“People do not exist to serve their governments or their kings. Governments exist to serve the people, so the people should have a say in those governments.”
– Field Marshall Tamas, Promise of Blood
The Powder Mage series, by Brian McClellan
My country celebrates its official founding this week. With lots of fireworks. 🙂
Every year, I make it my practice to look back at the beginning, to remember what was done, and why, and how. In that vein, there are few quotes more appropriate than this.
Field Marhall Tamas is a character who may be classified as a hero or a villain based entirely on your perspective. To the royalty he betrayed, the noble class he butchered, and the enemy combatants and leaders he sacrificed on the altar of war, as well as the international powers he stood against, he is certainly a villain. But to the people of his homeland, and to the men serving under his command, he is a hero.
Basically, Tamas was in a situation where his people were betrayed, on every level, by the people who, as nobles and rulers, should have been their most stalwart defenders. Instead, they neglected, abused, and sold them out. Whatever unspoken contract there was between the people and their rulers, it was utterly void and broken.
In such a case, why tolerate the rulers?
And yet, said rulers, and the world in general, argue that the people are incapable of ruling themselves. “Impossible. Decisions should not be left to the rabble,” says the man Tamas is speaking to in this particular scene of the book.
But Tamas believes as he says. It is not the people who exist to serve the government, and certainly they don’t exist to serve someone who rules just because he happens to share the bloodline of a previous ruler. No, governments exist for the sole purpose of serving the people.
Even more, not only should the people rule themselves, but they can rule themselves. Blithely dismissed the masses as “rabble” is ignorant and short-sighted. No man exists who is utterly incapable of understanding something that any other man can understand. All they need is the will and the desire.
Great genius has often been born of humble circumstance, as has great leadership.
Whatever advantages one might have at birth, there is nothing that automatically sets one man “above” another. Every honest man is vital to the continued functioning of society, which is what government is intended to safeguard. As such, it is not merely practical, but imperative, that every honest man have a say in running the government under which he lives. That is his right, and his responsibility.
That is what my country was founded on: the idea of the government serving the common man.
Centuries later, this idea is still radical and powerful, and it didn’t even begin with my nation, not by a long shot. Old England, the Roman Republic, and ancient Greece all contribute ideas and cautionary lessons for my nation, and the world, to pay heed to. But one thing runs true from the very beginning of this idea all the way through to today:
There is a price for freedom.
Freedom demands our attention, even our devotion. It is a right, and a responsibility. To stand up for this truth, to demand that the powers on high give heed to the common man, often comes with the ultimate price. Many soldiers, many civilians, and a number of our leaders have paid that price over the years.
And so the final words of our Declaration of Independence, which was a declaration of this idea, that every man should have a say in the affairs of his government, that the government exists to serve them, not the other way around:
“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
Happy 4th of July, USA.
Happy Independence Day.
I have some mixed feelings about this edition of Sunday’s Wisdom. Should governments serve the people and the people should have a say? Yes, I totally agree. That quote also reminds me of a similar quote from V in V for Vendetta, but I digress.
In the context of American history, it can be quite hard to see a lot of it because of the 3/5ths compromise, various double standards in laws, and how black veterans were even lynched in uniform when coming back from the wars. I wished there was equality for everyone, but some of those aspects still linger here.
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You will never hear me say that America, or Americans, have ever been perfect or have a perfect record. Yet, whatever our flaws, it was founded on the idea that all human beings are created equal. That idea, itself, is the seed which grew to end slavery, end segregation, end the practice of forbidding women to vote, and so on and so forth. In my eyes, all the injustices you mention are horrible tragedies, abhorrent evils, and also, in relation to this, shameful deviations from what my country is meant to be.
In effect, this idea is the antithesis of such injustices. That is what makes it worth fighting for.
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I never said that you implied America was perfect, so I should’ve made that clear. I do wish those ideals of equality and justice were put into practice. When I learn about more of these tragedies, I just get angrier because so many of those people never got punished for their evils.