While preparing Sir Francis Bacon's essay "Of the True Greatness of Kingdoms and Estates" for publication in the Temple Library, it occurred to me to consider whether and to what extent the criteria by which Bacon adjudged the greatness of a state in the early seventeenth century might have to be modified in the light of conditions prevailing in the early twenty-first century.
I publish here the results of some of my reflections, mainly with respect to the current state of the United Kingdom. But I felt it necessary first to prepare the ground by discussing the global context relevant to all nations and states, acting on the maxim "Think global, act local".
There are few, if any, parts of the present-day world which their inhabitants truly feel to be "at peace", whether of body or mind. Wars and acts of terrorism are rife. Demonstrations, riots, robberies, burglaries, muggings, and acts of apparently mindless vandalism are common occurrences in all the major cities of the world and in too many rural areas. Neighbours quarrel over trivia. Multinational business and financial organisations are widely distrusted and many of their operations are resented. Religions which once served to knit groups of people into one moral framework now merely tend to accentuate perceived differences. Christianity, the main moral influence on "Western" civilisations for nearly two millennia, has become ineffective through authoritarianism, schism, and the manifestly immoral behaviour of too many of its professed adherents including some of its clergy. Members of once-respected "professions" are not unreasonably suspected of being more concerned with enhancing their own status than with providing genuinely disinterested professional services. Political doctrines based on material economics are being called into question. Politicians are increasingly held in contempt. Wars, and rumours of war, dominate the news media.
These symptoms are not new: but we are becoming acutely aware of them because the human population of spaceship Earth has grown to such an extent that we are increasingly jammed together with less "breathing space" than we need. Given the quarrelsome and competitive tendencies in human nature, over-crowding is not compatible with peace or prosperity, either material or spiritual. If human consumption of the earth's material resources is to continue unchecked, competition for increasingly scarce resources will multiply occasions for strife, and this still beautiful Earth will be converted into an ugly rubbish tip within a very few generations.
Therefore, as the more thoughtful among the intelligent young people who tend to lead the protests see, if not always clearly, we must take a long-term view of developments while we still hope to have a reasonably "long term" left to us in which to repent (i.e. think again) and reform ourselves. What we most need to change is our individual greedy self-centredness. If too many of us persist in acting out the injunction to "eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die", there is no possibility of avoiding the imposition by Nature of a catastrophic solution to our self-created dilemma by drastic reduction of the world's human population: and it will undoubtedly be extremely unpleasant for those who may be alive at the time, no matter what means Nature has to employ to re-assert its dominance over its most arrogant offspring.
We have sufficient experience of human nature to know that there is no magic wand that can, at one wave, convert all members of the human race into paragons of virtue, caring not only for themselves but for all future generations of people and other species all over the world. But we also know that it is possible for individuals voluntarily to change themselves, given sufficient incentive to do so. And what better incentive could there be than an understanding and appreciation of the nature of the crisis to which unreformed human nature has brought us? Developing such an understanding should clearly be the number one educational priority for all the world.
Individuals may be "schooled" in groups: but they become "educated" (i.e. "led out") only one at a time. Schooling may be undertaken by professional teachers or instructors: education takes place informally. Education reflects the culture prevailing in the home and it is moulded by the customs and values generally accepted in the neighbourhood or place of work. These are therefore matters for personal and "local" action.
But education is also influenced by the ideas and ideals disseminated or portrayed all over the world by TV, radio, cinema, theatre, and literature most of which are dominated by some form of "escapism". "Eat, drink, and be merry" is the slogan. "Tomorrow we die" receives little attention.
Politicians are held in contempt chiefly because they exemplify the evils they profess to combat egotism and greed. Outright dictators are more honest than Western "democrats" because they don't care about other people and don't have to pretend they do. Western "democrats", constrained by the need to resort to the ballot box occasionally, have to pretend they have the best interests of the voters in mind, if not at heart, and so resort to a form of sentimentality. They select one or two well-publicised cases as being "typical" and put them forward as representatives of the "poor", "suffering", "unfortunate" "victims" of "circumstance" they seek to "help" or "protect" in the hope that false appeal to genuine compassion will produce an extended period "in power" so that they may "generously" dispense the moneys extorted from honest tax-payers who could do much more good with the money if they were permitted to dispense it themselves.
This climate of false compassion has pervaded both the world's media and the international organisations which have been set up to lull the people into a false sense of security in the care of "big brother". It has spawned the spurious doctrine of "human rights" as a sort of substitute for global religion conveniently overlooking the fact that by promoting human selfishness, it merely increases human wrongs. The consequences of such sentimentality are beginning to make themselves known, notably in the problem of migration.
