Sunday, June 6, 2010

Learning Political Wisdom from Literature II - J. R. R. Tolkien

To those who would clasp their mouths, stopper their ears and shut their eyes to a rising threat of war from a foreign agressor because they just want to be comfortable in their little small life, here is some Tolkien to read.

The first comes from the story of Aldarion and Erendis published in a collection called Unfinished Tales.

At one point in the story, a king of an island nation currently in relative prosperity considers reports that have reached him of a gradually increasing threat from an expanding and aggressive evil empire on the continent. In the message that calls for his aid, he reads "Behold! The darkness that is to come is filled with hatred for us, but it hates you no less. The Great Sea will not be too wide for its wings, if it is suffered to come to full growth."

He debates with himself -- should he get involved now before it is too late, or just seek the easy road of peace now, overlooking or appeasing the enemy, and leaving the suffering and enslavement to future generations of his people.

Following is his reasoning (emphasis added):

"Yet if the world grows again dark, [God] must know; and [He] has sent me no sign... What then? Our fathers were rewarded for the aid they gave in the defeat of the Great Shadow. Shall their sons stand aloof, if evil finds a new head?

I am in too great doubt to rule. To prepare or to let be? To prepare for war, which is yet only guessed : train craftsmen and tillers in the midst of peace for bloodspilling and battle : put iron in the hands of greedy captains who will love only conquest, and count the slain as their glory? Will they say to [God]: At least your enemies were amonst them... Or to fold hands, while friends die unjustly : let men live in blind peace, until the ravisher is at the gate? What then will they do, match naked hands against iron and die in vain, or flee leaving the cries of women behind. Will they say to [God], At least I spilled no blood?

When either way may lead to evil, of what worth is choice?


These are the issues facing Taiwan. Yes, fighting for their freedom may lead to some hardship and evil. War has terrible effects. But if they do not, hardship and evil will certainly come with annexation by an evil empire which respects neither law nor life nor human right, but only power.

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