The Conclave – A Dialogue

Monday, November 28, 2005


Written by Tristan Dineen

Three dignitaries sit clustered at one end of the long table of the meeting hall. They are Griffith, Anthius, and Tyrus. The formal meeting between the dignitaries had concluded and besides these three the only other person left in the hall is Seigfried who stands silently next to one of the tall gothic style windows. The three at the table have been making comments amongst themselves concerning the meeting when Griffith radically changes the subject.

Griffith: Brothers, too often these meetings turn into aristocratic games of move and counter-move and the disputes that this leads to have no doubt tarnished the reputation of this order. What does this say of human nature? Even we, who have been given such an esteemed position and responsibility, still behave like self-serving children at times when solidarity should be the order of the day?! Surely it does not reflect well upon us at all.
Tyrus: Indeed, the behavior especially at this meeting that we have witnessed between men and women chosen for their skill and integrity is deplorable. Truly human nature must be so competitive and selfish as to make a mockery of even the most virtuous among us. History certainly shows us countless examples of situations where even those who were known for their integrity have fallen from grace and into barbarism. Thomas Hobbes must be laughing at us now, wherever his godforsaken spirit now dwells.

Anthius: I would not jump so readily to such negative conclusions brother. It is true that history has witnessed countless examples of barbaric human behavior but is that human nature or is it human beings reacting to the intolerable environment that civilization has become? I would certainly argue that human beings are naturally good and generally friendly and with a strong sense of independence. Perhaps, long ago there was once a perfect state where we could thrive and revel in our true nature, alas it is long past. We have become so corrupted by money, property and the desire to control others and exploit them that we have forgotten who we really are as human beings. Perhaps Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a dreamer but there is logic to what he wrote.

Tyrus: That is such idealism. There is no time for that kind of talk given the strife we face in today’s world. Human beings fight one another over even the most trivial of matters and wherever law and order breaks down there is only anarchy and bloodshed. If you are correct, as you claim, then would a breakdown of law and order not be seen as liberation and not as the dreadful and nightmarish experience that it truly represents for the average person?

Anthius: What you speak of merely shows how corrupted the human race has become and how divorced it now is from its true nature. If this theory of wanton competition and violence that you use to explain human nature is true, why do we still exist today? Why were we not wiped out in a nuclear holocaust long ago? Surely the fact that we still live shows that compassion still has some power and that there is at least some essential good within human nature.

Tyrus: The only reason we are still here is because human beings are too self-interested to die.

Anthius: Oh and so now our dark inner nature comes to our rescue...how ironic...

Griffith: Brothers, you talk of too many extremes. If there is one thing we can draw out of history is that human beings are not all evil, nor are they completely good. In truth the human spirit holds multiple aspects. There is a reasoned part of the soul that is most certainly good in nature and when dominant can produce great happiness and virtue. There is the spirited part of the soul that represents our passion as human beings. Then there is the appetite, our baser desires made manifest within our souls. This part of the soul is the part that lusts and many would consider it evil. The aim is to balance all these parts and then you will have happiness and fulfillment as a human being. Human nature surely must have many aspects, but I fear that the lustful part of our souls is not controlled well enough....this lack of control must certainly explain our failings as human beings.

Tyrus: All this talk of the soul is most entertaining, brother, but we have practical affairs to manage here and must not involve ourselves in spiritual theories. Even when a human being is supposedly ruled by reason and intelligence they still find themselves making nuclear bombs and chemical munitions. Reason is certainly an artificial creation that is doing a poor job of reigning in our destructive desires.

Anthius: Passion is one of the highest joys of man, you cannot simply write it off as inferior to reason. Much has been accomplished throughout history by men and women who had the passion to defy all reason and still triumph over incredible odds.

Griffith: I am not denying the power of passion and the spirited side of the human soul, I do believe that passion can go too far however. Someone can love something so much that they are willing to commit mass murder in order to express their feelings. Is that not what we witnessed in Nazi Germany?
If reason does not exist than how were so many treaties negotiated and potential disasters averted because human beings were able to work out their differences and turn to a new path? Human beings have been reaching balanced compromises since the beginning of recorded history. How could such compromises be reached if human beings are defined as selfish and competitive through and through?
Tyrus: Human beings only ever undertake such activities when they fear utter destruction. The only time they compromise is to save their own skins. After another few decades of peace they will be at war again. It is inevitable.

Griffith: Yet there are societies that have existed in peace and harmony for Centuries prior of being engulfed in European expansion and conquest. These societies, indeed all societies, would be torn by constant warfare if what you say is true and yet this was and is not the case. There is such a thing as just and lasting peace in this world.

