"And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword."
On a serious note, I think Daniel Hannan is in the right on the issue:
I wish it were as easy as goodies against baddies, students against secret policemen, democrats against autocrats. In the early stages of an uprising – what we might call the Arab Spring Phase – Western media, wanting to simplify things for their readers, gloss over the complexities. Later, when things turn tragic, those readers can be left baffled.
Don’t get me wrong. Viktor Yanukovych was a nasty piece of work, whose goons carried out unspeakable crimes. My sympathies were with the protesters, both in general (the vision of a pluralist, market-oriented Ukraine is more wholesome than that of a country tied to Putin) and on the specific issue that triggered the demonstrations (a free trade agreement is better than a customs union, because it is non-exclusive).
But the ousting of a thug doesn’t mean that “all shall be well / and all manner of thing shall be well”. This is, after all, not the first time that Yanukovych has been toppled by street protests. Ten years ago, crowds in the same places pushed him from office and, in new elections, installed their candidate, Viktor Yuschenko. Years of corruption and failure followed, and Yanukovych came back, in an election that observers agreed had been free and fair, in 2010.
Ukraine means “edge” or “borderland” (Krajina in the former Yugoslavia shares its etymology). To Russian nationalists, Kiev is the cradle of Russian nationhood, and Ukrainians are the Little Russians who, along with the White Russians and the Great Russians, comprised the historic motherland. Plenty of Russians will tell you that Ukrainian is a Russian dialect and Ukrainian national identity a creation of, first, Polish and, later, Austrian occupiers. They point to the many famous Russians who might as easily be called Ukrainian – Gogol, Tchaikovsky, Brezhnev – arguing that the distinction is synthetic and pointless.
Ukrainian patriots respond by pointing to the result of their 1991 referendum, when 92.3 per cent of voters, including a clear majority of Russian-speakers, voted for independence. There were majorities for separation in every region – even Crimea, which had always historically been part of Russia until whimsically given to Ukraine by Khruschev (another Russian with Ukrainian connections) in 1954.
These two views – Ukrainians as a historic people, Ukrainians as a strain of Russians – frame the present quarrel. Most Russian nationalists allow, albeit reluctantly, that Ukrainian national consciousness exists. Alexander Solzhenitsyn grumpily accepted that western Ukrainians, after the horrors of the Soviet era, had been permanently alienated from Mother Russia; but he insisted that the frontiers were arbitrarily drawn under Lenin. If Ukrainians claimed independence on grounds of having a separate national identity, he argued, they must extend their own logic to the Russian-speakers east of the Dnieper.
Crimea is an example of post-Westaphalia great power politics. Legitimacy cannot simply be seen as lines on a map, which is the great error of post-Versailles great power politics, but it must be seen as a topographic map. On that topographic map, Russia's legitimacy in the Crimea may very well be greater, for reasons which would take an entire book on Crimean history to write, than a nationalistic Ukrainian government's legitimacy.
With its calls to conversion, Lent comes providentially to rouse us, to shake us from our torpor, from the risk of moving forward [merely] by inertia. The exhortation that the Lord speaks to us through the prophet Joel is loud and clear: "Return to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12). Why must we return to God? Because something is wrong in us, in society, in the Church - and we need to change, to turn things around, to repent! Once again Lent comes to make its prophetic appeal, to remind us that it is possible to realize something new within ourselves and around us, simply because God is faithful, continues to be full of goodness and mercy, and is always ready to forgive and start over from scratch. With this filial confidence, let us set out on our way!
The reading for this evening's Vespers is also pertinent to the task of the Christian vocation emphasized throughout Lent:
Work with anxious concern to achieve your salvation. It is God who, in his good will toward you, begets in you any measure of desire or achievement. In everything you do, act without grumbling or arguing; prove yourself innocent and straightforward, children of God beyond reproach (Philipians 2:12b-15a).
