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Tunisian Aid Opposes Hobbes’ State of Nature

March 2, 2011

The current uprising in Libya, as well as many other countries in the region, can all be tracked back to Locke’s idea of the right to revolution.  Locke thought that the people have every right to rebel and thought that they should have controlling power over the country.  To Locke, the preservation of property is the purpose of government, and there have been claims of people having their things taken from them by the Libyan government.  This gives the people ample reason to revolt against Gadhafi.

But Hobbes would disagree. Hobbes thought that the people “signed” over their rights and power to a sovereign, making all of his actions just.  He thought that to escape the state of nature, people should give up all their individual power to the commonwealth.  To him, revolution is out of the question.

The unrest in Libya has led to political turmoil in Libya itself, as well as neighboring countries such as Tunisia.  Tunisia has taken in over 150,000 refugees from Libya, and tens of thousands more come everyday.  This mass inflow of people has caused the political stability of the country to fall, and some officials have resigned from their positions.  There are thousands of people in “no man’s land” between Libya and Tunisia who seek help in any form possible, but the medical facilities of Tunisia simply cannot handle such an abundance of people.  Only recently has the United Nations decided to help, after the refugees have suffered through days of misery in the small portion of land between the two countries.  The unrest in Libya combined with the political instability and lack of sufficient aid of Tunisia has created a condition in which the people are largely on their own.

The refugees are in a state of nature.  But once again we see that the people, after all they have gone through, are helping each other.  It is similar to Solnit’s  description of multiple disasters in which the people banded together for the common good.  The United States and the United Nations have both lacked sufficient humanitarian aid to help the refugees, and the people have been left on their own.  But as seen in the above video, normal Tunisian citizens have traveled hundreds of miles to aid the people camping out.  These people have no reason to help and receive no benefit from their actions, but have still come out to help the people in need.  This is another example of how people are not always selfish and egoistical, but can be altruistic.  Hobbes’ view of the state of nature may have been misconstrued because we see that people act generously, even under poor conditions in which two countries are suffering.  The Tunisian citizens aren’t a part of the hospitals or organizations that have been created to relieve people in harsh conditions, but are just normal people looking to assist others for the sole reason of generosity.

Hobbes view of the state of nature, in which there is a constant war of every man against every man, may not be true.  The attacks of 9/11, the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, and now the uprisings in the Middle East have all shown that when people are vulnerable and without government, they can help each other rather than fight.  The state of nature has been misinterpreted; people may not be so bad after all, in fact, we are generally benevolent.

  1. jonalevy permalink
    March 2, 2011 11:17 PM

    If you believe that what is going on in the North African and Middle Eastern countries now experiencing political upheaval is a love fest, a display of man’s inherent goodness, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I want to sell you! In every instance, the euphoria of camaraderie has ended or will end once food gets scarce and people realize that they are living in a state of anarchy. When times get tough, people forget their lofty ideals and want to survive. People invariably opt for security, not freedom.

  2. Ravi Shah permalink
    March 2, 2011 11:53 PM

    In the end of your post you mention 9/11 as a state of nature and I would have to say this is different than a Hobbesian state of nature. Yes, the country did pull together but the government was never broken down in this instance, in fact; it was a strong voice of support throughout the entire incedent.

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