Anthius: Such societies by nature of their existence even at some point long ago prove that human beings are not barbarians by nature. European society during the 16th and 17th Centuries up until the 20th Century itself was simply drowning in its own excess and greedy desire for wealth, land and people to control. This reflects just how far human beings have fallen since those days when we lived in harmony in nature. The fact that most cultures were not like the European conquerors shows that the Europeans and by extension their colonists in North America and elsewhere were isolated examples of human degeneration permitted to spread out of control like a virus.

Tyrus: What nonsense. The Europeans were not alone in their barbarity. Asians, Africans, Arabs and all manner of other cultures have engaged in wars, massacres and the only reason the Europeans came to dominate was because they were more effective barbarians than those they conquered.

Griffith: Certainly all humans experience the same threat of imbalance of the soul and the destructive consequences it brings. The Europeans were not alone in letting the lustful sides of their souls’ take control over them. It is clear however that they lost control far more readily than others did and suffered for it. Europeans reaped the consequences of their actions in two world wars that broke the back of their imperial aspirations in the world. Nature always restores balance to the world, regardless of what cruelty that may entail.

Tyrus: What you say holds much truth but given the crises that we face today it is clear that the human race has not learned from its mistakes. Humanity continues down the bloody road of competition and violence that defines it. How are we to bring a halt to this slide towards doom? Our only recourse is dominance by an awe-inspiring, absolute ruler who can hold all others under his control and protection. This is the only way to break the anarchy that consumes the human spirit.

Anthius: Such a government will only result in fear and tyranny while the majority of people will exist in slavery to a distant sovereign. This cannot be permitted. If we cannot return to the perfect state of nature than we must organize a political solution that is as close to this freedom as possible. Every human being is born free and that freedom must be sacrosanct. Freedom and the good of human nature is best preserved by direct democracy at the community level. Citizens will be able to determine their fate collectively and decide what is best for them as a whole. This is the only way to break the tyranny that consumes the human spirit at present.

Tyrus: It would be an admirable solution if it were even remotely practical. The human spirit is far too violent and competitive. Human beings would fight amongst themselves and all semblance of order would disintegrate without a strong central authority.

Anthius: We have witnessed that same excuse when Adolf Hitler took power in Germany in the 1930s. The argument that a single all-powerful leader is the only alternative to anarchy has condemned millions to slavery and death throughout the past century. There is no excuse for such a system to exist.

Tyrus: It must exist. Any political system must reflect the true nature of the human spirit. Absolute dictatorial control is the only way a workable solution may be achieved.

Griffith: Neither of your arguments show balance. Humankind is not evil as long as we are ruled by reason and by a balanced soul. As long as we focus upon the station in life that we were meant to have and do our duty to the utmost we can build a happy and orderly society. There are those who were meant to rule and they possess the necessary balance in their souls to do so justly.

Anthius: The philosopher-king is merely a dictator in disguise. It is a concept that fools no one anymore.

Griffith: But certainly a philosopher-king represents the perfect example of the just and benevolent ruler. Only they may impose order upon society so that everyone may engage in his or her specialty and thus contribute to society as a whole. This is how human nature is accurately represented in a society.

Tyrus: We have never seen such a society in human history. It has never come about because the competition inherent to the human spirit makes a mockery of any system that compels people to peacefully take their place within society without attempting to steal from others to build up their own power and prestige. Only the threat of violence keeps these people in line. The only reason Afghanistan did not descend into sectarian violence after the American invasion of 2001 is because of the threat of American air power.

Griffith: If you have a truly balanced and just society, force need rarely be used.

Anthius: Violence merely adds to human suffering and empowers the tyranny that they continue to face. Every human being longs for peace and there is no reason for us to go on fighting.

Tyrus: Human beings do not need a reason to fight, it is in our nature and we will do it.

Griffith: Wanton violence is the mark of an unbalanced soul and as long as this imbalance remains in so many people, violence will continue. Too many people are now in positions of power who are not ruled by reason, only by blind passion or blind lust. As long as this situation continues there can be no peace for humanity.

Anthius: The fact that we need leaders at all is testament to how far we have fallen since the beginning of civilization.

Griffith: Everyone has their place. Some people were meant to fight and are dominated by the passionate side of the soul. Some were meant to create and buy and sell goods and are dominated by the desirous part of the soul. There are also those who were meant to lead and that is their purpose: To keep order and govern justly, for they have balanced souls and are the only one’s who possess the qualifications to lead at all.

