Democracy reappeared in a more civilized form in Athens, but when, in a truly political trial, Socrates praised monarchy, he was condemned to death. Remember also that Madariaga said rightly that our civilization rests on the death of two persons: a philosopher and the Son of God, both victims of the popular will.
~ Erik M.R. von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Monarchy and War
It was a sunny Whitsunday. Summer seemed to have come to this small city to the North of the European continent and at a latitude somewhere between that of Anchorage and that of the Alaskan capital Juneau. We have the Gulf Stream, though, running from the Gulf of Mexico, giving us some nice summers.
In the afternoon I went to the movie theater to see The Passion of the Christ, quite a bit late, considering that the movie had been running at Oslo movie theaters since Friday before Palm Sunday, and considering the debates have long since cooled off.
What could I possibly have to offer so long after the debates have cooled off? Well, for one, a friend of mine, who has a small role in a Norwegian movie, offered me a preview on April 24. The movie is due to be released this fall. It is called Asfaltevangeliet, which would translate into “The Asphalt Gospel” and is based on a novel by the same name.
The movie Asfaltevangeliet is a modern day version of the last part of the life of Jesus, mostly taking place in Oslo, but occasionally the modern day Jesus and his disciples travel abroad. Most probably, some would certainly say it is blasphemous, but it does have its points, although I would not agree with all of them. For instance, the modern Judas, called Jonas, is the one always asking for money gifts. This is Asfaltevangeliet’s kick to modern day preachers for money.
The modern day Judas reports Jesus to the Oslo Police by lying. Jonas takes the police to Jesus and the other disciples, and Jesus is arrested. He is brought in for interrogation. Jonas calls the police admitting to having lied. The police ignore him, and a short while later he fires a handgun through his mouth.
The really interesting difference between The Passion of the Christ and Asfaltevangeliet is the way the execution takes place. Pilate asks the masses if Jesus or the murderer Barabbas is to be released. Dissent among the people is not tolerated. The masses reply: Barabbas. Further, the mob is asked what punishment Jesus is to receive. The reply is: crucifixion. Pilate ignores this demand. Instead he orders whipping. In the end Pilate gives in to the demand of crucifixion, but he makes it clear that he has no responsibility for this and washes his hands. This can easily be compared to modern day politicians, who only too often refer to this and that must be done because it’s what the people want.
In Asfaltevangeliet the police finally find that they have got nothing on Jesus. Also, something which is not expressed, Norway does not have capital punishment, as nearly all other countries of Europe. So the police irresponsibly release Jesus to the masses. The mob crucifies Jesus with a modern nail gun. The police move is of course totally within the framework of the “democratic Rechtsstaat.” The previous interrogation violence, however, is not. What does this serve as an illustration of? In a modern democracy the authorities have their rules to go by. The rules may be bent, and even broken, but they must generally be abided by. However, nothing must stand in the way of the popular will, however wrong that will be. In practice, this means that we shall not have arbitrariness, unless of course the arbitrariness is passed as an act of Parliament, which represents the people. In Asfaltevangeliet no one is brought to justice for the liquidation. This illustrates quite well the principle that the people — or the mob — have absolutely no responsibility for what it does.
Also, what one would notice in Asfaltevangeliet is the absence — at least in any noticeable sense — of the concept of claiming to be king. Here Asfaltevangeliet, as in other areas, the movie proves to be a part of our modern age. In this sense it is painfully politically correct.
When I watched The Passion of the Christ, I particularly noticed one line (at least this was what it was translated to in Norwegian): “You are just the son of a poor carpenter.” From what I’ve read of Erik von M.R. Kuehnelt-Leddihn I believe he might have written a column refuting the conception behind just that line. Rockwell in St. Joseph No Proletarian says:
At this time of the year, I am reminded of one of the many things that the late Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, may he rest in peace, taught me. [...] Despite all the claims and sweet stories, St. Joseph was no worker. He was a prince of the royal family of Israel, “of the House and lineage of David.” And his profession is more properly translated as builder, not carpenter. He was also a property owner, one of a very few at that time.
In Asfaltevangeliet there is a mention of an accusation of a world socialist revolution led by Jesus. If von Kuehnelt-Leddihn had lived to see the movie, he might have written a column against this too. I would not have been surprised if he had been able to do this having seen the movie completely without subtitles. To do justice to the movie I must add that Jesus in Asfaltevangeliet laughs at the claim.
Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn also thinks one of the worst outcomes of the French Revolution was its export of democracy to the nascent United States, and the subsequent goal of the United States to then make the world a safe place for this same mob rule beauty pageant, otherwise known as democracy [...] You may disagree with what Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn says about the horrors of democracy, but his writing really is wonderfully entertaining.
Furthermore, Andy Duncan proposes a film by Mel Gibson on the death of Socrates:
It will be interesting to see if Mel Gibson makes his next film project ‘The Death of Socrates’. I would love to see it, but I do hope Mr. Gibson avoids scripting the dialogue in classical Greek.
Such a movie, perhaps under the name of The Passion of Socrates, should of course focus on the negative aspect of democracy which the death of Socrates represents.
Trilogies are quite popular, and perhaps one should not seek the popular when railing against democracy, but it is tempting to propose yet another movie; a movie on the death of King Louis XVI of France. Such a movie could go through the last hours of this French king, intertwined with “time travels” back and forth to what philosophers have said about democracy, before, during, and after the French Revolution, examples of what the French Revolution led to, including the horrors of the 20th century, which Murry N. Rothbard has proposed to repeal.
In Norway, and probably in many other countries as well, it is commonly believed that the Church and democracy go well together, failing to recognize that it was democracy that brought Jesus to the crucifix. Every 4 years, in connection with the Parliament election, there are elections for church community councils in the State Church, failing to recognize theocracy, not democracy, as the natural form of government in churches.
In the Church of Norway there have over the last years been some controversial bishop appointments. The Cabinet has abused its power in the Council of State to appoint bishops which church leaders were clearly not happy about. Placing Christian socialists among the bishops seems to be a kind of agenda. It clearly illustrates how government attempts to form a church of its liking. Although I do not reject or oppose the Protestant Church as such, I do regret the abuse of the Protestant Reformation by the princes of Europe to seize church property and bring the church under their control.
Church democratism leads to many things. One of them is the corruption of language. In Norway, we once had high language in the Bible and psalms. Not so anymore. The virtue of commonness is the order of the day. Everything must have “modern” language. “Thy kingdom come” becomes “Let your kingdom come.” “Until death do you part” becomes “Until death separates you.” This is decline indeed.
Jørn K. Baltzersen [send him mail] is a senior consultant of information technology in Oslo, Norway.