Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Second Age Of Kings

The second age of kings appears to be dawning.

What does this mean?  A look at the first age may provide some clues.

I know of nobody who is certain when and how the first age of kings began.  It is not even always clear how the first kings comported themselves with respect to their relationships with those over whom they ruled.  However, given what is known of human proclivity, it may be safe to say that the first kings may have been something different from those who came later.

If we are to accept that lands such as Sumer were the first examples of human civilization as we now come to think of it, one must ask why they were founded and how.  The question of why requires no great talent for imagination in order to come up with some reasonable speculations.  Areas conducive to trade were probably prone to marauders since the earliest days.  Therefore, the advantages of a walled city may have proven highly appealing for people who had been living a comparatively exposed life in the open.  Getting the first such city built, however, must have been quite a feat.  Could a leader have been able to force others to toil at the task of building?  Possibly, but it seems unlikely in a time when individualism was strong, division of labor less refined, and the average man very much more capable of surviving on his own or in small bands or tribes than we find today.

This being a likely case, it seems unlikely that the earliest men in charge, to whom I refer to as kings for convenience's sake, would have been able to get away with an authoritarian approach to leadership.  We will not go into any details about this here as they are not relevant and speculative at best. Suffice that perhaps the leader of the first walled city lead by consensus.  This seems likely.

For how many iterations this mode of leadership may have prevailed appears to be anyone's guess, assuming it ever existed at all in the comparatively large societies of these walled cities.  What we do know, however, is that at some point in history, kings were no longer just leaders and chiefs, but bosses.  Their word had become law across the face of the so-called "civilized" world to the degree that they enjoyed what appears to have been effectively unlimited prerogative to acquire, keep, and dispose of other human beings as their whim and designs saw fit.

The pharaohs of Egypt are perhaps the earliest examples of this transformation from leader to absolute authority.  This was the pattern for several thousands of years until the Greeks appear to have partly mucked up the works with their forms of governance, which were still seemingly despotic in many respects, but not to the same degree seen in the rest.

It is fair to say that some kings were "better" than others in how they treated their subjects, but this is a strictly a relative measure and at the end of the day the king was still the law.  The Torah gives several examples of this relative difference in character of kings, but to my knowledge it nowhere questions the validity of the notion of "king".

Until the advent of the Christian era, the kings of the world appear to have in the main enjoyed more or less unlimited authority over their subjects.  They collected taxes and lived lavishly in many cases; conscripted men for soldiering duties, and so on mostly without challenge.  In fact, many of the people may well have welcomed the presence of the king as a fatherly figure who would protect them from the harms that would otherwise have befallen them at the hands of marauding bands of dangerous men.

In olden times, the better of the kings must be given credit for their bravery as often they were at the heads of battle charges and many were slain.  It was not until in later times that they remained at the rear in comparative safety.  This willingness to put themselves in harm's way in defense of their people was expected of kings at one time.  But as the ages passed, kings became less and less servants of their people and more and more servants of themselves.

The one constant, however, was the nearly absolute nature of their authority.  This is a key element in understanding the creature and it should be well apprehended.  What counts mostly in the psychology of a king is not so much whether they will be good to their subjects, but that the choice is theirs alone and having been made, is unchallengeable.  It is the challenge to the absolute quality of their authority that would get a king worked up most.  An otherwise "good" king could turn to utter barbarity if the limits of his authority were ever to be questioned, especially openly before others.

By this simple formula did the kingdoms come and go for millennia.  But when the Christian ethic surfaced, a revolution of thought had been launched, the concepts therein impossible to stuff back into Pandora's box.  With the notion that the Almighty was like you and loved you and made you in his image and that all men were equal in his eyes became the elements by which the unquestionable would first be questioned by an ever growing contingent.  In time the questions became more boldly framed and openly expressed, and often the kings responded with the sword in their attempts to maintain the status quo.

The seed, however, had taken root.  People cottoned to the notion that their lives were not worthless and pointless and that the king was nothing but a man in God's eyes.  And as king's grew more desperate to keep the cork in the bottle with violence, and as people's acceptance of their basic self worth grew, conflicting with the king's claims of absolute authority by right, some of the world came to greater unease.  Magna Carta was at least in part a response to this uneasiness that was growing in parts of the world and became a nexus point in the first age of kings, a document which furthered the Christian ethic by legally formalizing its precepts such that for the first time in a long time the king's authority was openly circumscribed.  Kings still held enormous power, just not as much as they previously had.  A new trend was in its infancy.

Then came the renaissance and while kings retained great power, this was soon to change.  As time marched its march, the notions of equality and of the limits of kings developed and for the first time such men were on the wane in terms of what were allowed to do, the operative term here now being "allowed", which implies a limiting agent.  With the institution of the British Parliament, for example, the powers of the English king were significantly limited.

It was with the Age of Englightenment that the first age of kings went into its death throes.  With the rise of science and reason as the new authorities over which kings held no credible power, kings became largely impotent in relative terms and many thrones disappeared outright.  With the dawn of the modern era, the king had become an endangered species and the rights of man were at least outwardly touted by a vast plurality in the western world and for a while it appeared that the human race might well be evolving into something different; something better than it had been.

