Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Citizens of the Universe

I love the Fourth of July holiday, probably because I've always associated it with a midsummer festival rather than "patriotism." Plus, it was nice contemplating the specter of total collapse which is currently haunting the evil Bush Administration.

I've started reading Voltaire for the first time, beginning with the short essays that make up his "Philosophical Dictionary." Not only is the 18th-century philosopher eminently readable, but his views are shockingly up-to-date. Here are the last paragraphs of his essay on "Country," written in the 1750s.

"But which of the two is to be preferred for a country -- a monarchy or a republic? The question has been debated for four thousand years. Ask the rich, and they will tell you an aristocracy; ask the people and they will reply a democracy; kings alone prefer royalty. Why, then, is almost all the earth governed by monarchs? Put that question to the rats who proposed to hang a bell around the cat's neck. In truth, the genuine reason is, as we have said, that men are rarely worthy of governing themselves.

It is sad that often, to be a good patriot, we must become the enemy of the rest of mankind. That good citizen, the ancient Cato, always said, in speaking to the senate, "Such is my opinion, and Carthage must be destroyed." To be a good patriot is to wish our own country enriched by commerce, and powerful in arms. It is clear that one country cannot gain without another losing, and cannot conquer without making men unfortunate.

Such is the condition of mankind, that to wish the greatness of our own country is often to wish evil to our neighbors. He who could wish that his country should always remain neither greater nor smaller, neither richer nor poorer, would be a citizen of the universe."

I think it's long last past time for all of us to become "citizens of the universe."


the Witch said...

Well done Mike.

Now, can you fwd this to GWB (and have someone explain it to him).

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