The truth will stand when the world burns
One version of this statement is often passed down in families. It comes from various sources. One is Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice: “The truth will come out.” In Ephesians 5:9 of the Bible, a modern translation answers the statement, “The light in you produces what is good and right and true.” Basically, it is the voice in our heart that tells us right from wrong. The world is on fire when enough people don’t listen to that little voice. Yet, every now and then, even when the world is on fire, enough people have listened, united and acted for the common good. Another quote: “When bad men unite, good must unite; otherwise they will fall one by one, a pitiless victim in a contemptible struggle.” Credit Edmund Burke, an Irish political philosopher, for saying something we all know to be true.
Tests of our character
This usually happens in small groups. Someone is doing something out of line. What are others doing in the small group? They usually tolerate the act. The antagonist then believes that his/her activity has borne fruit. It’s happening again. Most likely the group will take note but not engage. A psychologist among them will have the opportunity to conduct a case study of what has become a group dynamic. For everyone else in the group, this could be the first salvo of misfortune. It’s the office bully, the school bully, the rule breaker, and the mischief maker. What happens if someone in the office realizes after repeated interruptions that they need to stand up to the tyrant? What really? If one good person takes a stand, the rest of the group still has to do something. Usually they do nothing. “Let HR handle it.” “Discipline is the teacher’s job.” These moments are a test of character for everyone in the small group. If someone stands up for the right and stands alone, the stronger person will win. Quite often the stronger personality belongs to the tyrant. A bold tyrant will dominate, just as the dog that herds the sheep dominates the sheep, who outnumber the dog, perhaps 200:1.
Humans primarily live their lives as members of human society. In some parts of the world these societies are still called tribes. In industrialized countries, citizens often form around villages, towns and cities. People identify themselves as part of a district, state, region, and country. Besides geography, people form around their family ties, their religion, their sports team, their school, their earned educational purpose (engineering society, local union). In all these examples of shared human connections, the rule of law is necessary. Someone has to lead. He/she is expected to promote the welfare of society through governance. Our character tests are also found here. The same people who will not listen to their inner voice, will not stand up for justice, will not support the one who does it, will also not contribute to society. They will not lead or volunteer to support. They will not vote and will not communicate with whoever is elected. When trouble comes, they expect the police to deal with it. When their child misbehaves in public, they will not correct him. Their country may have been born of sacrifice. Others before them may have given their lives to ensure the freedoms enjoyed by all citizens. Yet, in times of need, in times of crisis, and even in times of safety, when voting for the best leader is so important, so many will flee from their duty to their ancestors and to the needs of society today. They will not listen to their inner voice. “Let someone else vote.” “Somebody needs to say something to that lady who lets her C*** dog out on their lawn.” “I don’t have time to answer that senator who asked me how I’m doing in Congress. “Those poor starving people in the earthquake zone; someone should organize the food for them.” “What is the world going to? These people have just taken over another country. Don’t they realize their leader is a tyrant? I hope we stay out of it.”
The rule of law only works when society enforces it. Many will argue that there is too much corruption and crime in the world, too many different points of view to reach a consensus about what is right, the vast geographical distances and greater personal risks today make it more difficult to take a principled stand . Yet neither argument has the power to withstand public scrutiny or self-scrutiny. When we don’t take a stand, we stand for nothing. Edmund Burke is not remembered for being correct about the positions he took. He is admired for standing up. Any of us who have done this in our lives look back on the moment without the stinging reproach of regret. Those who stand alone against the tyrant and bully stand tall, even if they lose. These are the ones who will not stand with him/her, the ones who allow themselves to fail the test of character, who cast their eyes down at their shoes in the presence of the one who has been sacrificed. But take heart. Some of the most respectable, good people in societies were lazy for most of their early life. One day they looked up and stood up for the right. It became their habit. The truth will stand when the world burns. The truth is revealed by people who will not tolerate error. When they stand, they are the rock. Those who stand with them build a stone wall around this rock. There are never too many of them to put out a moral fire. There may be too few. Get up!
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