But then some funny things began happening, one of them in Russia in 1917 when a mob of peasants and factory workers managed to overthrow one of the few remaining traditional monarchies of Europe in the name of equality and justice, much as had the French about 130 years earlier.   But as was the case in France, the elimination of a more or less traditional despot resulted with his replacement by one of a new sort; a despot who had no material reality of which to speak, though it had a name: the state.

The modern state of the past 150 years, of course, has turned out to be far more powerful, muderous, destructive, and generous in doling out human misery than all the kings of the previous six thousand years put together.  But even so, the notions of human rights nevertheless made advances in a slow but steady fashion and at least the overt talk was that of limited governance and human rights.  It was upon this basis that the United States was established and took the notions brought to us first by the early Christians and Magna Carta to the next level. With its establishment and progression into its first half century, the first age of kings received another blow, perhaps the greatest ever, as Europeans fled their homelands in favor of the far freer air of America.

Sadly, this was not to last, for kings are not fond of having their authority put to flight.  As the traditional form of the kingdom faded into obscurity in favor of so-called "democracy", those who retained some considerable measures of power and who sought more were obliged by practicality to alter their appearances and modes of behavior.

As the traditional king became extinct along with the aristocracy, a new form of tyrant emerged with the so-called "state" and a new aristocracy arose in the form of the bureaucrat.  At the beginning, those people had to work quietly behind closed doors because the concepts of liberty and equality had caught on like wildfire in America and to a lesser extent and different form in Europe.  And it was quietly that they went to the task of reclaiming the throne, so to speak.  The period from just prior to the American Civil War (War of Northern Aggression) until about 1980 was the time where those behind the scenes were by practical reality obliged to work in the shadows and affect change in small increments with little bites here, a small push there, always backing off when the wrong nerves were hit and the people complained.

But in time, the small increments of change toward their favor began to add up and in the era sometime during or shortly after 1980 the United States began experiencing a quantum shift toward ever larger incursions and trespasses into the rightful territories of the individual, the great masses having been on the one hand successfully lulled into the belief that "it can't happen here" and on the other the fear of nuclear annihilation in and exchange with the Soviet Union kept their minds occupied.

As the 80s yielded to the 90s, the increments became ever more obvious, until finally on 11 September, 2001 the pretenses were essentially dispatched when the World Trade Center was destroyed along with about 3000 American lives.

Root causes can be endlessly argued along many lines, but what cannot be argued are the results.

Now, as we progress from one day to the next, so-called "government" encroaches further upon us not by nibbles and tentatively tiny steps, but by leaps and bounds.  The freedoms for which so many have sacrificed their lives now fall under the very real threat of extinction by those in power.  The "state" now responds to non-criminal issues with deadly force in the form of police entry teams.  The sword is making a comeback as the solution of first resort in cases where an absence of immediate and utter compliance by what is now effectively a serf meets with the displeasure of agents of the "state".  With each passing day the authority of the "state" takes another, larger steps toward the absolute.

This new era that threatens to come to life and fall upon us as a ravening beast I call the Second Age Of Kings, for even though there may be no man sitting upon a throne obvious and holding the title "king", there are councils of men whose decision making powers are approaching absolute status.  The effective result of being ruled by such councils is indistinguishable from those of the despots of yore.  Therefore, their rise to primacy is in effect the second coming of the kings, only I fear that these men lack even the smallest sliver of the moral character that even the worst of the kings of old possessed.  It is my suspicion that these men, once they have cemented their power to the point they can no longer be materially challenged, will make the bloodiest and most wicked rulers of ages past appear as eunuched choir boys.

Today's rulers have at their disposal not only a vast and rapidly growing array of technologies by which to control, manipulate, and destroy huge populations, but an absence of any discernible moral compunction to act in whichever ways they see fit to achieve goals that are the products of some very unsound and eminently questionable ideas about people, the world, and everyone's place therein.  They appear ready and willing to do whatever they feel the must to get what they want regardless of the outrage.

Unless these people are stopped by some means and without equivocation, bloody or miraculous, the world into which our posterity is to soon be delivered shall not be a pretty one, but rather one where individual freedom has been wiped away from list of human possibilities.

Is this the world you wish for yourself; for your children and others whom you love?  If not, it is high time you got to thinking about what it is you plan on doing about it.  Working "within the system" is unlikely to be sufficient to bring success because it is structured in such a way as to naturally result in failure to produce the results other than that which has been pre-scripted by those in power.

Therefore, the only possible paths to salvation must almost by necessity lie beyond the status quo. Onus rests with each of us wishing to remain as free men to find those paths and work them, rather than wasting time in the naive belief that mere voting and the sort are going to dislodge the new kings from their thrones.  Such men never hold political office and their names are rarely, if ever, known to the public.

I believe that massive, peaceful civil disobedience is one of those paths.

Consider what you really want in life because the time may be soon upon us where you will no longer be allowed such choices.  Please consider this carefully.

Until next time, please accept mybest wishes.

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