Anthius: Human beings need only their independence. If we as individuals rely on other humans, we condemn ourselves to slavery.

Griffith: Everyone relies on one another because each of us is pre-disposed toward a certain specialty. We cannot do everything ourselves and this is why civilization is so critical.

Tyrus: People are naturally lazy, there is no such thing as pre-disposed duty. The only way human beings can be made to work hard is if they are threatened and coerced. Once again this emphasizes the need for absolute authority.

Anthius: Human beings were perfectly content before such ideas of ruler-ship came into their heads. Civilization is nothing but a curse upon the freedom and dignity of human beings.

Tyrus: I somehow doubt you could maintain your “noble savage” style of existence for long before another human being bashed you over the head and stole all you held dear.

Anthius: There was no such thing as property before civilization. Property only corrupts.

Tyrus: In that case there are many corrupted people in the world.

Griffith: Perhaps if only you two would stop arguing the merits of extreme positions and adopted a more balanced approach we would actually be making progress here.

Upon hearing Griffith’s final words, Seigfried slowly turns away from the window and makes his way over to the table where the three men continue to sit.

Seigfried: Griffith, I agree with your words fully. Balance is indeed the answer to this endless debate we have been having for centuries on the accursed question as to “what is human nature?” It is time we answered that question.

Tyrus: And how do you intend to do what is impossible?

Seigfried: It is not impossible Tyrus. Different philosophers have merely looked at different aspects of the human condition and mistakenly chosen to define human nature entirely by the aspect they observed. Hobbes witnessed untold barbarism in the wars that gripped 17th Century Europe. Hobbes, of course, emphasized the brutal, competitive and violent aspects of humanity based on the brutality of the time in which he lived. Rousseau existed in a time of increasing desire for “liberty” from the status quo and therefore portrayed civilization as enslaving the otherwise free and good spirits of human beings. Plato was interested in the organization of an ideal city-state and developed his philosophy accordingly. Plato also took the most balanced approach to human nature.

Anthius: And where is all this talk of balance going Seigfried?

Seigfried: I am merely emphasizing that there are many sides to human nature and the diversity of behavior among human beings is immense. Yet we are all still part of the same species. United in our diversity. Any society that exists must reflect this truth or ultimately fall into ruin.

Tyrus: Heh, all societies fall into ruin for none may contain the destructive nature of their inhabitants forever. Just look at what happened to Afghanistan and Haiti just a short time ago.

Griffith: And how would you propose to govern effectively over such a diverse mass of people?

Seigfried: Brothers, a compromise is what I offer you. Tyrus believes that a strong, centralized and absolute authority must exist to maintain order. Tyrus is correct in this matter and so this society will be dominated by an appointed conclave of executors who will maintain law and order.

Anthius: What tyranny...

Seigfried: I am not finished. Anthius, you obviously want direct democracy and local autonomy, for you believe it best reflects the free spirit of human beings. You are correct in this matter. Citizens will be-able to make decisions on local matters by way of direct participation at the community level. This will form a strong foundation for society.

Griffith: Your plan is admirable but merely represents two extremes coming together. A moderating force must exist.

Seigfried: And it shall. These powerful executive leaders will adhere to the utmost standards of morality and integrity for the responsibility that rests upon their shoulders is truly great. The rule of law must always be upheld and to this end a class of mediators and judges must exist to see that justice is done and quarrels quickly dealt with. Everyone will have their place within society based upon their skills and specialties. This will create a balanced society that is ruled by reason. Specialization permits diversity, as does direct democracy. The central executive represents unity, as does the structure of society itself. The true nature of humanity is thus revealed and upheld.

Tyrus: I still do not believe it is enough. We would be taking too many chances with direct democracy of any sort. It could very well lead to anarchy.

Seigfried: I understand your concerns but I will have balance. I have bound your conflicting ideals together into a single unified system. Tyrus, you have your central authority. Anthius, you have your direct democracy. Griffith, you have your balanced society of reason. None of us here are supporters of the corrupt and two-faced nature of representative democracy. What I have proposed is our only alternative unless you wish to continue with this squabbling and anarchy. If we stand united tomorrow at the council, the others will be unable to stop us. Can I count on you to help me build a new world order tomorrow?

Somewhat reluctantly at first, Griffith, then Anthius and finally Tyrus all rise and shake Seigfried’s hand.

Seigfried: The time has come for a unified humanity. The world depends on us. Let us do our duty my brothers.

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