society are inherently good and therefore the individual is not necessarily morally good upon their adherence. 

Wendell Holmes, an America jurist wrote: “The life of law has not been logic: it has been experienced. The felt necessities of the time, the prevalent moral and political theories, institutions of public policy, are vowed or unconscious, even the prejudices which judges share with their fellow men, have had a good deal more to do with the syllogism in determining the rules by which men should be governed.”

In other words, laws are not sacred or logical but are made by men who is flawed and comes from a society that is flawed. Therefore the individual whilst navigating this societal zone needs to be aware of its many traps and dangers. 

As Harold J. Laski says: “…the basis of all power is in the consent offered to action by each individual mind: and he may therefore see that liberty is the capacity to resist.”

It is this capacity to resist that made Moses’ protect her seed and made Antigone plant the seed of her mother all against the will of the state. In other words these women were free. We dare to plant this seed of resistance for those fated in this waste land. 

“He, peace be upon him, and Allah’s blessing, told us that there would be no time from his time until the end of time that would not be worse that the time before it. He, peace be upon him, and Allah’s blessing, also told us that if the end of the world should come upon you while you are planting a tree – continue to plant the tree.” Dr. Ian Dallas, The engines of the Broken World

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