The challenge for the democratic west…

I’m re-reading the classic science fiction trilogy, Dune, by Frank Herbert, and came across an interesting quote in a typical Herbert entree to a chapter.

In Children of Dune the quote has this citation: ‘Words of an ancient philosopher (Attributed by Harq al-Ada to one Louis Veuillot).’

Harq al-Ada is a fictional charcter while Veuillot was a 19th century journalist, man of letters and radical Catholic ultramontane which means he supported the Pope to the exclusion of local church authorities. Ultramontane means ‘dweller beyond the mountains’ (ultra montes), that is beyond the alps – referring to the Pope in Rome…


All that aside, it was the quote that interested me (and the history of Veuillot became an interesting sidelight):

“When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles.’

I have not seen this quote in the context of which Veuillot wrote, so can’t be sure if he is speaking as if this is what he would do, or elaborating on the idea in general.

Nonetheless, I believe democracies bearing the principles of freedoms such as of speech, religion and association find this a very real challenge in our day. The very freedom we honour and share allows some who do not share our love for freedom to benefit none the less. As they grow strong in this freedom, they may one day be in a position to take away our freedom, according to deeply held (and buried) principles of their own.  And it is not that our society should cease to carry these freedoms and principles, but that we should do so with our eyes open.

Let us hope that in sharing in the benefits of freedom, this will be an ideal to be cherished rather than a weakness to be exploited.

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2 thoughts on “The challenge for the democratic west…

  1. The statement ” As they grow strong in this freedom, they may one day be in a position to take away our freedom” suggest that they are not already in that state.
    Doesn’t freedom mean, that they are in that position from the moment they were born and by that I mean they have the liberty to try restricting you and you have the right and capability to protect and assert yourself?

    I am posing this a question, not a remark.

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