Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Meeting of the Minds

This was our history project which was presented on 29 May 2007

Goeller Confucius

Griffis Winston Churchill

Jiang Charlie Chaplin

Repetski Francisco Franco

Czaplyski Voltaire

Meeting of the Minds

//Scene starts in the non-decrepit, non-denominational afterlife which may or may not exist//

//CHAPLIN enters//

CHURCHILL. Ah, it would appear that we have a new arrival.

//all gather to greet CHAPLIN//

CONFUCIUS. Welcome, friend, to this politically correct, non-decrepit, non-denominational afterlife which may or may not exist. We're pleased to have you; I am K'ung-fu-zu, this, Sir Winston Churchill, this, Francois-Marie Arouet,

VOLTAIRE. Please, Voltaire.

CONFUCIUS. this, Francisco Paulino Hermenegildo Teodulo Franco Bahamonde.

FRANCO. Francisco Franco, sir.

//CHAPLIN shakes each man's hand in turn//

CHAPLIN. Charlie Chaplin, pleased to meet all of you.

CHURCHILL. Now, Mr. Chaplin,

CHAPLIN. Charlie, I insist.

CHURCHILL. please excuse me. Charlie, we were just discussing the finer points of politics. Now, Confucius here believes that, oh what was it again?

CONFUCIUS. The best government is one that rules through rites and people's natural morality, not through force. If the people be led by laws, and uniformity sought to be given them by punishments, they will try to avoid the punishment, but have no sense of shame. If they be led by virtue, and uniformity sought to be given them by the rules of propriety, they will have the sense of shame, and moreover will become good.

CHURCHILL. Which is all right and good, but I personally believe that politics is a nasty business, and there are many things that the people would be better off not knowing. And also, if there were a ruler who was perfectly virtuous, he would be unable to defend his country against other countries, and he would have no way of saving his people from themselves. A ruler first needs to be courageous. I personally believe that courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities, because it is the quality which guarantees all others. A ruler must also have foresight. A ruler needs to be able to foretell what will happen in the future and act upon it, and yet, if he were wrong, have the ability to explain afterwards why it didn't happen. Now, on that note, as an example, despite the controversy of the matter, I thought Benito Mussolini rendered the world a great service when he took over Italy. His fascism proved to be an excellent way to combat subversive forces, i.e., communism. Yours, too, actually, Franco.

FRANCO. Mussolini was a great man. Now, I got all my inspiration from the great Robert E. Lee. If I could grow a beard, I would. But Mussolini helped me out a lot in the Spanish Civil War. I remember it well: it was in the early days of the rebellion, and I had managed to win the support of the natives and their nominal authorities, as well as ensure control over the army. We had won control of the Spanish Moroccan Protectorate--a very important goal met--but I needed to move my troops to the Iberian Peninsula, and most of the Navy had stayed loyal to the republic, and were blocking the Straight of Gibraltar, so we couldn't get across. //grins// Heh, but when I asked Mussolini for help, he responded with an unconditional offer of arms and planes. He and Hitler also helped me plenty later--Mussolini ordered some 12,000 Italians of fully motorised units to Seville, and Hitler added them to a professional squadron from the Luftwaffe with about 24 planes--all painted with the Nationalist Spanish insignia, but flown by Germans and Italians. //grinning broadly// Allies are wonderful things, no?

CHURCHILL. //scowling// Indeed, though I would never choose to count Adolf Hitler among my allies. He was an infinitely wicked man whose insatiable actions all supported his own personal gain at the expense of others.

FRANCO. Hmph, well, I never said you had to like him. I said he was *my* ally, not yours.

CHAPLIN. Hitler was not right to rule his people the way he did.

FRANCO. //slightly angry// Oh? And how would you rule? By renouncing him, my former ally, do you renounce me? Do you support Churchill for his *democracy* that got hundreds of thousands of people killed in war?

