Thursday, April 25, 2013

If Ten Men were Stranded on an Island ...

Gilbert Keith Chesterton on an occasion wrote that Jefferson's question was a very good argument for democracy.*

If ten men were stranded on an island, Chesterton resumed Franklin's argument, they would have an equal right to rule each other. For who would have a natural right to rule the others? Besides, if one man was set aside to rule, would he not abuse the power to cheat others of rum rations?

Now, there are a few things that can be observed thereon. One is that ten men stranded on an island may make up rules for themselves to make survival up to rescue easier, but hardly make laws for a country. And Parliaments are generally not only engaged in make up rules for the members about étiquette, but about all the people not stranded in the Parliament. So, whether the ten men should have a democracy or not, a Parliament is hardly a perfect or even incipient parallel for such a democracy. Besides, as Chesterton himself noted elsewhere, what one does in an emergency is hardly what people should run all of a state on, since a state is not an emergency but a home. Not in the sense that the state provides all homes in a country, but in the sense that a state rules a country where basically all the homes of its citizens, and all the homes of its residents as such are. In a fire emergency one might well let one man take care of all the children so they came safely out first. But that is no reason to have one officer decide on the welfare of everyone else's children in peacetime. However, such an emergency measure is not the democracy of the ten men stranded on an island. It is not democratic and therefore not an argument for or against democracy. And its translation into peacetime relations of citizens is hardly democratic, so it is no argument against democracy as such. Parliaments having voted such things - indeed such evils - are not democracy.

But let us resume the ten men who were stranded on an island.

One man is at least not fit to rule the rest, it is the man who Louis Even wrote about (though in his parable** there were only five men): the man who serves the exchange of the others by making money, who deals out the money as loans and asks interest on the loans, who has a monopoly on making money so no one can pay him back by printing any bills himself, who does not accept anything but money as payment on loans, since he can afford to buy the other things he needs either for money already paid him or money he is printing and who therefore becomes owner of the island's total number of enterprises although he is not producing any values himself.

Assuming either there is no banker or that the rest have the sense not to give him that economic power, there are a few different cases.

There is the case that all are equally unconnected to each other before the stranding on the island and therefore equals - excepting children, but ex hypothesi we were talking about men. In such a case it is indeed very righteous, at least as long as it works at all, or as long as there is no reason apparent to all concerned for handing over commands to one of them, that they are equal in the ruling of the community.

But what if one man was father of the nine men? In such a case I suppose the father would have a right to rule the other nine.

What if they were all in the same platoon? In such a case, maybe the officer who commanded the platoon before stranding would have a right to continue command.

What if two men were fathers of the other men? And one had seven but the other one boy? Would it not be natural that the father of seven was first and the father of one second in command? At least as an option, alternative to democracy.

Or if one man was a prison officer, and the rest his inmates, all serving time and him knowing how long?

He might say: "let's be democratic while stranded, I'll resume command when we are free and you go back to prison". In that case they might do a mutiny or not. If he wanted to stay in command they might also do a mutiny, for that matter. He might be forced to relinquish command in order not to be killed. And in that case the prisoners who had successfully made a mutiny might feel indebted to the man who raised the mutiny. And he might feel indebted to the former command for giving up gracefully.

Assuming there was no mutiny and that the nine agreed to serve their terms under him on the island hoping to get shortened sentences once saved, he would initially be ruling all, after a time there would be three classes, himself, eight prisoners, one man who was already legally free. And the latter class would grow while the prisoners would get fewer.

And if all were free, none were soldiers in active service, all Catholics and one of them a priest, I suppose deferring decisions to the priest would be quite an option. At least for emergency decisions.

Under the Old Law, before King David and Saul who preceded him, there was one prophet called Samuel who ruled. After the Babylonian exile, at least twice up to the New Covenant, priests ruled: first Ezrah and Nehemiah, then in the Maccabean rising Judas Maccabaeus.

Under the New Law, Mount Athos, "Mount Black" (Montenegro or Czerna Gora) have been ruled respectively by monks living there and by the local bishop residing there.

