Saturday, October 23, 2010

Law, Plunder, and Chaos

"The fragile stability of the 4th-century (Roman)empire was maintained at great cost to it's citizens. Taxation was kept at a high level to pay for the large armies needed to defend the frontiers against increasingly well-organized barbarians; yet the economy, particularly in the west, was in decline. The rich used their political influence to avoid paying taxes, so the tax burden fell heavily on the poorer classes. Even in Egypt's fertile Nile valley, peasant farmers could not afford to pay taxes and abandoned their fields. The empire's population contracted and manpower shortages began to affect the armies. The western army relied increasingly on barbarian mecenaries to fill it's ranks."   John Haywood, Atlas of World History(1997)
It’s not difficult to trace the path of law that organized society has taken from earliest human development to the present. That road is surprisingly straight and the few deviations there are indicate excesses of human lawlessness that represent the darkest times for human history. From the first village to the first city, one needs little imagination to realize that for groups of human beings, families, to coexist in a way that ensures their collective survival they must have some code of conduct to go by. I doubt that when the first laws were written they were deeply considered, debated, or pondered for longevity, for equity, or for a seamless enforcement of the ideals of justice. It is more likely that the laws written down were the laws of the human heart and the astute mind that ever any had followed from the beginning. It was probably the easiest thing, once a language was formed, shared, and understood, to find a written expression and then to put down for posterity the dictates that any given society would naturally have respected as a people devoted to their own security, prosperity, and strength. Doubtless there were enough peoples who could reason that force alone was a law in and of itself and that the benefits of a code of plunder did just as much for security, prosperity, and strength as did a code of laws. But these were peoples who were not only largely unsettled, but also largely nomadic, and it was certainly realized by them that such a way of life would in time deplete their ranks and deplete their sources of bounty, for the settled would sooner or later find ways to defend against the unsettled, or else succumb to rapine, slaughter, and chaos.
   We don’t have laws to remind us of what is just and what is unjust. We have had the by-laws of respect, honor, dignity, and liberty from the beginning of time. Our laws are a simple reflection of what our minds already know. Whenever there have been “dark ages” they have come about as a result of the collapse of law and order. However, this collapse has been at the highest levels. When lawlessness has overtaken a society one should not expect that every person everywhere simply caves in to their most carnal desires and becomes a brigand. In actuality, the just remain the just, and the unjust remain as they are. We see our own federal government plainly siding with the lawless, clearly accepting the criminal behavior of the powerful because it serves them to do so. One can only conclude that the federal government has always been lawless, seeking to follow the code of plunder instead of the code of law. What are the laws it writes? Does it serve the common man or the common family? Does it advance the conditions of society or does it gradually erode their foundations? Obviously if laws are being written dictating that  the people must forcibly enter into agreements with corporations or face penalties, we know that we are not dealing with a system that honors the common people. We know we are dealing with the reverse of what we have been taught and we know to be true in our hearts—that to be secure, prosperous, and strong we must have a society that functions under a law that everyone accepts, acknowledges, and honors.
  This is not the case today. Nor was it yesterday, of course.
  I am not na├»ve enough to suppose that as soon as a number of people formed into a village, a society, or a city and wrote their laws and formed their codes that some enterprising individuals did not see the advantages to be gained in exploiting the people for their own personal gain. Once trust is conferred on a person by a greater number of persons for their collective good, that trust is immediately under siege, if not by outside forces than by the whims of that individuals own will. This too is human nature, and on this very point turns the struggle between law and plunder. However, in this instance the one who plunders supposes to others that he is one who is lawful, and fully upholding the law. He might easily find ways to pervert the law itself so that his secret plundering is justified! At least if you have a plundering horde, everyone in the horde knows exactly what they are about. No one sneaks around trying to promote “law and order” for their own gain among barbarians. Nonetheless, this is our situation; that those we have trusted by virtue of promotion to public office have never upheld the best interests of the people as a whole, but have always advanced the interests of those who plunder and oppress the people. The very law we are told to honor is the law that makes us slaves, makes us powerless, and makes us prisoners of a machine that has grown so large we can not imagine how to escape it. It is not that we citizens desire chaos or seek to take what is not ours—no! We only want the justice that the foundation of our society says must prevail for there to be order. This we are denied time and again.
  We are told that we must be ruled by the best and the brightest, that we must trust the experts, trust the people who know, and be patient with progress while we are poor, tired, starving, homeless, and without hope. We are told to wait, and then to wait a little longer. We are told to watch and to pray, and all the while the wealthiest among us gain ever more wealth, the liars among us tell ever more lies, and the thieves among us steal more and more from us. I say us because the coffers of the local, state, and federal governments are filled with our blood and sweat and tears. They store up our hours, our minutes, and our days—OUR VERY LIVES!—and hand this out to nations, corporations, scientists, pharmaceutical companies, factories, colleges, think tanks, and BANKS! We toil to feed, clothe, and shelter our families, and this they give to the very centers of finance who are stealing our homes out from under us!
  Yet we do not rebel. We toil on--if we have occasion to toil for pay. We watch and pray. We look and listen. We trust. But it is no longer these men and women who we trust. They have destroyed whatever trust we could have in them, and indeed any trust we could ever have in this system. Rather, we will survive, and we will raise our children, hold our homes—whatever those homes may be—and live our lives in spite of the marauding cowards who have done so much to ruin us.
  When, in the course of human events, a People finds that the Government established for their security, prosperity, and strength has so eroded these objectives and so betrayed the will of the people that they were established to uphold, this People must recognize that  law as an instrument of justice has become law as an instrument of injustice. A people ruled by criminals is a people enslaved, and where criminals reign there is naught but chaos.
  The only known cure for chaos is order. When order can no longer be attained from above, it must be established again from below. That is the fate of our time.

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