Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Dealing with tyrants

Nicy and I have just been to see Julius Caesar at The Miller Centre in Caterham. It's a local theatre club which we joined this year - actually a generous parishioner bought us a year's membership. To my shame I can't remember when I last saw a Shakespeare play live on stage - it was probably when I was at school doing A level English. I had studied Julius Caesar for 'O' level and so got out my old text book with my notes to refresh my memory.

As I said in my blog yesterday about quality versus reality TV it was refreshing to see good quality live drama again. It was a powerful performance of a play that is at its heart a criticism of tyranny. What do Brutus and Cassius gain from their assassination of Caesar? Nothing for themselves, but freedom for the Roman people.

It's a play that raises a difficult question about tyrants: would it be better to 'take them out' as individuals rather than punish their people. Would it have been better to send in a few crack troops to get rid of Saddam Hussein and liberate his people with the minimum of bloodshed? Would it be better to do the same with Robert Mugabe? I suppose the difference is that Brutus and Cassius were loyal Roman citizens; they were doing it for their own country. That's what happened with Nicolai Ceausescu and his wife in Romania - it was their own people who dealt with them. In the end it's not for others from outside a country to deal with that country's leaders, so however frstrating it is we have to wait and watch while Robert Mugabe plays 'struts and frets his hour upon the stage', to quote the Bard.

But there's another principle at work: Jesus said, "Those who live by the sword will die by the sword," and though that doesn't give permission to assassinate tyrants it does describe what their end may be. Jesus' saying were not always easy.

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