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[The Creation of the Chicken]

An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
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Friday, February 27, 2009

Return to the Gulag

I stumbled upon this intriguing movie from ReasonTV in part about a man's search to discover what became of his father in Stalin's Gulags. I found it especially interesting because in Amity Shlaes book "The Forgotten Man" I had just read about a group of American intellectual/activists who were sympathetic to socialism making a trip to Stalin's Russia in 1927 just like Freda Utley.

I wrote some of my thoughts about that trip to the LOG. I copy it here because I think it fits with the reality shown in this video: a system of governing that either dismisses or downplays the important of individual liberty will inevitably trample it violently.

In 1927 a group of American "progressives" sailed off to visit
Stalin. Universities Profs and Union men/women heading over to see
the "worker's paradise." They all left with high hopes and
expectations from a system to which they were sympathetic, but
returned a divided lot with mixed feelings. As I read about trip, it
occurred to me that one man in particular had an experience there
that really defined the paramount issue of the left vs. right even
today.

His name was Paul Douglas from the University of Chicago. One thing
he noticed immediately was a fascination of the Soviets over a
rather obscure murder case in the US: two men (Sacco and Vanzetti),
anarchists, convicted of murder of a paymaster and sentenced to
death. The "workers" in Russia apparently saw (or rather were taught
to see) the men as martyrs - victims of American capitalism. Douglas
might have been sympathetic himself, however, he heard enough
stories of the "justice" in Russia since arriving to know that the
American "martyrs" had FAR more of a fair trial that any alleged
criminal in Russia. And during a meeting with factory workers,
Douglas became fed up with the fascination with the "martyrs" and
finally let go with one of the stories he'd heard that took place in
the very same factory at which he was speaking, telling them that
Sacco and Vanzetti had enjoyed "the full defense of the law" and
then he asked:

"But what about yourselves? Two months ago a group of bank clerks
were arrested at two o'clock in the morning...they were tried at
four o'clock and executed at six. Where was their right to assemble
witnesses, to engage counsel, to argue their case, and if convicted,
appeal?"

About halfway through his statement, his translator refused to
translate. But afterwards, a worker who understood English (I
assumed) would confront him on the issue. She said: "You talked only
of INDIVIDUAL justice. This is a bourgeois idea."

Whatever effect this might have had on Douglas (many of these
travelers would, despite seeing the totalitarianism and violent
repression of dissent by Stalin would go on to remain committed
socialists and become the brain trust of Roosevelt's New Deal), it
spoke volumes to me. The irony of dismissing individual liberty and
justice, while being critical of someone's individual liberty being
put to death (Sacco and Vanzetti) by a government completely escaped
the soviet worker - and perhaps Douglas as well.

So here's the moral of the story as I see it: A society and
associated government that maintains individual liberty and justice
as its paramount purpose and ideal will NEVER drift into the the
realm of totalitarian policies and atrocities. However a society and
associated government that maintains that the "greater good" is its
purpose and its highest ideal, will by its very nature forever have
a license to engage in all manner of totalitarian policies and
atrocities.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:49 PM [+]
+++
2 comments


2 Comments:

...a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.

- Alexander Hamilton, Federalist #1

By Blogger orrologion, at 2:14 PM  

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ahhh...a Hamiltonian!

I, sir, am a Jeffersonian.

:)

I would only suggest that Hamilton's "examples" (he gives no specifics) can all be shown to clearly NOT be the founding of a republic with the protection of individual liberty at its heart. I agree that a revolution may begin as a tribute to the liberty of individuals, but end in simple despotism - the French one being a fine example.

I would offer our own republic as an example in the positive - albeit not perfect, of course - it is however the best we can expect or at least the best we have. How did France end up with Napoleon out of its revoltuion, and we with a long and successful string of government transitions and ongoign liberty from ours? I have ONE suggestion: The French revolution bore with it the seeds of liberty for one collective group and tyranny for another. The Soviet revolution falls right in line with this as well.

Despostism cannot arise if individual liberties are truly championed and codified into law. Unless of course, the law is broken - which is more easily accomplished if some greater good (again see French and Russian Revolution) trumps individual liberties as a central mandate.

With that "caveat lector" presented...I rather agree with Hamilton.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 2:40 PM  

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