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Unity in War and Distraction

October 7, 2010

Unity in war does not always lead to unity in peace.  In fact, most people can feel completely opposite about something as soon as they are no longer unified.  Hobbes mentioned this in the Leviathan when he spoke of “security that lasts only a single battle.”  This fact seems almost intrinsic to so many situations in the real world.  You only feel strongly about something when you’re in the heat of the moment and when you’re working for an immediate or short-term goal.  As much as it pains me bring up this situation, this style of belief can be seem clearly after the planes hit the World Trade Centers on 9/11.  The ENTIRE nation can together in mourning, in support, and in hatred.  This hatred was surely justified, but the unification didn’t last.  As soon as news footage started coming in from Afghanistan, people began to doubt.  Although it is human nature to be wary, this mistrust grew to resentment.  This resentment was then turned toward the same body that had been unified just a short time earlier.  This epitomizes the point I am trying to make.

The people of a society can always be controlled, influenced, or at least to some extent be distracted by something they can focus on, whatever it may be.  It could be a war, a natural disaster, or a phenomenon.  Although the movie Gladiator isn’t 100% truth, there are a few lines in it which I think aptly fit these ideas.  “Rome is the mob.  Conjure magic for them and they’ll be distracted.”  My second quote is a little more discrete but definitely gets the point across.  “And this is how Rome falls, to the sound of thunderous applause.”  The people are so caught up by the distraction of the victory by the “almighty Roman army” that the fail to see through what is actually happening.  Their freedoms and the dream of their prior leader and being slowly disappearing because the go from one distraction to another, the war to “the games.”

Hobbes is clearly in favor of a single sovereign ruler. However, this ruler must act in the interest of the people and not himself.  He must not try to lead them astray or distract their attention with trite illusions.  The actor must act in full accordance with the covenant made with the authors.  Otherwise, the laws of nature come to envelop the people once again.

 

2 Comments
  1. zsalexa permalink
    October 9, 2010 9:16 PM

    “. However, this ruler must act in the interest of the people and not himself. He must not try to lead them astray or distract their attention with trite illusions. The actor must act in full accordance with the covenant made with the authors. Otherwise, the laws of nature come to envelop the people once again.”

    I’m uncertain this is true. All leaders act in self-interest. An office in politics is laced with incentives, such as power and prestige to attract the self-interested and elite. This is done to create what some view would be the best leaders. With the stress of the job, how could you attract anyone else to the office? The very drive to the office is self-interest. People want to have power, people want to be respected. When in power, time and time again we’ve seen leaders do things in their own interest. I think the true matter is if the leaders get caught. In your case of Rome, it seemed to not happen. In the case of American politics, the executive has, time and time again taken more power. One could argue that this is to ‘protect’ the people ans serve them, but some where along the lines, it has to be self-interest. It has to be an ego boost. It has to be more than for the ‘benefit’ of the people.

    Human beings while altruistic, have undeniable streaks of selfishness. I think it’s a little bit of a stretch to say leaders must act in their own good. I think it’s better to say that in order to maintain power, they must look like they’re in the interest of the people. Whether they are or not is up to them.

  2. Neil Rabinowicz permalink
    October 10, 2010 8:49 PM

    People tend to unite behind a single goal when they are faced with danger, a situation like war, or a catastrophe such as 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina. People unite when they root for the same teams, for example, and war is just the same thing in a bigger picture. However, once these situations dissolve, people tend to go back to their self-interests, since they don’t have as much in common as before.

    Times of unity, like war, are perfect times for leaders to rally everyone behind them. For example, Hitler rose to power during a time of war, when the German people wanted a change and a new leader. Obama, while not comparable to Hitler at all, also rose to power in a time when people were rallying together for change and George Bush’s support went up for a period of time right after 9/11. When people are united behind a certain goal they sometimes become more gullible and more easily manipulated. Promises of change lead them to believe that the leader is the perfect choice to make their goals a reality. However, it is necessary that the people keep in mind what the promises were once the leader is in power, otherwise they will end up getting used like pawns for the sovereign’s own interests.

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