Of Bondage and Greatness

 "Sleep little baby, now don't you cry
  Your daddy was born to work and die...

        When most of us hear the word "war", we probably think of World War II, The Vietnam War or perhaps, militant historical figures such as Alexander and Napoleon.  Many historians refer to murderous despots such as these as being "great" generals and "brilliant" military strategists, in particular Napoleon, who is discussed with awed reverence by many of them as though he were some great genius of historical accomplishment.  Put in rational context and perspective, leaders such as this are neither especially brilliant nor are they worthy of even a rudimentary form of admiration; their only true claim to greatness is that they have figured out how to slaughter and subjugate people in a greater, more mass-wholesale manner than most.  Also, predictably true is that such bloodthirsty cutthroats of civilization eventually meet their Waterloo * of defeating reality, either perishing in battle, by assassination, in chains, or in the case of Napoleon, perhaps dying from the depression of defeat and the sheer boredom of exile.  Brutal murderous thugs such as these, dressed up by scribes of the records of bloody days past as supposed personages of great achievement, rise and they invariably fall, a scenario oft repeated and an historical lesson seemingly never entirely learned.

        A more careful observer of human civilization will correctly deduce that the study of our past, although generally taught and learned as such, is not at all accurately described as a collection of wars and rumors of war.  Rather, human history is largely comprised of individuals struggling to feed themselves and their offspring, patiently plying their trades, selling their wares, tilling the earth or involved in other time-consuming and mundane tasks; as such, trying their best to survive in spite of the power mad, violence-inclined tyrants, would be revolutionaries and other assorted self-aggrandizing glory-seekers of a particular generation.  Of course, us everyday common folk who in reality weave the vast majority of the ever-evolving, yet ever-similar fabric of civilization, tend to get caught up in the patriotic fever and fervor of such would be masters and kings, supporting or else opposing, what seems to be in our own momentary best interest.  As the Greeks argued, a fundamental flaw with the whole idea of democracy is that people tend to favor what satisfies their immediate personal situation regardless of the ultimate good for society in general or the world at large, wrongly blaming current leadership for problems caused by errors of rulers who have long since ceased to hold power. ¹

        It becomes an economic defense for individuals to join unions, defend laws favorable to corporations, enlist in armies, march for peace and social justice and otherwise, support leaders, groups and causes that appear to have the best advantage for securing their safety, sheltering their families and putting food on their tables.  Those who support and those who oppose unionization, for example, or those who defend and those who rise up against a tyrant or system or country, tend to have the same base motivation.  As more than one author of the Bible and later, Marx and Engels pointed out in their own semi-accurate way, love of wealth blended together with personal frustration and individual motivation (defined somewhat incorrectly by Engels as "class struggle") is the underlying impetus that erupts into war and other collective violence.  And thus, human history continues to be recorded and viewed largely, as a recurring calamity of war and the resulting risings and fallings of great and not so great civilizations, only to breed eventual discontent leading to insurgent violence and more war and so on.

        The record of our past also consists of another type of soldier; individuals moved by conscience and conviction to in some measure, make life a more positive and enjoyable experience for the common masses.  Some of these, such as Socrates, Buddha, Confucius, Lao-Tzu, Jesus and Gandhi, have been far greater and more brilliant in their ability to move people than their militant counter-parts noted above and unlike the former, the later tend to leave a lasting positive influence for generations to come.  Perhaps the single strangest fact of human history is that most of the so-called founders of the world's major religions seem not to have had any particular desire or intention of founding a religion at all.  Rather for the most part, they focused on human beings reforming toward treating each other in a more respectful, desirable and peaceful manner.

        This is especially true in the case of Jesus, who openly and repeatedly condemned leaders of the conservative fundamental religious, fashioning a message instead as the foundation for Human and Civil Rights; a message grounded in the Human Rights foundational axiom that we should treat other people as we ourselves, wish to be treated by them.  Though often assumed and presented otherwise, Jesus was perhaps the most political change-oriented being to ever inhabit our planet; he just had a different theory than most modern activists.  Rather than attempting to overthrow or change political systems, Jesus promoted world revolution through changing individual motivation, which in the theatre of human action, interaction and reaction, is the only way to achieve lasting positive political and social advancement.  In other words, if we practice from the heart loving our neighbors as ourselves, political change will happen automatically and dramatically without firing a single shot. This theory of improving our fellow brother and sister's lot through individual motivational change without the use of violence has been tested in one fashion or another and found to be highly effective by modern Human Rights visionaries such as Gandhi, King, Chavez and Mandela, among others.  There is no better political or social idea than to treat others as we ourselves, wish to be treated, both on an individual level and in a grand-scale collective manner, such as the modern socio/political movements of these four very fine examples.

