By Chief Mike Ozekhome
Last week, we dealt extensively on Aristocracy as a form of government. We saw aristocracy as government by the nobility, a privileged minority, or an elite class thought best qualified to rule for the good of the people. However, where it is headed by oppressive and selfish elite, it deteriorates to oligarchy. Today, we shall conclude same. Thereafter, we shall further x-ray another form of government, Theocracy.
SEARCHING FOR “THE BEST” (Continues)
A principle known as “noblesse oblige” was designed to ensure the success and continuity of aristocracies. This literally meaning “nobility obligates”. It meant “the obligation of honorable, generous, and responsible behavior associated with high rank or birth.” Because of their assumed “superiority,” those of noble birth were firmly obligated to serve the needs of other lesser mortals responsibly. This principle was found in such aristocracies as the one in ancient Sparta, whose warriors were obliged to put the interests of others before their own, even in battle fields; and in Japan among the warrior caste, the “samurai”.
WHEN ARISTOCRACIES WERE FOUND WANTING AND DEFICIENT
The imperfection of aristocratic rule soon manifested. In early Rome, only persons of high birth, known as “patricians”, were eligible for membership in the Roman Senate. The common people, known as “plebeians”, were not. But far from being men of “ability and moral excellence,” as Confucius had demanded of rulers, members of the Senate became increasingly corrupt and oppressive. Civil strife was the resultant effect. The plebians kicked. The nobility or patricianity was derobed and demystified.
For the next 1,200 years or thereabout, aristocratic governments, even though monarchical in name, were the European norm. As time went on, many political, economic, and cultural changes gradually modified the system. But, during this entire period, European aristocracies remained powerful. They were able to retain their landholdings and their stranglehold on military offices, while becoming ever more parasitic, narcissistic, extravagant, arrogant, and frivolous.
In the 1780’s, the aristocracy suffered a severe blow. Louis XVI of France, finding himself in financial straits, pleaded with members of the French aristocracy to forgo some of their fiscal privileges. But instead of supporting him, they took advantage of his difficulties, hoping to undermine the monarchy and regain some of their own lost power. “Dissatisfied with government of the people, by the king, for the aristocracy, they [the aristocracy] sought government of the people, by the aristocracy, for the aristocracy,” explains Herman Ausubel, professor of history at Columbia University. This attitude helped precipitate the French Revolution of 1789. It was Louis the XVI who once stood in front of parliament and declared, “L’etat ce’st moi” (I am the state).
These events in France brought about momentous changes that were felt far beyond the boundaries. The aristocracy lost its special privileges. The feudal system was totally abolished. A Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen was adopted, as was also a Constitution. In addition, the powers of the powerful clergy were restricted by Decree.
Government by the few, even if the few were thought to be the very best had been carefully analysed and weighed in the balances by the many and had been found wanting and unsatisfactory.
DID THEY FINALLY FIND “THE BEST”?
The obvious fact that ‘the best’ did not always live up to their name (“best”) points out one of the major weaknesses of ‘government by the best,’ namely, the difficulty in determining who ‘the best’ really were. To meet the requirements for being best qualified to govern, more appeared necessary than just being rich; just being of noble blood; or just being capable of military prowess and exploits.
It is not difficult to ascertain who the best doctors, cooks, or shoemakers are. We simply view their work or their products. “With government, however, the situation is not so easy,” notes Professor Friedrich. The difficulty is that people disagree as to what a government should be and what it should do. Also, the goals of government are continually changing. Thus, as Friedrich says: “It remains quite uncertain as to who the elite is.”
For a ‘government by the best’ to be really the best, the elite would have to be chosen by someone with superhuman knowledge and infallibility in judging. The chosen would have to be individuals of unbreakable moral integrity, completely devoted to the immutable goals of their government. Their willingness to put the welfare of others before their own would have to be beyond doubt. Like Caesar’s wife, they must be above board.
Theocracy is a form of government where one or more priests rule in the name of a deity. God or a god is recognized as the supreme Ruler and religious laws. The power of the religious leaders derives from God. They claim to be blessed by God who direct them. It is, shredded of all semantics, another form of dictatorship. “Theo” is the Greek word for “god”, and “cracy” simply means “government”. Modern examples of the theocratic states are Iran and Saudi-Arabia, where the Islamic Nations are governed by Sharia laws. The Holy See is governed by the Catholic Church and is represented by the Pope and other Cardinals and Bishops. These Clergy often hold their positions for life. Leaders are never elected or appointed by popular votes. People considered infidels are either banished or persecuted. The laws and legal system are faith-based, and these dictate social norms, such as marriages, laws punishment, birth and death.
