Translate

Follow by Email

Thursday, March 21, 2013

On Voluntary Servitude

Highlights from Part I of Etienne De La Boetie's "On Voluntary Servitude":

"A longing common to both the wise and the foolish, to brave men and to cowards, is this longing for all those things which, when acquired, would make them happy and contented. Yet one element appears to be lacking. I do not know how it happens that nature fails to place within the hearts of men a burning desire for liberty, a blessing so great and so desirable that when it is lost all evils follow thereafter, and even the blessings that remain lose taste and savor because of their corruption by servitude. Liberty is the only joy upon which men do not seem to insist; for surely if they really wanted it they would receive it. Apparently they refuse this wonderful privilege because it is so easily acquired..."

... From Part II:

"Similarly men will grow accustomed to the idea that they have always been in subjection, that their fathers lived in the same way; they will think they are obliged to suffer this evil, and will persuade themselves by example and imitation of others, finally investing those who order them around with proprietary rights, based on the idea that it has always been that way."

This shows how those born into a life of privilege suffer from the same condition as "the common man":

"There are always a few, better endowed than others, who feel the weight of the yoke and cannot restrain themselves from attempting to shake it off: these are the men who never become tamed under subjection and who always.. cannot prevent themselves from peering about for their natural privileges and from remembering their ancestors and their former ways."

I like to call the end of this part 'Obama, Netanyahu and Bush':

"He who has received the state from the people, however, ought to be, it seems to me, more bearable and would be so, I think, were it not for the fact that as soon as he sees himself higher than the others, flattered by that quality which we call grandeur, he plans never to relinquish his position............... For although the means of coming into power differ, still the method of ruling is practically the same; those wh

o are elected act as if they were breaking in bullocks; those who are conquerors make the people their prey; those who are heirs plan to treat them as if they were their natural slaves."

Part III highlight:

"Even men of character — if it sometimes happens that a tyrant likes such a man well enough to hold him in his good graces, because in him shine forth the virtue and integrity that inspire a certain reverence even in the most depraved — even men of character, I say, could not long avoid succumbing to the common malady and would early experience the effects of tyranny at their own expense. A Seneca, a Burrus, a Thrasea, this triumvirate [46] of splendid men, will provide a sufficient reminder of such misfortune. Two of them were close to the tyrant by the fatal responsibility of holding in their hands the management of his affairs, and both were esteemed and beloved by him. One of them, moreover, had a peculiar claim upon his friendship, having instructed his master as a child. Yet these three by their cruel death give sufficient evidence of how little faith one can place in the friendship of an evil ruler. Indeed what friendship may be expected from one whose heart is bitter enough to hate even his own people, who do naught else but obey him? It is because he does not know how to love that he ultimately impoverishes his own spirit and destroys his own empire."

And this brilliance.  Take it as you will:

"Quite generally known is the striking phrase of that other tyrant who, gazing at the throat of his wife, a woman he dearly loved and without whom it seemed he could not live, caressed her with this charming comment: "This lovely throat would be cut at once if I but gave the order." [50] That is why the majority of the dictators of former days were commonly slain by their closest favorites who, observing the nature of tyranny, could not be so confident of the whim of the tyrant as they were distrustful of his power. Thus was Domitian [51] killed by Stephen, Commodus by one of his mistresses,[52] Antoninus by Macrinus,[53] and practically all the others in similar violent fashion. The fact is that the tyrant is never truly loved, nor does he love. Friendship is a sacred word, a holy thing; it is never developed except between persons of character, and never takes root except through mutual respect; it flourishes not so much by kindnesses as by sincerity. What makes one friend sure of another is the knowledge of his integrity: as guarantees he has his friend's fine nature, his honor, and his constancy. There can be no friendship where there is cruelty, where there is disloyalty, where there is injustice. And in places where the wicked gather there is conspiracy only, not companionship: these have no affection for one another; fear alone holds them together; they are not friends, they are merely accomplices."

And finally, the strange religious twist at the end... Perhaps to mitigate the incendiary nature of his essay:

"Let us therefore learn while there is yet time, let us learn to do good. Let us raise our eyes to Heaven for the sake of our honor, for the very love of virtue, or, to speak wisely, for the love and praise of God Almighty, who is the infallible witness of our deeds and the just judge of our faults. As for me, I truly believe I am right, since there is nothing so contrary to a generous and loving God as dictatorship — I believe He has reserved, in a separate spot in Hell, some very special punishment for tyrants and their accomplices."

No comments:

Post a Comment

About Me

My photo
I'm an LA transplant now living in Brooklyn. I develop film projects by day, write at night, and have a dangerous predilection for vintage Robinson Golluber scarves- this blog serves as a tiny window to everything else I do when I'm not satisfying those first three passions. I'm trying to blog more and tweet less @annabelleqv. What about you?

Labels

aa dialogues (8) accessories (4) animals (13) architecture (2) arizona (4) artsy fartsy (17) audiologues (1) autotopia (1) blueb's house (12) books (99) breakfast (8) brunch (13) cake (1) cheese (7) chicken (3) chocolate (20) clothes (12) coffee (18) collage (11) colors (20) comfort food (10) crafts (7) cutouts (1) dance (1) decor (5) design (5) dessert (22) dinnertime (48) disneyland (1) drawing (7) dreams (1) drinks (26) etiquette (1) events (2) films (48) friends (13) fruit (1) fun (3) furniture (1) gifts (1) guests (3) health (5) history (10) holidays (21) humor (36) ideas (29) illustrations (5) inspiration (86) invasion of privacy (1) junk food (3) leftovers (3) los ángeles (1) lunchtime (24) matterhorn (1) mexico (9) michael jackson (3) mood (1) moodvies (14) museums (2) music (123) musicals (1) nature (31) nostalgia (40) notebook of patterns (24) notes (8) noteworthy (55) opera (2) paintings (19) pastas (1) pastries (4) patterns (12) photography (18) picnics (3) plants (16) plays (2) poems (12) politics (2) ramblepants (1) recipes (1) restaurants (2) salad (4) salads (2) science (1) scraps (1) sculpture (2) seafood (4) shakes (1) shopping (8) sketching (1) skyscapes (21) smoothies (1) snacks (51) soup (13) Sriracha Rooster sauce (6) summertime (8) sweets (41) thanks (26) the world (19) theatre (2) therapy (41) thoughts (2) tomorrowland (1) travels (54) vegetables (4) video (4) vintage (1) watercolor (1) weddings (1) whining (6) winter (10) wishlist (3) wood painting (7) words (40) writing (3)