And such has been the case in the Latin West too:

St Severine of Noricum ruled Noricum and parts of Pannonia and Rhaetia as well when the Romans were faced with barbaric invasions. He made a peace with Odoacar (I think it was) so that after his death Odoacar peacefully evacuated the Romans (or Roman élite) of those countries, to Naples. Eugippius in his youth know St Severine in his old age in Noricum, and when he in turn was old, he was writing St Severine's life in Naples. This is close at home to me, since Noricum is where Vindobona is - what we now call Austrian Vienna.

St Leo remained in Rome as its undisputed leader when Attila arrived.

Between the rule of Syagrius and the legitimate Roman and Catholic rule of Clovis, when Clovis was still a Pagan, St Remigius was leading the defense against several barbarians, including the Franks of Clovis, up to the moment when he could verify that Clovis was not going to be a tyrant or an antichrist since he was getting baptised, in Reims.

There has been the Papal States and the Archbishopric of Salzburg and similarily of Cologne, and a few more, where Latin Bishops have ruled, exactly as the Serbian Bishops of Montenegro were once also its secular rulers, leading resistance against the Turks, as in Ottomans.

There have been two Dominican republics: one on the same island as the state called Haïti, of course, and the earlier one was Finland, which was between Swedish Crusades and takeover of Swedish crown a republic under Dominicans. Or at least part of Finland was.

Jesuits have ruled the Reductions in Paraguay, Franciscans the Missions in California. One Jesuit was also a very good Austrian politician, Father Ignaz Seipel.

Assuming that the ten stranded men were not all Catholics, but four Catholics and six Protestants, it might be a good idea to divide the island into two communities, with territory according to how many men there were in each.

The ten men might also be ruling democratically for some time and thereafter one emerge as a decent and useful leader in arising emergencies. If you have read The Hobbit, you may think about Bard. That is about how Hugh with the Little Cap (Hugues Capet) emerged as new King or viceroy during one emergency when previous dynasty was not very actively pursuing the best of the country.

There have been written stories about diverse stranded men or children on islands. Both Lord of the Flies by Golding and De Hemligas Ö by one Sven Wernström have concluded something would go wrong. In De Hemligas Ö it is greed, in Lord of the Flies it is love of power. In either case the fact of something going wrong does not in itself prove so much the original plan was wrong as that man has a capacity for wrong choices way beyond random errors of judgement. As Chesterton recalled, there is such a thing as Original Sin.*

Hans-Georg Lundahl
BpI, Georges Pompidou, Paris
St Mark, Gospeller

*Chesterton's Essay:

Democracy and Industrialism (G. K. Chesterton)

The essence of democracy is very simple and, as Jefferson said, self-evident. If ten men are wrecked together on a desert island, the community consists of those ten men, their welfare is the social object, and normally their will is the social law. If they have not a natural claim to rule themselves, which of them has a natural claim to rule the rest? To say that the cleverest or boldest will rule is to beg the moral question. If his talents are used for the community, in planning voyages or distilling water, then he is the servant of the community; which is, in that sense, his sovereign. If his talents are used against the community by stealing rum or poisoning water, why should the community submit to him? And is it in the least likely that it will? In such a simple case as that, everybody can see the popular basis of the thing, and the advantage of government by consent. The trouble with democracy is that it has never, in modern times, had to do with such a simple case as that. In other words, the trouble with democracy is not democracy. It is certain artificial anti-democratic things that have, in fact, thrust themselves into the modern world to thwart and destroy democracy.

I am not sure a decent ruler would have the community as "his sovereign". Since he would not be regularly taking commands from it. But if he agreed to it he would carry it out, to keep promises, except when a command was horribly unjust.

A ruler not decent will not take just commands from it but might pretend to be taking commands from it on a regular basis, but make exceptions when it suits his selfishness.

**Louis Even : The Money Myth Exploded

I can recommend you to read also other Articles of Michael Journal, founded by Louis Even

Such as:

Mary and the Moslems (by Father Cizik)

What about the rights of children?

Louis Even, a Biography

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