        According to Jesus, leaders such as Alexander and Napoleon, murder, rape, thievery and war itself are manifestations of a greater war, that being the Great War of good verses evil.  Also according to Jesus, this war has its beginnings in human motivation, thus violence toward our fellow human beings and war itself are manifestations of the inner struggle of conscience verses desire that we commonly share.  Unlike wars such as those noted above, which have a beginning and an ending, this great war (not to be confused with World War I, which is also known historically as the "Great War") is an ongoing battle that has no particular end in sight.  Also unlike what we normally refer to as war, the Great War consists of 100% draftees, as we are all inducted in at birth, though none of us initially volunteer.  Again, unlike battles between nations, we do not have a choice whether or not to play a part in the  Great War---we are all enrolled participants from the moment of our first breath until the moment of our last.  Every time we act, interact or react, we either help the great and just cause of Human Rights or we contribute negatively toward unrest and social injustice on the earth.  There is no fine line one can walk that does not involve one or the other, for when we help someone else, we inspire confidence that flows on to help others and when we ignore or otherwise act negatively toward someone else, we add to the great human refuse pile of depression and confusion leading to mayhem, murder and war.

        Thus, our choice in the war of good verses evil does not lie in whether or not we participate, but rather, our choice lies for which side in this perpetual struggle we choose to contribute to the most.  According to Jesus, we all during our lifetimes reinforce the wrong side in the great historical arena of political and social justice, since when we treat our brother or sister other than how we ourselves would like to be treated, we are encouraging mental and social disease and maladjustment, thievery, murder and war itself; the "fat" boy and "skinny" girl with pimples we once made fun of, the "wimpy" boy we stole from, and the "dumb" girl we criticized as children, sometimes grow up to be the lieutenant of an Adolph Hitler or the deranged adult with a gun displayed on the national television news.  Even if they eventually become a respected historical personage such as an Albert Schweitzer or a Mother Teresa, negative treatment will hinder them from becoming all they could have been.  And some social outcasts take their own life due to the resultant depression before they can manage to develop into being either a major problem or blessing for our species and fragile home.  As an oft-scorned author of the Bible very correctly noted, he or she who claims to have no sin is a liar and deceives themselves, for we all contribute to the wrong side of the Great War many times during our brief sojourn here on Planet Earth. ²

        Even though most children who are ridiculed do not become mass murderers, the truth remains that every time we treat someone else negatively, we add to the murder and mayhem on our planet, for we add the resulting stress of lack of acceptance to someone else’s psychological baggage who in turn, reacts negatively toward someone else and so on.  Eventually, when hostile treatment is multiplied often enough toward an individual, physical acts of theft, murder, rape and other violence erupt as a result.  Just as the poet John Donne most correctly pointed out that no one is an island toward the positive good (see below), likewise no one is immune from contributing to the ongoing negative pile of human physical, mental and emotional affliction either. Thus the seemingly harsh statement of Jesus fairly applies to us all:  "But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment." ³

        Far too often in our modern technological world of greed and avarice, even our most sincere individuals become confused by famous as opposed to greatness.  To be in the public limelight has few blessings and very much a downside, as certain of our most celebrious modern people will themselves readily admit (imagine attempting to shop at a typical supermarket or treat your family to an enjoyable evening out if you were as famous as Clint Eastwood, Oprah Winfrey or Robin Williams).  If we find ourselves to be of certain fame and fortune, then we must learn, as these fine individuals have demonstrated, to use this reality wisely toward the greater common good.  If we would be truly influential then, we must come to an understanding of what greatness is, striving to be individuals of lasting positive results rather than of the fleeting fame of the moment.  And upon coming to such meaningful understanding, we must then learn how to act and move with positive influence in a proper and effective direction accordingly.

        A 17th century English poet once noted and from which such an astute observation, American novelist Ernst Hemmingway later borrowed from and emphasized:  "No man is an island."
4  There are definite influences and reasons why some people act like Albert Schweitzer, Helen Keller, Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, Jacques Cousteau and Mother Teresa and there are likewise, definite influences and reasons why other people instead, become atomic weapon designers, murders and thieves.  If we would be great then, whether or not we ever become historically or even fleetingly famous, we must strive to promote the Just Cause and to carry our banner for the right side of the Great War of good verses evil:  "Therefore whatever you want people to do to you, do also to them. . ." 5  For there are influential people of fine reputation and sometimes famous name and there are also a very many more, important and effective people of unknown identity.  Those few in the record of our civilization who we have come to respect and revere did not become what they were on their own, for they all had fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends and/or others who influenced them along the straight and narrow road of positive, meaningful direction. (See also, Hero and Influence.)

        As a famous author of the Bible taught, who was eventually put to death for fighting "the good fight" of peace and social justice,
6  we all have our place in the Great War of human bondage reality, whether as a part of the effective and peaceful soldier and body promoting the just cause of Human and Civil Rights, 7 or as a societal malfunction operating within the corpse of deceit and human oppression; for the head can not say to the eye, "I have no need of you", nor can the foot say to the hand, "what use are you to me"?  As Mother Teresa would later echo, "I can do some things and you can do some things". 8 And working together in mutual harmony and respect we can truly revolutionize the world, for united in just cause we stand and opposed to Human and Civil Rights and otherwise, isolated and divided against our brothers and sisters of Planet Earth, we and our homeland along with us, most assuredly will fall.

