Next endeavor: Rousseau. I picked up The Social Contract on a total whim, on a recent trip to Utah. It is a small but powerful read. In someways, the 18th century language is difficult (even translated!) but it seems to have such ideals as we aspire to, or did aspire to, in this country. Yes, yes – I know that his ideas sparked the French Revolution. But honey, ours came first. Here’s a bit of it:
“It will be said that the despot assures his subjects civil tranquility. Granted; but what do they gain, if the wars his ambition brings down upon them, his insatiable avidity, and the vexations conduct of his ministers press harder on them than their own dissensions would have done? What do they gain, if the very tranquility they enjoy is one of their miseries? Tranquility is found also in dungeons; but is that enough to make them desirable places to live in? The Greeks imprisoned in the cave of the Cyclops lived there very tranquilly, while they were awaiting their turn to be devoured.”
What is interesting to me is that I take this and apply it to world leaders, all of them. And do you know, what I find, is that none of them are so different as the despot described above. What I also love are his explanations for the very things that we, enlightened American Citizens take for granted, as far as knowledge. Do you think you know what a city is? Read on…
“The real meaning of this word has been almost wholly lost in modern times; most people mistake a town for a city, and a townsman for a citizen. They do not know that houses make a town, but citizens a city. The same mistake long ago cost the Carthaginians dear. I have never read of the title of citizens being given to the subjects of any prince, not even the ancient Macedonians or the English of to-day, though they are nearer liberty than any one else. The French alone everywhere familiarly adopt the name of citizens, because, as can be seen from their dictionaries, they have no idea of its meaning; otherwise they would be guilty in escarpment it, of the crime of lese-majeste: among them, the name expresses a virtue, and not a right. When Bodin spoke of our citizens and townsmen, he fell into a bad blunder in taking the one class for the other. M. d’Alembert has avoided the error, and, in his article on Geneva, has clearly distinguished the four orders of men (or even five, counting mere foreigners) who dwell in our town, of which two only compose the Republic. No other French writer, to my knowledge, has understood the real meaning of the word citizen.”
Rousseau seems to me to be required (REQUIRED!!) reading for anyone who is a citizen of the world. At the very least, it should be required reading for anyone prior to their becoming a governmenofficialal or leader, and then read every year thereafter. Perhaps they won’t then forget what their true purpose is in the world.
For those of you with a Masonic bent, he was NOT a Freemason. He hung with his homies, though – Ben Franklin and Voltaire..Yeses, both Masons. Check out the wikipedia article on Rousseau – it’s actually pretty good. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rousseau Enjoy!