"I would we were all of one mind, and one mind good." --Cymbeline, V.iv.209-210. An English teacher's log. Slow down: Check it once in a while.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Humility and Tyranny

In response to a guest speaker’s telling a gathering of my students that it would be up to them to “save the planet,” I later suggested to my students that such arrogance about the power of men either to destroy or to save the planet was itself likely to lead to the kinds of persecutions the speaker, a human rights advocate, would have us all deplore. (The speaker did not reveal either from what or for what the planet was to be saved, nor why the younger generation might be better equipped than previous ones to do the saving.)

At one point I said to my students, “Only humility protects humanity from tyranny.” My point was that only in arrogance (whether of race or religion or ideology—including ecological ideology—or of the lust for money or power) do men choose to tyrannize over others. By contrast, the anti-tyrannical American system of government—which is of laws rather than of men, which exists to secure the rights of the sovereign people from the tyranny of arrogant men (however well-meaning), and which has heretofore been the nation’s and the world’s best hedge against such tyranny—grew in part out of the Founding Fathers’ humble recognition of man’s (and hence their own) flawed nature.

My students asked me to post the statement on my blog, so here it is, for what it is worth: Only humility protects humanity from tyranny.