I have been reading the Once and Future King by T.H. White. It tells stories about King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Throughout the book, it shows how Arthur comes to conceive of the idea of the Round Table, its purpose, and the need to fix its imperfections.
The Round Table idea does not make its appearance until the second part when Arthur explains Merlin’s purpose in his life. He discusses his idea of going against “Might is Right” by using “Might to serve Right”. The idea was to channel the urges of the Might to do good deeds and fight for justice. Here is basically the ideas of chivalry that we think of today. However, Arthur learns that as noble as his idea was, it wouldn’t last and instead become corrupted, so he needed something else.
Here are my thoughts on the whole issue. First, we should understand the duties of the two major categories reflected in the philosophizing. The purpose of the strong was to do what the weak could not. But as the strong began to abuse their might, it became a necessary duty for the strong to protect the weak. This leads to the primitive (and first purpose of) government. The duty of the weak, on the other hand, was to take care of strong in matters it could. This could range from the sciences or arts to nursing to philosophy to governing or tactics. While either side is technically capable of doing the other’s duty (especially nowadays thanks to machinery), this is how it was and, especially if a nation wanted to progress, needed to be.
The problem that King Arthur encountered was peace. The purpose of the Knights was to defeat the wicked tyrants and protect the innocent. However, after all of that had been accomplished, he was left with the Might but no way to channel them. For the Might, it had become a game but now nothing left to play. Sports only work so far, but it does not address the spirit as much as needed. He also concluded that using Might to force Right was not right. This led Arthur to decide that his knights needed to go on a spiritual quest, leading Lancelot to suggest searching for the Holy Grail.
Again, Arthur’s concept was noble and ideal, but the practice still failed. What ended up happening is that he would lose the best half of his knights. Those who were worthy to find the grail would stay there or die. However there are a few good who return. Lancelot was a far better man thanks to the quest. Unfortunately, the king’s enemy was peacetime still. His people had lost their morals due to peace and progress and had become interested in worldly things like clothes, gossip, and scandal. The remaining knights, with nothing left to fight for, would be fighting each other and breeding feuds, resorting back to murder.
So how does one govern a people in peacetime? That is a good question that will probably exist until the end of time. Even if the answer was found, putting it into practice would be difficult. Civil law was the next step in Arthur’s story, according to T.H. White (though realize he took quite a few literary liberties and changes, more obvious in the first part entitled The Sword in the Stone).
I think Arthur’s logic was sound when he suggested spiritual quests. Goals that had people aiming higher in morality. Unfortunately, those are quite impossible nowadays, or are they? I think today’s entertainment, if used rightly, can provide those goals for us. While the industry is filled with bad stuff, there is knowledge of success that it works. That story was called propaganda, used effectively during WWII though has a bad reputation in current times (due to extremists on both sides, like always). Anyways, I think video games are a good tool. Because video games can immerse the player in its world, it can create these noble adventures to inspire the people. That’s just one idea, though whether it will come to full fruition is another thing.
Now those who have read my other essay on Purposes of Government might ask if the government has a place in such a task. I think it is reasonable to argue that it does have a place, but it needs to stick to that place and cross no boundaries. It should encourage virtues and universal truths. While Separation of Church and State (the purpose of which is commonly misunderstood) is used to not advocate a specific religion, it does not mean that the State can’t acknowledge the truths in the various religions. Virtues such as Honesty, Kindness, and Perseverance are good things that should be encouraged. Good presidents have said so. Teddy Roosevelt said that that simply going to a church was beneficial in various ways that were not related to spiritual lives (found that in the Book of Virtues). When it crosses into controversial subjects, then there might be a problem because governments are fickle nowadays, especially with the changing of the guard every two-eight years. That’s why it needs to stick with the universal truths, the ones that are constant and worth dying for. If the government does not encourage the things that make a nation great, then it will surely fall.