The Right Revolution, Part Two
May 22, 2008
In the Right Revolution, Part One, we began a discussion on the outcomes of the English, American, French and Russian Revolutions.We also noted why some revolutions empowered people and others enslaved them.
The advent of the printing press and easy dissemination of knowledge and information was as frightening as telecommunications and internet are to repressive regimes and to those who control the flow of information today. The supporters of the English, American and French revolutions were not just supporting the single issue of a ‘Government of the people, by the people and for the people’- they were empowering and entrusting the people with information and the flow of that information.
Any nation that restricts information and the flow of that information is an oppressive nation.
We are surrounded by books. We can publish articles, pamphlets, cartoons and videos that can be seen around the globe in minutes. The dissemination of information and ideas was to give an identity to the kind of philosophy that drove that revolution. There were those revolutions that empowered the individual and there others that enslaved him.
The delivery from slavery is single most important aspect of a free and democratic society. It is no mistake that one of the predicates of the Judeo-Christian ethic so deeply embedded in all of us is the idea that the Israelites were delivered from slavery into freedom…
…freedom is a moral imperative and that is why we must be wholly committed to protecting freedom. Freedom is about the sanctity of free will and the choices each of us make…
it is the liberation from slavery that elevates mankind more than anything else. The great Utopias promised and ostensibly worked for are meaningless exercises if people are enslaved and their free will taken from them. In fact, the enslavement of man, even to the greater goals of a ‘revolution’ is antithetical to the very essence of our being.
The dissemination of information scared a lot of people because a lot of people in power had a lot to lose.
The first book printed and widely distributed was the Bible. In the age of the Reformation, with emphasis on the religious texts and not on the religious institutions as the final authority on all matters ecclesiastic (and beyond), the challenge and eventual demise of to the supremacy of the Catholic Church and the status quo was inevitable.
Still, it wasn’t the printing press and the mass distribution of Bible that changed our world. Prior to the printing of the Bible, that great text had been translated, much to the objection of the Church and religious scholars. They said they were afraid of mistranslations, but in reality, they were afraid of the messages of freedom that were embodied in the foundational religious texts of the western world.
For the first time, the Bible was in the hands of whomever wanted to read it and the effects were profound (imagine putting the power of the internet into the hands of the disenfranchised), because of the profound message of the Bible. We are all created in God’s image and we were all entitled to freedom from the tyrannies that enslave us and we are entitled to free will and equal treatment under the law. Exposure to the Bible was a shock to most people- they learned that prophets admonished kings, peoples revolted against tyranny. Most importantly people were empowered when they learned that enshrined in the Bible was a lesson they knew only too well- the differences between power and justice, rule and authority. They were to understand that morality and ethics would be a yardstick with which to measure politics and power.
The translations and the dissemination of the ideas that were contained in the Bible [especially the King James version-SC&A] were to have were to have a profound impact not only on our societies, cultures, philosophies and law, but on language and literature as well.
That is of huge importance because the language and literature of a nation contribute mightily to the identity of a nation. The language a nation uses can reflects ideas of a cultural and societal free will or it can reflect the oppression and suppression of freedom. For example, we know the words ‘Freedom of the press’ connotes a very different image and understanding of the words ‘ A workers paradise.’
As we noted yesterday, the revolutions that lead to freedom as opposed to those revolutions that enslave draw much of their ideology from the Biblical account of liberation of the Israelites from Egypt. The lessons of the Exodus account and other Biblical lessons are not religious- they are universal and in fact lay the foundation for the values that western civilizations- freedom, individuality, justice and compassion. Herman Melville wrote that
We Americans are the peculiar, chosen people – the Israel of our time; we bear the ark of the liberties of the world. God has predestined, mankind expects, great things from our race; and great things we feel in our souls. The rest of the nations must soon be in our rear. We are pioneers of the world; the advance-guard, sent on through the wilderness of untried things, to break a new path in the New World that is ours.
Of course, it is not just Americans that cradle freedom, free will and free expression. The English regard themselves as source of an effective and fair judiciary. They see themselves as being singularly responsible for bringing education to their colonial empire- and they are right to do just that. They were the only colonial empire that left a legacy of education and advancement behind them.
The French see their revolution as having imposed on them an almost sacred obligation. They believe they too have been entrusted to bring the ideas of Liberte, Egalite and Fraternite to other nations. They also believe they have nurtured and encouraged free expression in the world of art and culture. This is not a matter to be lightly disposed of. When Black artists and performers were shunned here, they found freedom and appreciative fans in France.
The language, literature and culture of the product of western revolutions remain very different from the language, literature and cultures of other ‘revolutions’ or calls to revolution, be those calls from the likes of Hugo Chavez, Osama bin Laden, Mahmoud Ahmadenijad or the dysfunctional Arab world.
In last few centuries the calls to revolutions and change of all kinds can be sharply divided. In seeking civil rights the black community in the United States adopted the mantra of ‘Let my people go.’ South American liberation theology based their beliefs the Exodus account (this is not the same oppressive ‘liberation theology’ claimed by Jeremiah Wright, et al) and Nelson Mandela’s The Long Walk to Freedom was the telling of his story and goals through the eyes of the slave freed by a higher power. Conversely, the revolutions claimed by Russia, China and a host of other tin pot and banana republics sought to replace tyranny with even more tyranny.
What further differentiates revolutions are the laws that accompany that revolution. A revolution that is successful underwrites laws that are fair, equal for all and applicable to all. A revolution will ultimately fail if the laws are unfair and unequal. The issue of the rule of law cannot be overstated. No matter how free a society may be, a society in which everyone is free to do as they please will only satisfy the powerful and enslave the powerless.
Yesterday, we noted Leviticus 25:10:
Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.
Those words are inscribed on the Liberty Bell in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Those words were to serve as the background music for the writers of the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution. They knew themselves to be imperfect and thus drafted a constitution that would grow and ‘fill in the blanks.’ They took the lesson from the Bible itself, that freedom was evolutionary and that freedom needed to be embraced because we wanted it to be embraced by freedom. We had to learn that freedom earned was freedom cherished.