Napoleon Bonaparte said “Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.” Is that so today? Why did Napoleon believe this? Perhaps it was because he was thinking that the church was wealthy and the people poor? This was indeed so back then and is pretty much true now. The creation of disproportionate wealth was also true for kings and other dictators then and now. Was his statement based on his historical understanding of the tenuous position that ruthless, selfish rulers had historically often created for themselves?
He certainly knew that the poor vastly outnumbered the rich and if they truly became aware of their potential power, they could possibly take from the rich whatever they wanted.
I wonder if Napoleon would be surprised at the events of today? Would it surprise him to see that madmen, blinded by religious fervor and the rhetoric of power hungry clerics, use the power of our modern day and ancient weapons to slaughter the common and innocent (not the wealthy) in the name of what they call try to call “god.”
Would it amaze him to hear empowered leaders of nation states deny the very history their fathers had experienced? Liars are a common lot in history. But revisionists, daring to deny the history of their very fathers generation, in an era of instant communications, takes the art of lying to a new height.
I wish it was only the words of Ahmadinejad that made fools of his country and his fellow citizens in denying the holocaust, in recent history. The videos of the Nuremberg trials and the newsreels they showed, during testimony, are still fresh in the minds of free men (perhaps not the Millennials who appear to have missed a lot in their history classes). Unfortunately lying to your people is not just an Iranian phenomena. Clinton, of course, did not “have sex” in the oval office. Nixon had his view of the story. Bush may have intentionally exaggerated the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Those average people who live in North Korea, believe they have the best quality of life in the world, I am told. The mind police make sure this is so.
Perhaps, today we must try to assess the size of the lie and seek comfort in this distinction, though I find this personally unsatisfactory. Possibly, this may have meaning for some. Man is not perfect and when confronted with the public evisceration of his ego, it is likely politicians, whose self esteem are buoyed up on the seas of opinion, will seek to lie (and for lots less than ego disembowelment).
Clinton may have lied about his sex life, for which we would not seek to have him executed. Ahmadinejad however lied about the history of the most brutal destruction of 12 million people, that the main perpetrators themselves do not deny! Well…. the Japanese have trouble with admitting to their mass rape stations they happily called “comfort stations.” The Iranian people don’t have it so bad economically and so don’t want to lose what they have! They have the profits of oil. To rise up and take back their nation which is now controlled by liars and religious fanatics however requires need and belief in what you can achieve. I think the need is lacking, from their perspective, and perhaps we have “fallen from grace” as a role model to follow. Just look at the pathetic quality of the candidates we have to vote for in the upcoming election! There are some really good liars here too.
Perhaps it is Iranian religion or the fear of others who they do not know at their mosque, that keeps the people from removing their dictatorial and fanatical leadership. Communist Russians feared expression when they did not know who they were talking to, so they learned double speak or did not speak out at all. On the other hand, what model would Iranians seek if they did rise up and remove their leadership? When we vanquished the iron fisted terror and torture of Saddam Hussein did that lead to a better land? Did these vastly different religious groups decide to work together or did the power vacuum create chaos?
Is our current national evolution and today’s American leadership a model, something that everyone worldwide should be striving for? In my experience of 70 years, we have certainly lost much of what made America great! Because of hope and greater freedom, I for one would not choose to live anywhere else; however, for people unaccustomed to more free choices and dreams of success, it might lead to chaos as we have seen in Iraq and elsewhere. I recall going to college 50 years ago and seeing this first hand. The first year sorted out who would stay. Children from homes where parents ruled with an iron fist and a leather strap, went crazy without that discipline. They were out drunk, having sex, without thought of consequences, and rarely studying with any regularity, many failed and dropped out quickly. Those who came from liberal homes, where parents let them learn self discipline (learn from their own mistakes) were no different at college than at home, for the most part they did just fine. They did not require an authoritarian parent watching over them!
So back to the original question. What keeps the poor from murdering the rich? I don’t see that religion is the answer, though it may play a part in it. I think a good part of it is the belief that the poor have that they don’t have it so bad, the belief that it could be worse in the hands of other leaders and the belief in whatever history they choose to believe in to support their chosen stagnation. A great example of this is what Al Capone said after his conviction: When convicted of heinous crimes, Al Capone said, “All I did was try to provide the lighter pleasures for my countrymen and for that I live the life of a hunted man!” He believed this, because it supported his ego, his belief that he was the “good guy.” I think we accept pathetic leadership because we don’t believe we can do better and neither do they. We all deceive ourselves, at least today, because that is how we gratify our egos!
One of the biggest problems today is the same that existed in the past, despite the power of instant communication. People don’t believe they know the truth, they just pick what truth they want to believe. With that kind of truth and little self belief in empowerment powerful people can do anything they wish and get away with it. They can even make us think that this is as it has been and how it should be. If we want to keep the little we have carefully hidden under our mattress we don’t want change! After all If AIG and Goldman Sachs are still the financial “hereos” on Wall St. any lie will do if well presented. Hank Paulson helped our country fall into hundreds of billions of dollars of debt and yet he is still a free man. I don’t think religion is protecting the wealthy or the corporate cronyism of our corrupt congress and corporations, it is more like disinformation (the quick version of revisionism) and a fear of losing the last grains of wheat in our grimy clutching hands.
Even more powerful than disinformation, there is the modern version of “Let them eat cake.”
This version is meant to be literally true as its power was early on recognized by Shakespeare, “Caesar: Let me have men about me that are fat, Sleek-headed men and such as sleep a-nights. Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look, He thinks too much; such men are dangerous.” There is nothing like a welfare check to keep the “masses” in control. Religious conviction is the hope of reward but reward is the hope in today’s deceitful politicians.
……….. Janr Ssor