Tuesday, November 27, 2007
What Price Bread?
Ary Scheffer's Temptation of Christ (1854).
The last century proved not to be the deciding contest in the argument between security and freedom. But this century will prove to be so.
The twentieth century will go down for being, among other things, the beginning of a short war between authoritarianism and liberty. The twenty-first century will go down for being, perhaps for nothing else, the century in which that contest was decided. But the questions upon which this contest are founded were raised in the 19th century.
As Betty Burch, in Dictatorship and Totalitarianism (D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc. 1964) wrote, "The basic issues in the relation of freedom to authority are raised by Dostoyevsky in the dialogue between Christ and the Grand Inquisitor [in The Brothers Karamozov], a dialogue in which Christ remains silent. The aged Inquisitor chides Christ for offering men the freedom they dread instead of the bread they want. The Inquisitor admits that men must have something beyond bread for which to live, but whoever holds authority can guide their conscience, and whoever holds their conscience and gives them bread can rule the world and bring universal peace and happiness. The questions raised by the Grand Inquisitor lie at the heart of social organization. . . . [W]hat price in freedom are men willing to pay for bread . . .?"
Burch notes that in Dostoyevsky's dialogue, Christ "remains silent."
He remains silent, perhaps, because it is our time to speak.