        There is an ongoing Great War on this fragile blue marble we call Planet Earth---evidence for this war is astronomically overwhelmingly, displayed both in the past historical record and modern reality of mass pollution, theft, rape, murder, war and rumor of war, which continues to be the ongoing legacy of our errant and contradicting species.  There is one God, our Father in heaven and there is one Just Cause, that we should treat God's children as we ourselves, wish to be treated.  And let no self-righteous religious hypocrite, vainly puffed-up intellectual or other man, woman or child deceive you concerning this, for he or she who says they love God who they have not seen, let them strive for the Human and Civil Rights of their brother and sister who they have seen and he or she who says they stand for love, peace and social justice, which are only meaningless and hollow concepts if no positive action follows, let them practice what they profess to hold dear.  And that we may not run in vain, know now that "the night is far spent, the day is at hand."  We will one day beat our swords into plowshares, nation will no longer rise up against nation, the brooding viper of greed's treachery and deceit will cease to torment the children of peace and the Great War will soon be remembered no more.

 ...All my trials, lord
    Soon be over"

Veterans For Peace       Veterans Speakers Alliance

DEDICATED TO:  Jeremiah of Anathoth, a "prophet of the nations" who was not afraid to walk alone; a very great soldier on the right side of the Great War who consequently, frequently found himself on the wrong side of the insane vanity of kings, hypocrisy of religious authorities and even of his own people.


1. A good example is the negative popular reaction to the term of President Carter, who inherited a political mess, including the economic fallout of the huge Viet Nam war debt coupled with an unprecedented rise in oil prices by OPEC, together which caused double-digit inflation; not to mention, a Congress of stubborn miscreant malfeasants that opposed anything positive he tried to achieve, no matter how worthwhile the proposal.  Carter was viewed as an outsider by the Washington press establishment and Congress alike and they weren't about to provide any significant support.  A few years later, many Republicans including Newt Gingrich, began singing the praises of programs that were initially proposed by Carter as being in the long-term best interest of the United States and no less an experienced reporter than Walter Cronkite himself, publicly stated that President Carter had a greater and more profound grasp of national and international issues than any other leader he had ever met.  (See Soldier of Fortune for more information.)
        Another example comes from the personal experience of the author, who repeatedly heard President Reagan castigated in the local media and cursed on construction projects in and around Denver, where workers were losing jobs in droves due to a sharp economic downturn in Colorado (caused by the Denver savings & loan fiasco, among other things). After losing his own house and Teamsters Union job as a concrete mixer-driver, the author moved to California which was prospering at the time, though it is questionable whether Reagan had anything to do with the temporary California boom.  Here, practically everyone other than the homeless and dependently ill sang the praises of the Reagan Administration and one would be ostracized and possibly even fired for daring to hint otherwise.  There is perhaps nothing so much as food on the table and shelter from the immediate storm that churns the patriotic fervor of the easily deceived temporarily comfortable (even sometimes well-educated) majority.

2. I John 1:8-10

3. Matthew 5:22

4. Meditation XVII: No Man Is An Island; by John Donne

5. Matthew 7:12

6. Second Timothy 4:7

7. First Corinthians 12:12-26 (paraphrase)

8. From Is That It? by Sir Bob Geldof

9. Romans 13:12; Micah 4:3; Isaiah 2:4

*FootNote:  Napoleon was a particularly ruthless and brutal thug, apparently disposed to all manner of trickery, lies, deceit, bribery and human torture and butchery well outside normal accepted ‘rules’ of warfare.  Before his defeat at Waterloo, he learned the hard way that military might and experience does not always prevail.  An army of 30,000+ dispatched to the Caribbean by Napoleon under the command of Leclerc experienced severe defeat by poorly equipped and relatively untrained Haitian resisters.  Severe losses experienced by Napoleon's army due to clever battle tactics by these resisters carried out on isolated troops in the middle of the night were compounded by the lowly mosquito (yellow fever) and a fierce ice storm that kept the army away from the port of New Orleans to the north.  The lessons of history teach us that vastly superior armies and weapons, including the current United States armed forces, can be utterly defeated by most unexpected means, including unanticipated disease, unfamiliar terrain, weather conditions and natural disasters, as well as unforeseen stubborn enemy resistance.  Some modern historians now refer to the fate suffered by Napoleon’s army in the Caribbean as “Napoleon’s Vietnam”.  It is also interesting to note that Thomas Jefferson, acting as agent for the United States without Constitutional authority of any kind, purchased the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon illegally (i.e., purchased stolen goods), as Napoleon had stolen it from Spain with a promise to exchange European territory that was never delivered. Perhaps fortunately for the legacy of Jefferson and the current American citizens who live there, Spain was too weak at the time to offer resistance.


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Copyright © August 20th, 2003 by Richard Aberdeen.

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