Bernice L. Fox Writing Contest Winner 2004
The Judgment of Nations
We stand on the verge of a new world order, but as people, we are still as psychologically primitive as when Pergama fell. Yet our technology, the passion of the human intellect outdates time itself. Confusion and worry have always been present in the actions of people over time and now is no exception. The world is no longer a network of lords and vassals or of kingdoms and dynasties; rather everything is interconnected through an economic matrix. The ambition of the power hungry is no longer geared toward control of land but toward the control of the different sectors of this glorious infrastructure. Power is no longer asserted through arms and men but through money and strategy. Now more than ever money symbolizes power. In an enlightened age where the ways of rebellion are commonly known and discussed and those in power must constantly vie to please their constituents, it is the economic leaders and globalizing barons of business who driving the bus, granted usually from the backseat and away from the public eye.
So we are presented with three paths to take, three paradoxes of discord. The first, capitalism, is the most prevalent in the world today, though the relative purity with which it is asserted varies from country to country, and it is the compromise between the next two paths. The next choice, socialism, is slightly less easy to find in the modern world of ours and non-existent in its most pure and ideal form. Finally there is anarchy, non-existent in the human world, but unparalleled in efficiency in the animal kingdom. The question is which is the lesser of these three evils, and which would appeal most to the average person (this is of course assuming that this person is a product of the privileged Western culture in which we dwell).
Do we stick with capitalism, whose roots are entrenched so deep in out society yet whose branches loom ominously? Do we ignore any implication in this free-trading system that once it has established itself might want to expand? After all, when in the course of human affairs has man ever been known to be satisfied by any set amount of power? However, Capitalism is very appealing. Capitalism provides the chance to enhance one’s wealth without bounds, the freedom to choose from an array of choices for anything from one’s occupation to the evening’s groceries. With capitalism, one has the freedom to express himself or herself in a myriad of different ways, provided it abides by the guidelines of that particular society. Capitalism conforms to the general will of human nature, the craving and pursuit of power and material possessions, the pursuit of happiness in any way it may come, whether that involves material possessions or not.
Yet capitalism is far from perfect. The suppression of the middle man is very common as capitalism employs a large and often bitter bourgeoisie. This path creates a dog-eat-dog world and as the Marxist maxim states, “The knell of private capitalist property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.” Capitalism is rough and those who cannot keep up are forever engraved in the wake of its imperial stampede. After all, if everyone is yearning for power, there is not going to be enough room to house them all.
Socialism provides a strict contradiction of the inherent benefits and ideals of capitalism. Freedom of choice and freedom to pursue power are wiped clear from the slate. No longer can one feel free to follow his or her instincts and think independently for one’s self. Rather, socialism provides the equality for all mankind so no one gets pushed down. Everyone works as one communal body, a machine with each part working smoothly in unison. It lacks the luxuries of more glamorous societies but it ideally supplies a happier more selfness society. No longer are people wrapped in bonds of anxiety like the dying Laocoön strangled by those pythons of peril. No longer is society divided into classes based on wealth, and no longer is society plagued with the ugliness of strict competition. Instead, society moves toward the equality of all citizens and the companionship of man.
Socialism does have its drawbacks as well, though. It is the nature of mankind to judge others and to compete and struggle to be different or original. The object of socialism is to promote the working classes, bring them above the poverty line and enlighten them to a world they could only look upon before. However, with this enlightenment comes competition and inequality, for it does not satisfy people just to sample the feast set before them, especially when they have been deprived of such a luxury for so long, but they are compelled to experience the entrée and savor the ambience. Sustaining and maintaining a utopian society such as this merely seems impractical.
Never has man resorted to Anarchy on a large scale, since he discovered the benefits of organized government. It offers the law of the jungle and guarantees nothing. It is a wretched, unsympathetic system that lets the weak suffer and the strong survive, yet it has sufficed the animal kingdom and kept the actions of animals virtually unchanged for as long as man has been observing them, and probably long before that, too. The extremes of class superstructure are as far apart as they can get in an anarchist system, and it shows the real world in its truest form, cruel and brutish.
So how, one may ask, can anarchy appeal to anyone? Anarchy allows the ultimate quest for power, the path to definitive tyranny. There are no rules under this system, so people are free to do what they want and those smart enough and strong enough to do so are free to try their hand at conquering the world. Yet the ability to control everything contradicts the very nature of anarchy which is total and utter chaos. Here we are opened up to the paradoxes of social systems. Capitalism provides the tendency of people to be greedy and go beyond the call of duty and seek power far beyond that defined in the capitalist ideal. Socialism promotes the general desire of people to want to be better than others and eventually more powerful. Finally anarchy endorsees the inclination to take advantage of the chaos and seek absolute power.
What destiny shall we fall to then? The connection to the judgment of Paris of Troy becomes apparent when making such a decision. Capitalism offers Juno’s power and wealth, socialism offers Venus’s love, beauty, and happiness, and anarchy presents Athena’s offer for military success and conquering. So we come to a fork in the path and with the apple of discord beckoning, we must choose the most appealing. All offer things that men and women crave, but all recall those things as easily as they dispense them. We are left at a paradox of discord, with three choices and yet none truly. Invariably, though, nothing is substantial, so to quote that pious Aeneas, “perhaps one day [we] will even delight in remembering this.”