bureaucracybusters

THE POWER OF HUMANITY IN A TIME OF INHUMANITY

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 4, 2020 at 12:20 am

Two stories—one fictitious, the other historical.

Story #1: In the 1961 historical epic, “El Cid,” Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, known as “The Lord,” besieges the Spanish city of Valencia, which has been captured by the Moors.

Months have passed. The city’s population is starving and without hope.

Then, one day, El Cid (Charlton Heston) calls out over the city’s walls: “Soldiers and citizens of Valencia We are not your enemy! Ben Yusof [the powerful emir who plans to conquer Spain with an invading army] is your enemy! 

“Join us! We bring you peace! We bring you freedom! We bring you bread!”

Amazon.com: El Cid Poster Movie 30x40 Charlton Heston Sophia Loren ...

Suddenly El Cid’s Spanish catapults spring into action—loaded not with stones but loaves of bread. The loaves land in the city’s streets, where starving citizens and soldiers greedily devour them. 

Then those citizens attack the bodyguards of the emir ruling Valencia—and throw the emir himself from a high wall. 

The army of El Cid marches peacefully into the city.

Story #2: In Book Three, Chapter 22 of his classic masterwork, The Discourses, Niccolo Machiavelli offers the following: “An Act of Humanity Prevailed More With the Falacians Than All the Power of Rome.”

Marcus Furius Camillus, a Roman general, was besieging the city of the Faliscians, and had surrounded it. A teacher charged with the education of the children of some of the noblest families of that city decided to ingratiate himself with Camillus by leading those children into the Roman camp. 

Presenting them to Camillus the teacher said to him, “By means of these children as hostages, you will be able to compel the city to surrender.”

Camillus not only declined the offer but went one step further. He ordered the teacher stripped and his hands tied behind his back. Then Camillus had a rod put into the hands of each of the children and directed them to whip the teacher all the way back to the city. 

Upon learning this, the citizens of Faliscia were so much touched by the humanity and integrity of Camillus, that they surrendered the place to him without any further defense. 

Summing up the meaning of this, Machiavelli writes: “This example shows that an act of humanity and benevolence will at all times have more influence over the minds of men than violence and ferocity.  It also proves that provinces and cities which no armies…could conquer, have yielded to an act of humanity, benevolence, chastity or generosity.

“…History also shows us how much the people desire to find such virtues in great men, and how much they are extolled by historians and biographers of princes….Amongst these, Xenophon takes great pains to show how many victories, how much honor and fame, Cyrus gained by his humanity and affability, and by his not having exhibited a single instance of pride, cruelty or luxuriousness, nor of any of the other vices that are apt to stain the lives of men.”

Quote by Machiavelli: “Necessity is what impels men to take action ...

Niccolo Machiavelli

These stories—the first the product of a movie screenwriter’s imagination, the second recorded by a master political scientist and historian—remain highly relevant today.

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a black unemployed restaurant security guard, was murdered by Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer. While Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down on a city street during an arrest, Chauvin kept his knee on the right side of Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. 

Cities across the United States erupted in mass protests over Floyd’s death—and police killings of black victims generally. Most of these demonstrations proved peaceful.

But cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City saw stores looted, vandalized and/or burned. In response, President Donald Trump called for harsh policing, telling governors in a nationwide conference call that they must “dominate” protesters or be seen as “weak.”

To drive home his point, Trump ordered police and National Guard troops to violently remove peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square, which borders St. John’s Church near the White House.  

The purpose of the removal: To allow Trump to have a photo opportunity outside the church.

“I imposed a curfew at 7pm,” tweeted Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. “A full 25 minutes before the curfew & w/o provocation, federal police used munitions on peaceful protestors in front of the White House, an act that will make the job of @DCPoliceDept officers more difficult. Shameful!”

Contrast that with the example of Sheriff Christopher Swanson of Genesee County, Michigan. 

Walk with us!': Sheriff in Michigan shows solidarity to protestors ...

Sheriff Christopher Swanson

Confronting a mass of aroused demonstrators in Flint Township on May 30, Swanson responded: “We want to be with you all for real.”

So Swanson took his helmet off. His deputies laid their batons down.

“I want to make this a parade, not a protest. So, you tell us what you need to do.”

“Walk with us!” the protesters shouted.

“Let’s walk, let’s walk,” said Swanson. 

Cheering and applause resounded.

“Let’s go, let’s go,” Swanson said as he and the cheering crowd proceeded. “Where do you want to walk? We’ll walk all night.”

And Swanson and his fellow officers walked in sympathy with the protesters.

No rioting followed. 

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