The following slightly paraphrased excerpt is from “The Ruins Of Empires,” by C.F. Volney, 1791...
Nations and states prosper because their social institutions conform to the true laws of nature. And because the people, enjoying liberty and security for their persons and their property, can display the full extent of their faculties. That is to say, all the energies of their self-love.
However, when all the principles of society are dissolved, there is no longer any common interest, no longer any public spirit. This causes a distinction of casts and races to arise, which then reduces the maintenance of disorder to a regular system. So that one who is born of this or that blood, is born a slave or a tyrant—property or proprietor, privileged or poor..
With oppressors being less numerous than the oppressed it is necessary to perfect the science of oppression in order to support this false equilibrium. The art of governing has become the art of subjugating the many to the few. To enforce an obedience that is so contrary to instinct, the severest punishments are established, and the cruelty of laws render manners atrocious.
The distinction of persons within the state is established by two codes, two orders of criminal justice, and two sets of laws. Placed between tendencies of the heart and an oath uttered from one's mouth, people have two consciences in contradiction with each other. Ideas of justice and injustice no longer have any foundation within understanding.
Under such a system, people fall into dejection and despair, and occurrences of nature are added to the other evils that assail them. Prostrated by so many calamities, people attribute the causes to superior and hidden powers. Because people have tyrants on earth, they fancy others in heaven, and superstition aggravates the misfortune of nations.
One consequence of this is fatal doctrines with gloomy and misanthropic systems of religion become dominant. They paint their gods like their despots, wicked and envious. To appease them, humans offer up the sacrifice of all their enjoyment. Surrounded in privation, they reverse the order of nature.
They conceive pleasures to be crimes and suffering as expiation. People endeavor to love pain and renounce the love of self. Because of religion, humans persecute their senses, hate their life, and with a self-denying and anti-social morality, plunge a nation into the apathy of death.
When a holy indolence spreads over the political world, fields are deserted, empires are depopulated, monuments are neglected, and deserts multiply. Ignorance, superstition, and fanaticism combine their operations to overwhelm the earth with devastation and ruin.
Thus agitated by their own passions, humans, whether collectively or individually taken, are always greedy and improvident. They pass from slavery to tyranny, from pride to baseness, from presumption to despondency, making themselves the perpetual instruments of their own misfortunes.
These, then, are the principles, simple and natural, which regulate the destiny of nations and states. By this regular and connected series of causes and effects, they rise or fall, just in proportion as the physical laws of the human heart are respected or violated. In the course of successive changes, a hundred different nations, a hundred different empires, have, by turns, been humbled, elevated, conquered, overthrown, and repeated their instructive lessons for the earth.
However, since the experience of past ages is lost for the living—since the errors of progenitors have not instructed their descendants, these examples are about to reappear. The earth will see the tremendous scenes it has forgotten, renewed. New revolutions will agitate nations and empires. Powerful thrones will again be overturned. Terrible catastrophes will once again teach humankind that the laws of nature, and the precepts of wisdom and truth, cannot be infringed with impunity.
Presumptuous and ignorant people, who arrogate the earth to yourselves! If your imaginary God were to gather all the generations of past and present what would be of Christians and Muslims, of the sects calling themselves universal? What would be the judgment over the real universality of humankind? It is by this judgement that knowledge loses itself to incoherent systems. It is by this judgement that evidence exposes truth. And, it is by this judgement that the powerful and simple laws of nature and reason, of a common and general mover resides.
The only true God is the laws of nature, impartial and just, shedding rain on a country without asking who is its prophet, that causes the sun to shine alike on the entire human race—on white as on black, on the Jew, Muslim, Christian, and on the Idolater. It is nature that rears the harvest wherever cultivation is diligent, that multiplies every nation where industry and order prevails, that brings prosperity to every empire where justice is practiced, where the powerful are restrained, where the poor are protected by laws, and the weak live in safety. The real universality of humanity can only be found in those places where all people enjoy all rights given by nature, and a compact is formed in justice.
Does any of this sound familiar, or ring true to you? Until next time give Peace a Chance.
James Tinsley, B.A.