Please stick with me on this one! From Greek mythology to
2005 a.d. in one brief article. I
promise I�ll get you there!
The good old sea-god Poseidon sent a pure-white bull to King
Minos to be sacrificed to the gods. But Minos knew a good thing when he saw it
and kept the bull alive. My goodness, a bull like that could easily fetch
$5,000 and more for each vial of sperm to be used in artificial insemination.
Minos�s decision got Poseidon�s nose out of joint. The
sea-god roared from the bottom of the ocean, �You just can�t let these pathetic
earthlings get away with such disobedience.� He then opined that a virile man�s
pride would really be smashed if his wife falls in love with someone else. So,
Poseidon shot the arrow of love into Queen Pasiphae�s heart. Falling in love
with the bull, the ensuing affair produced Minotaur, a creature half man and
Maybe you are beginning to think this whole story is all
bull. But wait a minute. Please!
King Minos was so mad that he had the Corps of Engineers
build a maze so complex that anyone stupid enough to enter it would never find
his way out. In the middle of that maze he put Minotaur. In a subsequent
encounter, the Athenians killed Androgeus, a son of King Minos. That really got
the king mad. He proceeded to whop the Athenians. As an annual tribute in some
stories, only once every nine years in some others, the Athenians had to offer
seven handsome youths and seven beautiful maidens to the Minotaur. The monster
then devoured all 14 and, one supposes, didn�t get hungry again until the next
contingent of T-bone steaks arrived from Athens.
After the third Athenian tribute, Theseus, a Greek, thought
that enough was enough. He decided to enter the maze and kill the beast. But no
one could ever find his way out of it. Ariadne enters! Trumpets, please. She
gives Theseus a golden sword, probably the granddaddy of Excalibur. But more
then that, being a woman and being much smarter than most men (Okay you
Chauvinists, I didn�t say that) she gave Theseus the gift of getting out of the
maze. She presented him with a golden cord and told him to unwind it as he went
into the maze. Then, after he killed the Minotaur, he could retrace his steps
by following the cord and thus return to the free world once more.
Ta da! Ariadne�s plan worked. Theseus was so impressed with
the lady that he swept her off her feet and asked her to accompany him forever
and forever to the very ends of an expanding universe. However, when the happy
pair reached the island of Naxos, our hero gave the boot to his erstwhile lady
fair. That was not a nice thing to do.
Okay, fast-forward to September 17, 1778, the date the
Constitution, consisting of a Preamble and seven Articles, was adopted by a
majority of the 55 delegates who were assembled in Philadelphia. Like the white
bull given by Poseidon, the Seven Articles of the Constitution represented the
loftiest, the most noble, of ideas.
Nothing like it had ever appeared on the surface of the
The genius of the Constitution does not primarily grant
freedom and liberty to the citizens of the new Republic. Rather it invoked a
form of government creating the condition for freedom. It is not freedom that
is the hallmark of America. You can scream freedom from the top of Mount
Everest but if you do not have the institution guaranteeing that freedom, your
shouting is just so much hot air!
Freedom is a subsequent condition resulting from our unique
form of government. It seeks to control human greed and acquisition of personal
power by imposing checks and balances on our behavior.
A simple basic assumption created our government. It is the
belief that fundamentally you can�t really trust human beings. You heard me
right. I can�t trust you and you really can�t trust me. When push comes to
shove, we are selfish, self-promoting, mendacious, and aggressive creatures.
These traits become ever more expressive when persons find themselves in
positions of authority. It makes little difference whether the seat of power is
politics, business, or religion.
How can you have a fair and prudent society when those who
run its institutions are self-centered creatures? History has proven that kings
and emperors, preachers and priests, judges and lawmakers are made from the
same fabric as all other human beings. How do you get around such a no-win
situation in order to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number?
This is where the genius of the United States Constitution
meets the world.
The condition assuring freedom lies in the creation of three
branches of the government balancing each other. When the legislative branch
gets to beating its chest, the Supreme Court can step in and rap its knuckles.
When the Executive begins to bust the buttons off his vest, Congress can step
in and make him exhale. When the somber justices mix up their personal agenda
with the priorities of the welfare of the people, Congress can take appropriate
measures. If a situation should occur when things are really in a mess, a
constitutional amendment can put everyone�s feet to the fire.
Then, if things work like they should, freedom results. It
is just plain silly to talk of freedom when the wheelers and dealers do not
accept the simple proposition of the triune government. For the welfare of all,
all have to accept the wisdom of the Fathers.
But over the past few decades, this wisdom has been flushed
down the commode. Our present state of affairs resembles the Minotaur. The
sources of power, political, economic, religious are safely hidden in an
impenetrable maze. Should anyone find his way into the maze and actually
confront the Minotaur, he will be devoured like the 14 Athenian youngsters.
Surely, I don�t have to draw a picture depicting the fact
that the triune form of government is a historic relic. The majority of the
Congress consists of a bunch of dogmatists who wave the flag promoting whatever
the president desires. The majority of the Supreme Court consists of folks who
had to pass the executive branch�s litmus test. They are sworn to uphold the
whims of the executive rather than the Constitution.
The Minotaur is alive and well, hidden in his maze, daring
one and all to come and get him. Decisions are made in backroom deals dominated
by lobbyists. The welfare of the people becomes subordinate to �Corpgreed.�
Personal freedoms are being amputated by a group of moralistic religious
Trumpets, please: Enter Ariadne and her golden thread. The
way out of the maze is to retrace our steps and rediscover the principles that
cannot be found inside the maze. The balance of powers is the keystone of our
society. It is the essential, congenital, elemental condition required for
freedom. Kiss that good-by and all the flag-waving, all the wars, all the
chanting of patriotic slogans are not worth a tinker�s damn.
Let me conclude with a few quotations from the Founding
Fathers addressing themselves to the Minotaur devouring the very basis of our
George Washington speaking on greed in the business
community: �Shall a few designing men for their own aggrandizement, and to
gratify their own avarice, overset the goodly fabric we have been rearing at
the expense of so much time, blood, and treasure? And shall we at last become
the victims of our abominable lust for gain?�
Jefferson on the relationship of church and state: �History
I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free
civil government. This marks the lowest grace of ignorance, of which their political
as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own
John Adams on the relationship of the press to the people.
�But none of the means of information are more sacred . . . than the press. . .
. whatever the tyrants of the earth may say of your paper, you have done an
important service to your country by your readiness and freedom in publishing
the speculations of the curious.�
Benjamin Franklin on war: �I wish to see the discovery of a
plan, that would induce and oblige nations to settle their disputes without
cutting one another�s throats. When will men be convinced, that even successful
wars at length become misfortunes to those who unjustly commenc�d them , and
triumph�d blindly in their success, not seeing all the consequences.�
Ariadne�s Golden Cord can lead us back to our origin and the
bright lights of a government controlled by the balance of powers. Failure to
retrace the path of the Golden Cord will inextricably lead us ever deeper and
deeper into a maze of confusion guaranteed to bar the journey to freedom.
But what is the underlying human problem that makes us
praise folly and condemns our brief journey through life to injustice, wars,
social inequity corporate greed, and religious practices resembling voodoo? The
answer, to some significant degree, is found in the peculiar evolutionary
development of the human brain, a matter discussed in my next
article: Will America Self-Destruct? This concept
is more fully discussed in my upcoming book The Grand Design.
Brand, D. Min., J.D. is a writer from Austin, Texas. He is author of
Grand Design: 2nd ed. Shaking the Foundations ( 2005). Grand Design can be
ordered from xLibris Press.