Mass migration is driven by envy. It is no wonder that people whose lives are dominated by tyrannical rulers or the need to labour hard and long to win a precarious living in difficult circumstances, envy the luxurious lives enjoyed by so many in prosperous, "liberal", Western countries which have helped themselves to a monopoly position in the manufacture and distribution of "human rights". So it is not surprising that some of the more adventurous among the "disadvantaged" are ready to take enormous risks to gain access to countries in which life is artificially easy. They have no reason to reflect that this enviable prosperity was hard won by many successive generations of native people before "human rights" became fashionable, or that, by plundering this capital, they will merely defeat their own object.
Human discontent and misery offers rich pickings for all sorts of unscrupulous people. The current state of the world is uniquely helpful to the development of a new industry that of herding human cattle. As one green pasture is laid waste by "over-grazing", modern transportation makes it easy to switch to another soft, and as yet relatively prosperous, target country.
It is in practice impossible to discriminate between refugees ("asylum seekers") and economic migrants and it is undesirable to try to do so. If people's lives or liberties are threatened in their homelands, there must be a reason for it; and the only lasting remedy for a disease is to remove the cause. It is surely more honourable for any responsible individual to stand and fight injustice at home than to throw himself and his family on the sentimental mercy of the politicians of another country. On arrival, he must not be surprised to find some of the natives less welcoming than the acolytes of their government.
Mass immigration is tantamount to invasion. It dilutes, and ultimately destroys, the values and customs which have developed over time and which give a nation its distinctive character. It is the most obvious current threat to Western civilisation.
A more insidious form of invasion is the erosion of traditional values and customs by the adoption of fads and fancies disseminated by international media and promoted by international agencies. Worse still are attempts at "standardisation" by centralised bureaucratic totalitarian governments.
All these must be resisted if a sense of "belonging" to anywhere is to be maintained. To "belong" is to be long enough in one place or community to have become identified with its language, customs, culture, continuity and welfare. I cannot imagine that whatever future humanity may still have will be enhanced by depriving people of cultural roots in the soil upon which they were born. A sense of continuity is essential to the preservation of the delicate cultural life of the local neighbourhood as well as that of the collective national psyche. It is therefore of the utmost importance that the interests of the long-term residents in any community take precedence over those of rootless migrants, tourists, and remote bureaucrats.
It is obvious that traditional military methods offer no defence against individuals or small groups of human invaders who are not easily identified as such. Effective defence implies the adoption of hard-headed administrative expedients aimed at ensuring that every individual person who is a bona fide resident in a state or other defined area can be positively identified as such, and that individuals who do not satisfy specified criteria can be prevented from crossing pre-defined administrative boundaries. Similar arrangements may be required with respect to freight and the contents of passenger luggage to minimise the risk of spreading human, animal, or vegetable diseases.
This will meet resistance from muddle-headed "libertarians" and "human rights" activists who imagine themselves to be free as long as they are anonymous. But they should reflect that the only human right worth anything is the right to work, and if necessary fight, to promote and defend whatever one values most highly. For most people, that includes family, friends, and country of birth or adoption. People who feel ashamed of what they do, or who have other reasons to hide their activities under a cloak of anonimity, are unlikely to benefit any community in which they may endeavour to seek shelter.
I am privileged to have access to the Internet and so feel it my duty to try to articulate thoughts and feelings which are too uncomfortable for the political establishment to acknowledge. I am trying to express in clear but temperate words in the calm of my study what I feel the more thoughtful among protesters and rioters would say if they were given a fair chance. And I firmly believe that reluctance to express similar thoughts and feelings accounts for the trend of voters throughout Europe to take advantage of the secret ballot to vote, even if reluctantly, for representatives of minority parties who give expression to some of their deep-seated fears, even if sometimes intemperately and indiscriminately. Unless and until the representatives of the "major" parties forget their superficial doctrinal differences and pay more attention to what the people would tell them if they could, things will only go from bad to worse. Undefended civilisation is easily destroyed.
The motto of Keil School, where I was educated for four years, was "Persevere in Hope". I write because I hope that people and their political "leaders" will sooner or later waken up to the real and imminent danger that imperils all human civilisation and will take the unprecedented step of reversing some of their current policies and practices. Cynics will say that I write "more in hope than in expectation", and there is a superficial sense in which they are right. Expectation implies some element of calculation, and calculation by extrapolation of current trends would lead me to predict the end of human civilisation on earth within a very few generations.