One of the fascinating aspects of viewing Earth at night is how well the lights show the distribution of people. In this view of Egypt, we see a population almost completely concentrated along the Nile Valley, just a small percentage of the country’s land area.
The Nile River and its delta look like a brilliant, long-stemmed flower in this astronaut photograph of the southeastern Mediterranean Sea, as seen from the International Space Station. The Cairo metropolitan area forms a particularly bright base of the flower. The smaller cities and towns within the Nile Delta tend to be hard to see amidst the dense agricultural vegetation during the day. However, these settled areas and the connecting roads between them become clearly visible at night. Likewise, urbanized regions and infrastructure along the Nile River becomes apparent (see also The Great Bend of Nile, Day & Night.)
Another brightly lit region is visible along the eastern coastline of the Mediterranean—the Tel-Aviv metropolitan area in Israel (image right). To the east of Tel-Aviv lies Amman, Jordan. The two major water bodies that define the western and eastern coastlines of the Sinai Peninsula—the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Aqaba—are outlined by lights along their coastlines (image lower right). The city lights of Paphos, Limassol, Larnaca, and Nicosia are visible on the island of Cyprus (image top).
Scattered blue-grey clouds cover the Mediterranean Sea and the Sinai, while much of northeastern Africa is cloud-free. A thin yellow-brown band tracing the Earth’s curvature at image top is airglow, a faint band of light emission that results from the interaction of atmospheric atoms and molecules with solar radiation at approximately 100 kilometers (60 miles) altitude.
From Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis' A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution:
It has been conventional since Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan to attribute the maintenance of social order to states. But for at least 95% of the time that biologically modern humans have existed, our ancestors have somehow fashioned a system of governance that without the assistance of governments avoided the chaos of the Hobbesian state of nature sufficiently to become by far the most enduring of social orders ever (Bowles and Gintis 2011, 110).
Every time someone uses state of nature theory to make a point, I want to cringe, and I have to gnash my teeth to get through it. Whatever state-of-nature theorists have attributed to human origins have been proven wrong. Really ever since Darwin, scholars should have accepted that human groups have had a self-ordering character throughout human history, recorded and otherwise, without any need for Hobbes' leviathan, or Locke's social contract.
State of nature theory is blantantly fictional, and hurts out appreciation for human society's self-ordering nature. With a bit of biology, we can do much better than it, and start talking about early human social orders as they actually were rather than as we wrongly imagined them to be.
English idea: Every man has a right not to be robbed by a neighbor - an Englishman must not be robbed by the state. Abstract [idea]: Every man has good a right as an Englishman to be protected against the state as well as against the subject.
- Lord Acton, Add. Mss. 4945, p. 36
Like property, liberty is a claim against the world. It is a claim that each may do with their stuff whatever they want as long as they do no violate the liberty of another. It is such a simple idea, but it is an idea which has become at times a great taboo. Everywhere in modern society, people are laying claims on other people’s stuff as properly belonging to themselves, and this trend has recently manifested itself in Arizona.
The brouhaha over Arizona’s bill SB 1062 to ensure that people can refuse service to gays if doing so would violate their religious beliefs shows just how little liberty has power in politics. What is wrong with the bill is not that it allows people to refuse service to gays, it’s that it doesn’t take a general position on the freedom of association. Why does a baker have to provide service to anyone they do not want? The baker’s property is not their customers’ property, and no one should be able to order a baker to bake them a cake in a free society. And yet, that’s exactly what happens. It shouldn’t matter if the customers are gay, and if the baker practices a certain religion; all that should matter is what the baker wants to do with his stuff.