In Ancient Egypt (3000 B.C. – 300 B.C.), Pharaoh was regarded, not just as God’s representative on earth, but as God himself. His closest Advisor was often a High Priest in the ancient Egyptian Polytheistic religion. Whatever the Pharaoh said was a dictate from God.
The Islamic Republic of Iran (1979 A.D) was a Theocracy, dominated by the laws of God and the Clerics of the Shi’a Islamic sect. The Ayatollah was regarded as God’s representative on earth. Other examples of theocratic governments today are Afghanistan, Mauritania, Sudan, Yemen, etc.
Theocracy may be a new word for many readers, but it is at least nineteen hundred years old. Yes, it was used in the first century of our Common Era, and at that time, it seemed to be a strange word.
The word “theocracy” was coined by a historian, by name, Flavius Josephus of Jerusalem. In answer to accusations leveled against his people, Josephus wrote his work, in two volumes, entitled, “Against Apion”. In volume 2, paragraph 45, he referred to “Moses, our excellent legislator,”. In paragraph 52, he introduced the new word. In the course of these words written in Greek, he wrote: “Several nations have their several forms of government, and their diversities of laws. Some governments are committed to a single person; others to the people. Our legislator had no regard to any of these forms, but ordained a government, that, by a strained expression, may be termed a Theocracy [the·o·kra·tiʹa, Greek], or Holy Commonwealth, in ascribing all authority and power to God, and persuading the people to regard him as the author of all the good things that were enjoyed either in common by all mankind, or by each individual in particular. To him he directs us to fly for succour in our distresses, as he hears our prayers, and searches into the very secrets of our hearts. He inculcates the doctrines of one God, the uncreated, immutable, and eternal being, infinitely glorious, and incomprehensible one, further than what we know of him by his works.”
So, the word Theocracy thus was coined to mean a “rule of God,” a government by the Most High God as Ruler. This was in direct contrast with a government “committed to a single person” (an autocracy); and a government committed “to the people” (a democracy); and a government committed “to the rich people” (a plutocracy); and a government committed “to many bureaus” (a bureaucracy). This great historian, Josephus, (thus applied the term Theocracy to the government that was established by the legislator, Moses, at the command of God, who told Moses that His name was Jehovah (or Yahweh).
The historian, Josephus, witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman legions in the year 70 of our Common Era. He applied the term Theocracy to the national Jewish organization that had existed prior to that terrible calamity. At the present time, since the six-day war of 1967, the Jews hold possession of all of what is called Jerusalem today, and they have their national capital established there. But can we regard the government that they have established in their ancient homeland as a successor to the Theocracy that Moses was used to establish in the year 1513, before our Common Era? Is the national government now functioning with old Jerusalem as its capital a theocracy at all? How could it be such when it is called a “Republic” and has a democratically elected president, and has since the year 1949, been a member of the Gentile organization for world peace and security, namely, the United Nations? Not even the president of the Republic of Israel and the members of the national Parliament, the Knesset, will claim that their government is a theocracy, a theocratic organization. In the ranks of the Israeli politicians, there is great disagreement over the issue of whether or not to adhere strictly to the Law of Moses.
In the first century of our Common Era, the Jewish nation ceased to be a theocratic organization. This occurred even before Jerusalem’s destruction in the year 70. Historically recorded events point to this solemn indisputable fact. On the Passover day of the year 33, when the surging crowd was massed before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, and cried out for the criminal Banabas to be released to them instead of the man (Jesus Christ) whom Pilate personally wanted to release as innocent, what did that crowd there in Jerusalem cry out for? This: “If you release this man, you are not a friend of Caesar. Every man making himself a king speaks against Caesar. . . . We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:12-15) This outcry stood out in shocking contrast to what their ancient prophet, Isaiah, had long previously said: “The Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Statute-giver, the Lord is our King.”—Isa. 33:22. (To be continued next week).
There are two sides to every coin. Life itself contains not only the good, but also the bad and the ugly. Let us now explore these.
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THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
“Unity in faith is theocracy; unity in politics is fascism.” (Maajid Nawaz).