As the papers recently filled with the distressing images of desperate souls looking to escape the imminent religious tyranny of the Taliban, I’m reminded of our own history, and also the words of Frederick Douglass who cautioned against interventions in his own culture:
“Everybody has asked the question. . .”What shall we do with the Negro?” I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm-eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! I am not for tying or fastening them on the tree in any way, except by nature’s plan, and if they will not stay there, let them fall. And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!”
How Douglass would weep at modern America and its welfare state – the destruction of black family life that it has engineered, and the demands of Progressives that it be allowed to do yet more.
And yet when there are no outsiders to intervene, or they choose not to, what do we see instead?
Looking back into our own history, we see the emergence of strongmen in the Dark Ages after the Romans departed these shores, and the rise of tribal leaders and local warlords, who grew into tribal chieftains and landowners, and then developed into regional kings overseeing their own minor kingdoms.
And then finally just over a thousand years ago, the formation of actual countries, with Aethelstan (grandson of Alfred The Great) apparently considered the first real “King of England” around 950AD.
Of course we remained under pressure from Viking raiders and within a century we were under pressure from the Normans too, and that continued for some time. Life was hard and the foaming of the endless sea of political rivalry on our little island swept up the peasantry and often violently crushed them.
Only two centuries later did the majority organise themselves against their tyrannical leaders, and in a summer meadow at Runnymede in 1215AD the monarchy were finally brought to heel, after three centuries of semi-organised tyranny, brigandage and serfdom imposed on their countrymen.
And in the 800 years since, our elites have toiled resentfully under the restrictions placed upon them there – grudgingly maintaining the pretence that they labour under and are subject to the same laws as the citizenry.
But make no mistake – with each passing generation, government found a way to ratchet open exceptions for itself, until now government officials in even supposedly free and democratic Western developed nations have become a corrupt and almost untouchable nomenklatura, ferried around in armoured cars and private jets, guarded by heavily-armed professional security.
And now we watch as Afghans go through what our ancestors did a thousand years ago – enduring tyranny from those who would wish to rule them, with some no doubt wondering how they can resist and win their own Magna Carta. And we can only watch mutely, unable to communicate to our leaders how earnestly we would wish them to cease their corrupt and incompetent interventions both there and here, all supposedly made on our behalf.
In truth, there is no way yet discovered to hasten emergence from tyranny into an inheritance of rights and freedoms that we enjoy today, history has taught us that we cannot succeed if we try – decades of intervening in Afghanistan and elsewhere has not shortcut the civilizing process and instead may have retarded it, at great cost in blood and treasure. Our government has literally paid with our lives to worsen the prospects of those they said they wished to help.
And this is a sobering but very simple lesson for government – one that of course they will never heed without “encouragement”. That when government intervenes to help, they only make things worse. Their tools are too blunt, too crude and too indiscriminate to ever effect lasting and benign change.
Or as the legendary Tom Sowell would say “The problems of today are the result of the solutions of yesterday”