The Link

Governments have created a new horror: not genocide of the living, but of the dead.

By the time you read this, what may be the most ancient city on the earth will have ceased to exist. The worst genocidal cultural atrocity of the era will have happened while the established networks such as ABC ran a feckless story or two on it, as if for laughs.

By the time you read this, an ancient link to our past, a dazzling place whose very name Zeugma, means Link, as if to accuse our generation by its very name, will drowned under water by a damn project, for all future time, destroyed. Government will have done it, as, so certain economists prattle, only government with its vast resources and compulsory powers surely, surely, can. Through efficient indifference, careful calculation of social cost, the lack of planning of coercive planners, and the desire to keep to a schedule a megalomaniac dam project in Turkey, something precious will die. Something whose sole worth was beauty. Something, by time, bequeathed to us all, will die alone, not lost, as the poet sang, but gone, gone for ever.

Recently resurrected Zeugma, the legendary city of Alexander on the Euphrates, the winter home of one of Rome's proudest three eastern legions, an early outpost of Christianity where perhaps James and others preached, will be gone. The legendary western terminus of the Silk Road to China, with perhaps numerous artifacts of that era, gone. Shining with murals that put Pompeii to shame, itself possibly built over the remains of Hagar, Haluf, Uruk, and other cultures, with mysterious mounds hiding perhaps wondrous private libraries containing the lost plays of Sophocles, the most ancient Old and New Testament manuscripts, gone.

Possible Cuneiform style libraries, telling alternate tales of the flood that destroyed the world and all memory, gone. Perhaps precursors of tales from which perhaps the moving story of Gilgamesh, the oldest story of the human race, the man who left arrogantly to seek immortality and returned wise to build a city of hope for the future, will dissolve under the water, gone.

Not just Roman murals, which is bad enough, but a library of cultures will dissolve, oblivion. Gone.

Libertarians sometimes have trouble getting across their complex ideas on why government inherently destroys. Now, when told that government is needed, libertarians and those seeking non-coercive solutions have a sad, simple answer, an answer they will wish were not so. They can call to memory something, a beautiful and wonderfully preserved city, whose full memory was erased. They can remember a city sunk into silence. They can remember it may well have been on top of more ancient towns dating back 14,000 years. They can try and help the future remember it as holding wonders that neither we, nor the endless links of our descendants that we have betrayed, will ever know. And they will remember to say it this way: They will say, "Remember Zeugma."

Ancient teachings such as the Laws of Moses and the Confucian tradition place the honoring of one's father as the first earthly law, before the prohibition to murder, before the warning not to steal. They do not say love your father, they do not say make pals, they do not say your father must honor you.

They say you honor your father. For without that honoring of those who came before you, you have no heritage, no name, no history, and no claim to honor in human chronicles.

Governments work night and day to de-link us from our roots and promote manufactured national histories. The French revolutionaries sought to obliderate ancient holidays and institutions. The socialist theorist Gramsci also called for the destruction of the past. Mao ordered family libraries and shrines to be burnt. The United States and Turkish governments, combined with UN aid, are obliterating the earliest memories of the human race. They are flooding the ancient city of Zeugma, and untold treasures underneath. A Link with those who are ancestors of perhaps half of the human race in this multicultural city, will be as if it never was.

The incredible thing is that the "need" for the Turkish dam was partially created by climate changes set in motion by a similar multi-governmental ecological and archeological disaster, the Aswan Dam. Aswan was so ill conceived it is by many accounts disrupting the entire weather patterns of the East Mediterranean. Worse, similar projects are taking a toll in China. Government interventions generate disasters that are cunningly used to justify new ones.

Many have tried to stop the Zeugma horror. Informed Turks, unwilling to have their country bear the shame of another destroyed Byzantium library, have rallied in protests, only to be silently whisked away by police. A brief news report tells of an old man from a neighboring village who sits by Zeugma as the water rises and sings a threnody, a death song telling his imaginings of the thriving city that once had been. That is humanity; so sings a father; so weeps a man.

The dam was denounced as ridiculous from the beginning, but pushed by the US government to shore up support in Turkey for the now increasingly questioned Iraq war. People who have called for government to seize control of all archeological and ecological matters from private hands as unreliable, suddenly defend the dam with references to progress and social efficiency, like crazed capitalists from a Dickens' story, or a bad Soviet novel. Above all, the press has treated the story as a little silly, running buffoonish interviews with the dam director, and maintaining a posture that such things are best left, not to archeological experts, but surely government ones. A web search turns up little, as if the press too were speaking from underwater.

The common law position on these things is simple – respect the graves and monuments of the dead. All things, all activity, must stop in reverence when such things are discovered, and in a libertarian society simple economic mechanisms would exist to insure for that, and trusts exist to gather and preserve these things. Libertarians study with great interest constitutional history; they understand that the past is the theater of things to come.

Libertarians and other lovers of Liberty understand property. The very term property means what is close to you. What closer than your parent's grave, and of their parents to distant time? Ancient authors tell us clearly that property began when men desired to stay in one place and preserve the artifacts and graves of their ancestors. Anthropologists in the Amazon have noted that tribes with little sense of property burn the dead and all their belongings. Engels was very explicit in tying property to the sense of family and individual preservation that he thought stood in the way of his plans. Conquerors have known that the greatest and simplest way to break the back of nations was to have them hang their writers and artists and desecrate their ancestral graves and buildings.

Critics of coercive government point to the myriad regulations that make it very difficult for a private entity trying to preserve an archeological find. A man in the US was recently prosecuted for trying to preserve dinosaur bones from government ruin; any American Indian will tell a tale of tears over government disrespect for their sacred lands and places of retreat. The problem is this: by definition only private entities and trusts can be held accountable for these things, and it is a snare and a delusion to believe that coercive governments can – protected by sovereign immunity and legal unaccountability – act with responsibility. And with their coercive resources, when a mistake is made, whole regions are destroyed, as this dam that floods a whole region parched by another dam. By setting these systems in motion, the result is an accident that was waiting to happen.

And thus what conquerors could not do to us with weapons, we allow to be done by indifferent decrees.

People live as dandelions on the earth. When their glory is done, they go in a moment's breeze. But memory is there if we preserve it, a trust from those who came before us for those of future times who even now gaze upon us in trust from their cribs. Gold and diamonds are tools, simply tools; but the wealth of memory from the past, that is something. In art, science, and simple daily artifacts – a coin some Caesar or Epictetus held, a forgotten manuscript, the mural in the study of an ancient thinker, a basin where a mother thousands of years ago bathed her little child in every hope – these are not antique junk or garbage, not some obstacle to Leviathan's progress.

They are a true inheritance that helps us stand proud in moments of defeat, wise and tall in moments of victory. Without these, you have no heritage that is psychologically yours; and liberty is not needed to preserve and extend a heritage you do not realize is there. How many people can name their great-grandfather and sing of his deeds? How many of us seek to do what our great-descendants will remember, even if it is only a letter or a thought that gives them strength. We are told in one breath that child-abuse is the worst thing, then claim fathers are not needed. But we do not live in an age of honoring the father. We talk of preservation like sentimental grannies, the object of our affection fuzzily seen and remembered in Alzheimer's. We grasp for a new Kodak Moment to preserve, and throw away the album bestowed by those who loved us.

This of our children, the politicians say. We should say to them, Let me tell you of a city of dreams lost, the city called Link, like Atlantis beneath the waves.

It was destroyed. But not by time.

Michael Gilson De Lemos, known as MG, is Coordinator of the Libertarian International Organization. He believes with Jefferson that, along with Gibbon, Cicero and Tacitus should be read by all grade-schoolers. In Latin.