So please ask yourself: Do I really want to go on living? If you answer in the affirmative, you are relying upon hope, a spiritual quality that makes you continue to strive to improve the quality of life for yourself and your family, friends, and neighbours, even perhaps particularly when the outlook is bleak. The alternative to hope is despair, and I am not aware of any occasion on which despair helped anybody.
I am reminded of the story of the two mice who fell into a bowl of cream and couldn't get out. One mouse quickly abandoned the struggle, and drowned. The other mouse paddled round and round, trying at intervals to clamber out; but his efforts only seemed to make matters worse as the steep sides of the bowl were increasingly lubricated by the cream he splashed on to them. But he paddled and paddled, round and round and a miracle happened. The cream turned to butter, and the butter accumulated into an island on which the mouse was able at last to rest from his labours and, when he had regained sufficient strength, provided him with a platform from which to leap out of the bowl.
People have also spoken of "a triumph of hope over experience": and such a triumph is what I believe we must aim at. I have no doubt that ultimate triumph is possible, even certain, if we humans can all agree that there is one, and only one, ultimate Ruler of the Earth and that each human individual is a local agent of that one Ruler (God), by whatever name He, She or It may be known. Miracles arise from the union of the individual will with the Will of God.
I write these words because I have a deep sense of personal responsibility for my own life and the way I like to live, respectful of the ways in which other local agents of God throughout the world like to live.
Are you too, dear brother or sister in The One God, not reluctant to think that when you are no longer on the electoral roll, nothing matters any more? Do you not care what sort of life will be forced upon your children and your children's children once the comforts to which you have become accustomed are no longer available? Are you quite certain that your body accounts for your entire personality? Do you have an uneasy feeling that the real "you" may not after all be consigned to oblivion, but may reincarnate one day into another earthly body, through which you will again be schooled and educated and have to face up to the consequences of what your fore-parents (including yourself) will have done to your home?
Having thought about it, are you not ready to accept personal responsibility for your own lifestyle and can you not think of things you could do to reduce your own wasteful consumption, resist invasion and oppression where you live, and by your example influence others to do likewise?
Would you not find it preferable, instead of tamely paying taxes extorted from you by rapacious and wasteful politicians, to decide for yourself how you will use any resources surplus to your immediate requirements for the betterment of living conditions in your own neighbourhood in co-operation with your neighbours?
As a local agent of God, however thought of or referred to, you are directly accountable to the ultimate Ruler of the Universe. On this fact rests all and any rights you may have, no matter what the bureaucrats in the United Nations may say. As an individual, your radius of operations is limited: so you must remain modest in your aspirations. But you will find things in your home neighbourhood that need doing and that you can do. So go and do them. When you have given an earnest of your willingness, other and greater opportunities for service will come to you.
You may also have to resist policy proposals and directives which you know to be detrimental to your local environment. Pressures to conform to bureaucratically defined "norms" have been increasing exponentially with trends to ever-more-centralised (and therefore more remote and irrelevant) government. If you are fortunate enough to have some form of local democracy, please use it to ensure as far as you can that you are represented in local councils by honest people of independent mind whom you can trust to exercise their discretion in what they perceive to be the interests of the local people and not in the hope of gaining wider influence within a national political party.
You know what you value in your home environment. You can recognise developments that pose a threat to what you value, and you can express your God-given liberty by taking rapid and decisive pre-emptive action. Your ultimate political aim must be to restore political power to the people which means local people with local homes and detailed local knowledge, not self-selected tyrants or remote party politicians who care only for the implementation of their own grandiose policies for dealing with matters often more imaginary than real.
The national political party is merely a device whereby a group of political activists numbering only a few thousands contrives to enable its leaders to exercise power over the entire population of a nation. It should therefore be obvious that the continued existence of national political parties is a recipe for division and conflict, especially when national government seeks to restrict personal and local liberty by legislation and regulation of the minutiae of daily life.
This suggests a clear and simple political strategy. Make sure you vote in every local election, but vote only for candidates who do not represent any national political party. If there are insufficient independent candidates, persuade one or more of your acquaintances to stand or stand yourself.
In national elections, vote only for independent candidates. If there are no independents, either make it clear on your ballot paper that you support none of the candidates or refuse to vote at all.
Unless and until the power of the national political party is broken, true democracy will never be possible.
If there is as yet in your locality no recognised means of exercising local political power, you may have to be courageous enough to take the first steps in establishing some such means.
Whatever your circumstances, I wish you God-speed in your endeavours.