“And what business is it of yours, anyway, to know what I do with my own things? It is my own. I found it. It came to me.”
“Yes, yes,” said Gandalf. “But there is no need to get angry.”
“If I am it is your fault,” said Bilbo, “It is mine, I tell you. My own. My precious. Yes, my precious.”
– Dialogue between Gandalf and Bilbo Baggins from The Fellowship of the Ring
For those who have read the book, or seen the movie (It appears Peter Jackson lifted the dialogue straight from the book), you remember this episode. Gandalf is pressing Bilbo to relinquish the One Ring. Bilbo, now in the grips of its power, does not want to – and the argument ensues.
It is interesting how access to significant power, plus the threat of losing it over legitimate claims of impropriety, will draw out some rather nonsensical justifications and accusations. I think Tolkien had us pegged.
We talked yesterday about how self-examination is integral to the Christian life. The ability to recognize our own flaws and failures (an ability that God surely aids us in) is needed to bring about repentance and growth. This isn’t just true of religious experience. In just about any aspect of our daily lives, the ability to recognize where we have come up short, and take actions to ameliorate the problem, is a very valuable and useful tool.
In times of crisis, we don’t seem to get a whole lot of this from our leaders. There aren’t that many mea culpas coming from those in power when things go poorly. I don’t want to be too hard on politicians here – an election IS a popularity contest, and you have to be popular to win. Admitting where you messed up isn’t the most popular thing to do.
We’ve noticed a lot of this coming out of the European Union lately as they deal with their own financial crisis. Yesterday German Chancellor Angela Merkel had some harsh words for “the market”, blaming naked short selling (hehe) for the current fiscal crisis. I guess we can find anyone to blame. We saw a bit of this in the US as well, back in our latest (though I suspect not last) financial crisis in 2008.
Let me translate Merkel’s position. We, the government have made a real mess of things. We’ve erected massive taxation schemes and spent tons of money on failed social giveaways and mismanaged government/industrial schemes – destroying productive capital in the process. We’ve made financial promises to more people than we can remember, all because it will help us get elected and make us “feel good” about “helping” those who need it. The system is utterly unsustainable, and we all know it. Now, for some reason, the free markets [note the word FREE there], have started to call us on it. They believe we’re going to destroy the whole system and are making financial moves to profit from it. HOW DARE YOU!!!??? How dare you, free people of the world! How dare you call us on our obvious failures. How dare you exploit our exploitation of currencies for your own good. How dare you … I almost can’t bring myself to say it … how dare you ACT RATIONALLY!? You will rue the day free people. You will rue the day when you figured out that we were on the brink of collapse and moved to jump of the ship first, instead of doing the moral thing and sinking with the rest of us. We will make sure you pay for this. Nobody exposes our flaws, mismanagement, greed – our outright lies – and gets away with it. NOBODY!
I suspect the finger-pointing will only increase in years to come. Watch for it. In the meantime, a few encouraging quotes, the first from the Return of the King, and the second from scripture.
“Forth, and fear no darkness” – Theoden, before charging the Pellenor Fields to rescue Gondor from the besieging armies of Mordor.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” – Romans 8:35