Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Excerpt from The Devil's Dictionary

These insightful aphorisms are helpful when re-evaluating ones own working definitions of political abstractions.
From "The Devil's Dictionary" by Ambrose Bierce

Freedom, n. Exemption from the stress of authority in beggarly half dozen of restraint's infinite multitude of methods. A political condition that every nation supposes itself to enjoy in virtual monopoly. Liberty. The distinction between freedom and liberty is not accurately known; naturalists have never been able to find a living specimen of either.

Insurrection, n. An unsuccessful revolution. Disaffection's failure to substitute misrule for bad government.

Justice, n. A commodity which in a more or less adulterated condition the State sells to the citizen as a reward for his/her allegiance, taxes and personal service.

Peace, n. In international affairs, a period of cheating between two periods of fighting.

War, n. A by product of the arts of peace. The most menacing political condition is a period of international amity. The student of history who has not been taught to expect the unexpected may justly boast himself inaccessible to the light. "in time of peace prepare for war" has a deeper meaning than is commonly discerned; it means,not merely that all things earthly have an end - that change is the one immutable and eternal law - but that the soil of peace is thickly sown with the seeds of war and singularly suited to their germination and growth. It was when Kubla Khan had decreed his "stately pleasure dome" - when that is to say, there were peace and fat feasting in Xanadu -that he heard from far Ancestral voices prophesying war.

One of the greatest of poets, Coleridge was one of the wisest of men, and it was not for nothing that he read us this parable. Let us have a little less of "hands across the sea", and a little more of that elemental distrust that is the security of nations. War loves to come like a theif in the night; professions of eternal amity provide the night.


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