Column by Bob Wallace.
Exclusive to STR
One of my favorite novels is the Robin Buss translation of Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo. This novel, utterly absorbing even though it's over 1,000 pages, has everything: revenge, false imprisonment, escape, buried treasure, hate, envy, lies, love, forgiveness, atonement, murder, rape, hideous executions, politics, bandits, sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll! If I was marooned on a desert island, forget a beach ball with a face on it--give me this novel.
There are other writers who have everything: Shakespeare and Doestoevsky, for two examples. But who reads them anymore? What was it that Mark Twain said? Something about "a classic is something that everybody wants to read and nobody has read." I understand his point. Shakespeare, superb stylist that he is, is incomprehensible for most people. Doestoevky is much too dark and depressing.
But Dumas! Now that's another story! The Count of Monte Cristo has probably been the most influential novel, ever. Name a popular writer, and that book has probably influenced him: Zane Grey, Alfred Bester, Mickey Spillane, John D. MacDonald.
It doesn't surprise me at all the whole novel pretty much hinges on political machinations. After all, in this world of ours, so much does, and it's almost never for the good.
The hero (no, that's not true: he's the anti-hero) is Edmond Dantes', who ends up at the age of 18 being falsely imprisoned for life on the basis of false and envious accusations of a political nature. He doesn't escape until he's over 30, and spends his life wreaking havoc on those who have wronged him. Hmm, satisfying! Who cannot sympathize, just as most can sympathize with Dantes' modern descendent: Batman. Then there's my favorite: the Clint Eastwood movie, “The Outlaw Josey Wales.”
Every once in a while Dumas' will have a character toss off a gem that sticks in your mind. One of those gems is so vivid to me I even remember the page it's on: 92.
The character, M. Noirtier, says this: "I thought him enough of a philosopher to realize that there is no such thing as murder in politics. You know as well as I do, dear boy, that in politics there are no people, only ideas; no feelings, only interests. In politics you don't kill a man, you remove an obstacle, that's all."
Truer words have never been spoken. I have read these sentiments before, although not so succinctly put, in only three sentences. There is a world of wisdom in those 54 words.
Dumas' is cynically, completely accurate: in politics, there is no murder. People are things that represent ideas; in war (which is just an extension of politics) they have today been declared "collateral damage." Innocent men, women (even the pregnant ones), children, infants: collateral damage, not worthy of even being counted.
Not only is there no murder, there are no lies, no theft. Politics is the Ten Commandments written by Satan and turned inside out.
Contrary to the delusions of many people, no country is the friend of another country. They can be temporary allies; one day they can be allies; a week later, mortal enemies. For an example, the Soviet Union was our ally against Germany during World War II, but within weeks after the war, they had become our mortal enemy, for some 50 years.
Countries only have interests, and often those interests are not only shifting, but utterly foolish.
One thing that Dumas' does not point out is that the interests of countries are based not on what's best for the people, but instead on what the rulers want. None of those interests are in the interests of the people of the U.S.
Vilfredo Pareto, who along with Machiavelli is one of the few essential political scientists everyone should read, understood what is always happening: he divided rulers into two kinds: Foxes, who use fraud; and Lions, who use force. The mass of people he called Sheep. Personally, I like the name, "Sheeple."
The interests of a nation are almost always determined by what the rulers want, be they Foxes or Lions. The Sheep are unfortunately often easily led by the rulers, even if they're led over a cliff. It's done by propaganda, and the mass of Sheep always fall for it.
“Voice or no voice," said Nazi Minister of Propaganda Hermann Goring during the Nuremberg trials, "the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
I don't see how we can get rid of politics (oh, if only we could!), but at least the wise understand the true nature of it: citizens are mostly Sheep, to do the bidding of the Foxes and Lions. The Sheep are never murdered by the Foxes and Lions; they are merely bad ideas, obstacles to be removed, if they threaten the interests of the rulers.
In my life I have found I've learned more from myths, fairy tales, fables and novels such as The Count of Monte Cristo than I have from the overweight and boring books written by Ph.D.s, who hurl them at the public from universities. It doesn't matter if they're from Harvard or Yale or Princeton; those people, the ironically named "the Best and the Brightest," are the ones who got us into Vietnam, and are now in the process of starting World War III. The world would be better off without 90% of the "intellectuals" who spew bad ideas all over us.
Literature, at its best, is not only educating but entertaining. Sometimes the truth it tells us isn't all that tasty, but it's better to take that medicine than not take it. One of the truths it tells us is that if people are pushed too far, even if they are Sheeple, they'll rise up and seek revenge, just like Edmond Dantes. Or Josey Wales, for that matter.
You can't ask more from a bunch of words than that.