The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, has reinstituted Shira law in his largely Muslim country. Now, the likelihood a child could lose a hand for stealing an apple is real. Sex without a marriage license will carry the death penalty as will homosexual behavior. The weight of this law falls equally upon Muslims and non-Muslims and may ensnare a passing tourist.
I’m baffled that a man who has never known an ordinary life and whose position is an accident of birth, should be obeyed by anyone. Absent his money, he is a person like any other, except his privilege is unearned and allowed by people who are afraid or unwilling to question tradition. Wrap that tradition in the raiment of religion and the person’s power becomes exponentially unimpeachable. No one has the right to question god.
Naturally, rulers of countries and churches have long asserted their divine right. Those who accept that authority empty their minds and place themselves in a room with no exit. They will be told how to dress, what to eat, with whom to associate and what to think. Eventually, the pious lose all memory of freedom, a gift enjoyed by a lion, a mouse or a flatworm.
That the rich and powerful insist upon allegiance is mind-boggling enough. The greater wonder is that we common folk acquiesce. Centuries of history have taught us that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts, absolutely. In the end, those whom we allow to stand upon our shoulders presume they are better than us and act accordingly, often with unfathomable cruelty.
The rich and powerful are different from the rest of us. F.Scott Fitzgerald told us as much in his novel, The Great Gatsby. Science, following art’s lead, has proven this assertion to be true. Privileged people lose empathy, and their feelings of entitlement grow beyond normal proportion. Witness the recent college admission scandal, for example.
So, in the absence of death threats or fear of the loss of a hand, I ask again: why do common folk listen to the rich and famous or imagine they care a jot about the rest of us? Could it be we dream to become like them?