However, there are those who nevertheless argue that politicians should pass laws to prevent such freedom. The Economist’s S.M. in the blog, “Democracy in America,” S.M. writes:
That is a prospect much more worrisome than the bill’s opponents seem to fathom. Yes, SB 1062 gives businesses license to walk away from jobs with gay clients. But it also empowers any individual or entity to discriminate against people they find religiously unpalatable. Do you believe that physically unattractive people are marked as such by a disapproving deity? You needn’t hire them to work in your mail room. Are video games unholy pastimes of the Devil, in your sincere estimation? Ask people applying to wait tables in your restaurant if they play Minecraft and dismiss them if they do. If Governor Brewer decides to sign into law this radical expansion of Arizona's religious-freedom regime—something both Republican senators from the state are urging her not to do, along with three of the state senators who voted for the bill but have since changed their minds—every Arizonan will be a potential fount of religiously inspired discrimination.
S.M. conceals an argument against liberty and the freedom of association, and property rights as an argument against discrimination. The problem is that S.M. is not arguing against discrimination, he’s arguing just against people’s freedom of association along with it, and he is saying that people should be forced to associate as long as there is no good reason why they shouldn’t. However, both liberty and along with it the freedom of association are rooted in people being able to do whatever they want with their own stuff as long as they don’t harm others. S.M.’s argument is therefore an argument against liberty.
The liberal project in politics over the past three centuries can be seen as each person as being guaranteed as the allodial owner of their property as compared to a tenant to their property by the good will of those above them. In his Lectures on Jurisprudence, the great sage of the liberal project Adam Smith contrasts allodial ownership with feudal titles:
The lands in those countries were all what we call allodial, i.e. held of no one, but were intirely the property of the proprietor, so that the state could not limit the use he was to make of any part of his estate. But in the feudal governments, the king was considered as dominus directus, which had then a considerable benefit attending on it. The possessor<s> as domini utiles only his tenants, as they are called, and held of him (LJ A, 67).
An allodial title is a title to property in rem against the world. It is distinct from a feudal title in that there is no overlord who can tell the allodial owner what he can and cannot do with his property besides not harming others, which is something allodial property owners can expect from each other as political equals. A liberal polity minimizes the power that superiors in politics have in dictating to people what they may do with their own., and so seeks to make all ownership allodial with respect to the state
The liberal project can be expressed in other terms, whether that is the non-aggression axiom or the presumption of liberty, but the core of the project remains the same: minimizing the extent to which there are superiors in politics who get to tell the rest what to do. For a man to be his own allodial, he must be free to decide the use of his property as he wishes, constrained only by not injuring other people’s property. There cannot be a superior above him who can dictate to him how may he use it. He must be the sole lord to his titles of ownership.
Laws against discrimination limit people’s free exercise of their property, and in doing so create a superior authority above people in society which limits the free exercise of their property. The subtitle of S.M.’S piece’s “Gay rights and religious freedom,” betrays just how far people have wandered from liberty. When gay rights encompass someone being able to order someone else to cooperate with him on the markets, people no longer has allodial ownership over their property Instead, they own their property on the condition, ensured by some superior in politics, that they do no discriminate against gays. Even though such laws have been dressed up as democratic, they are little more than a new form of feudalism.
The important point of difference between the discrimination that can happen as a consequence of the freedom of association, and the discrimination which resulted from the Jim Crow laws is that only one involved superiors in politics telling others what to do with their stuff. Discrimination which results from private citizens not wanting to associate with one another is an equal-equal interaction. Here each person has allodial ownership over his property, and that he is therefore free to utilize it however he wishes without injuring another. The Jim Crow laws, though, are an example of superiors in politics determining what other people could do with their property. Here there is a superior present who can order others how they may use their property, and so people do not own their property in an allodial fashion, but only as tenants to the superior’s wishes.
Liberty is a taboo, and freedom of association is all but dead. A new feudalism reigns in which people are constrained to the desires of others. It’s just that this form of feudalism is dressed up with a fig leaf of democracy with reference to some made-up social contract invented by a few, and certainly no signed by all. Nevertheless, no one owns his property allodially; instead, each is a tenant to the wills of others in society, and that tenancy goes as far as dictating with whom people must associate with.