IDLE MUSINGS ONE DAY IN ETERNITY AT THE "CLOUD NINE CAFE"
On a random day in heaven a motley crew of famous and infamous personages has gathered for a few favorite drinks and friendly fellowship. The direction of the conversation has, as the various characters have loosened up with a few refills of their favorite beverages, turned to the relationship of the individual to authority and vice versa.
The cast of characters includes Martin Luther, Maximilien Robespierre, Jonathan Swift, Mary Shelley and Friedrich Nietzsche.
The first to speak was the venerable Frenchman Robespierre. "My dear friends, as you all are perfectly aware, I, as the most principled of those in my fair land so long ago, would feel it only right to begin these informal deliberations with my own wise counsel."
While the others around the table were a little put off by his arrogance, they nonetheless allowed him, out of grace, to begin the conversation. Robespierre asked for a refill of some fine French (of course!) red (it reminded him of blood) wine before he began. At first he was extolling the virtues of French wine over any other beverages when Martin Luther told him to either shut up, let someone else talk or get to the point. As there was hearty applause to his words and general laughter at the insult, Robespierre, offended, but not to the extent of giving up his time to talk, took a gulp of his wine and proceeded to say what he thought the proper state of human affairs should be.
"If it were my say on how things ought to be run in daily human affairs, then I would of course have the public involved in the process of governance. I am, after all, a firm believer in democracy." At this point, Mary Shelley piped in with a comment on how he must have been enamored by the bloody red color of his wine, since he is able to speak in such civil, genteel terms about things that are so barbaric. She said, "Monsieur, I certainly respect your public administrative experience, yet your results were far from effective to your end of having a peacable and orderly public state." "Au contraire, my dear sweet child, I did bring about the greatest of public goods by my administration of France. After all, if I had not done so, I would have left the country in the bungling hands of a corrupt regent, and foul priesthood, and a mutinous assembly. My only regret was having allowed that short little man to attain to the rank of general at such an early age. But I digress. My ideal for the public good is that old hierarchies must be completely eliminated by any means necessary. In other words, I believe in, libertaire, egalitaire, fraternitaire. There you have it in a nutshell. What do you all think? Refute me if you dare!
At this, Shelley retorted, "I look to my own life; a life of loss, of despair, of looking deeply to the depths that exist within our own hearts and I cannot help but be plunged like a raft over a violent rock infested river that plunges headlong to the abyss. My dear sir, that is all I see when I contemplate your world of "democracy". If that is what your political system decrees, then I would say that anarchy or monarchy is more tenable than that."
At this, Nietzsche came into the conversation. "You foolish woman! Your stupid romanticism has blinded you to the reality of the world. My friend Robespierre is quite right. The only way to effectively rule is to rule with an iron fist. Any appeal to the base instincts of "love" or "tenderness" is to be already defeated by your enemies before you have even begun the fight. And do not get me wrong, it is always a fight. Either you are a slave or you are a master. There is no other way around it. Robespierre's only weakness was that he still tentatively held to the old morality by holding to such stupid claims as liberty, equality, and fraternity. There is no such thing. They are the inventions of those who have hoodwinked us into becoming slaves of their morality. If it weren't for the Jews and then the Christians after them, this world would have run just the way it should; as a well-oiled machine, serving to produce the most efficient, lean, and finely honed ubermenschen that could possibly be brought to bear. Now get me another schnapps!"
With Nietzsche's diatribe over, Martin Luther could keep silent no longer. He bellowed, "I have never heard such bullshit since I had to deal with the Diet of Worms! None of you so far have any idea of what you are talking about. Considering Messieur Robespierre's rationalizing of his bloody rampage, or Herr Nietzsche's atheistic animalism, or Miss Shelley's naivete and morose despondency, I would have thought that I had mistakenly slipped in the back door of hell's deepest dungeon. But thankfully I can look around me and see that we are filled with light and fine beverages. Speaking of which, I would very much like another dark lager. Does anyone else feel up to another refill?" At this, they all nodded their heads in agreement, except for Mary Shelley, who soberly drank only water flavored by a lemon slice. Luther chimed back in, "You know, the only real drink is a good German beer! It helps keep a man in touch with the people."
At this, several of his cafe mates asked Luther what his thoughts were concerning the role of a person to authority. He took a long sip of his beer, settled back into his chair and proceeded to say, "I have seen the abuses that can come from secular princes. I have also seen that this evil is present in every human heart. So with this in mind, I hold that the best form of relationship between an individual and his sovereign is for both to be ruled by the law of God. Both should be ruled this way in their personal lives, so that they become convicted of their sin unto salvation, and in the political arena, so that evil conduct is restrained by a common code of unchanging morality. We are corrupt, and we must be constrained by the law to bring us to our knees. But this applies to every man and woman, no matter what their station in life. There is no prince or pauper that is exempt from this incontrovertible law of God. We have all fallen from His perfect standard."
At this, several of the patrons started to squirm in their seats from the discomfiting words emanating from Luther's mouth. Nietzsche said that he wasn't a sinner, since it was a concept that was abhorrent to him in the first place, since it was just a tactic of fear invented by an ancient priestly caste to control and enslave weak-minded people. Shelley said that she didn't like the idea that she wasn't in control, after all, she wanted to highlight the issue of personal responsibility in her novel "Frankenstein", and Luther's ideas seem to negate that idea. Luther responded that the fact that people are sinners in no way absolves them of responsibility, it just means that they cannot effect their own salvation. Shelley allowed for that nuance of meaning, but Nietzsche and Robespierre continued to show contempt to the idea of religion, and of Christianity in particular.
Lastly, Jonathan Swift jumped into the fray. He had been sitting back, just listening to the various viewpoints and finally waited until everyone had spoken their peace. He started, "My friends, I could do this forever. O wait, we are doing this forever! My mistake. As I was saying, this is such good fun. I have been made privy to the deep considerations of some of history's great minds with regards to politics in Messieur Robespierre, to literature in Madame Shelly, to philosophy in Herr Nietzsche. And yet in all of this, I have yet to hear any of your thoughts of what to do for the benefit of those who are in dire straits in a corrupt system of governance, such as those poor souls of whom I wrote about in my "Modest Proposal". What of them? We can talk all day about the ideal system, but if it doesn't take into account the cost in individual human terms, it doesn't mean anything except that you've all gotten to hear yourselves pontificate. Yes, even you Luther! And I know you don't want to be accused of that!" At this, Luther just smirked at Swift and said, "Touche". To be perfectly honest, I don't pretend to know the answer of how we should bring about a proper balance to the governed and those doing the governing. All I knonw is that the poorest tend to get left out, and I would rather see a poorer country that enriches the folks at the bottom then a rich country that impoverishes those same people. But if nothing else, at least I've been given a lot of new material for my next satire. And for that I'm eternally (irony intended) grateful."
At this, Luther and Shelley nodded their heads in approval, but Nietzsche and Robespierre just huffed and took their drinks and decided heaven was too irritable for them and they returned to hell, feeling more at home in the lively discussions that were held there each second Tuesday at three. There they could always offer their final solutions to all of life's problems. Besides, they served better drinks there. The flaming drinks were really hot.