CONFUCIUS. Don't be bashful, Charlie. The superior man is not ashamed to speak what he feels is the truth. To be fond of learning is to be near to knowledge. To practice with vigor is to be near to magnanimity. To possess the feeling of shame is to be near to energy.

CHURCHILL: I feel I must interject for the clarification of your impression of my view on democracy, I personally believe that democracy is one of the worst forms of government out there, that is, except for all of the other ones that we've tried. I am of the opinion that democracy is, in fact, one of the best ideas that we've come up with so far, but it is still not without its vices. That becomes painfully obvious with but the shortest conversation with the average democratic voter. This is not to say that I'm some sort of communist; I believe that the problem with democracy is the unequal sharing of wealth, which is small in comparison to the main problem with communism, which is the perfectly even distribution of miseries. But my point is that democracy favors people who can, in many instances, be very undeserving.

VOLTAIRE. In general, the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other.

FRANCO. Well, fine! But Charlie, I still want to know: were you and emperor, how would you rule?

CHAPLIN. I'm sorry, but I don't want to be an Emperor - that's not my business. I don't want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone, if possible -- Jew, gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another; human beings are like that. We want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's misery. We don't want to hate and despise one another. In this world there's room for everyone and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone.

The way of life can be free and beautiful.

But we have lost the way.

Greed has poisoned men's souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

CONFUCIUS. Well said, Charlie. I agree. The administration of government lies in getting proper men. Such men are to be got by means of the ruler's own character. That character is to be cultivated by his treading in the ways of duty. And the treading those ways of duty is to be cultivated by the cherishing of benevolence. If a man sets his heart on benevolence, he will be free from evil. An oppressive government is more to be feared than a man-eating tiger.

CHURCHILL. I am sorry, but I cannot pretend to feel impartial about colours. Whether painting or debating, I rejoice with the brilliant ones, and am genuinely sorry for the poor browns. And I believe that it was for the better that the red Indians of America and the black people of Australia were replaced by a higher grade race.

FRANCO. //grinning// What about Gandhi?

CHURCHILL. Mahatma Gandhi was a half-naked fakir who ought to have been laid, bound hand and foot, at the gates of Delhi and then trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new viceroy seated on its back.

CHAPLIN. Now really, I must protest to this outrage, Mr. Churchill! I met him once at the East End in a London Theatre. The minute I saw him, I knew why the multitudes had followed him. He was a paradox. Just picture it: this small Indian man dressed in a robe with the extremely astute mind of a lawyer. In many ways, he was the same as my trademark character, the Tramp. Therefore, I will not have you insult him!

CHURCHILL: You are entitled to your own viewpoints, however being English yourself you should recognize that some Indian fakir trying to use civil disobedience to parlay on equal terms with the representative of the King-Emperor is positively ridiculous. Mahatma Gandhi was a dangerous charlatan, and the British Empire should have crushed him when they had the chance.

VOLTAIRE. Such then is the human condition, that to wish greatness for one's country is to wish harm to one's neighbors.

CONFUCIUS. When one cultivates to the utmost the principles of his nature, and exercises them on the principle of reciprocity, he is not far from the path. What you do not like when done to yourself, do not do to others.

VOLTAIRE. On the subject, I think it is a serious question whether Africans are descended from monkeys or whether the monkeys come from them. Our wise men have said that man was created in the image of God. Now here is a lovely image of the Divine Maker: a flat and black nose with little or hardly any intelligence. If God has made us in his image, we have returned him the favor. A time will doubtless come when these animals will know how to cultivate the land well, beautify their houses and gardens, and know the paths of the stars: one needs time for everything.

And going back, I have to say that the Jewish nation dares to display an irreconcilable hatred toward all nations, and revolts against all masters; always superstitious, always greedy for the well-being enjoyed by others, always barbarous — cringing in misfortune and insolent in prosperity.

//CHAPLIN by now very upset//

CONFUCIUS. Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.

CHURCHILL: This is an incredibly delicate issue and I shall treat it as such. Though I may have other opinions, I believe that Jews, good or bad, are certainly a very interesting group of people. I find fascinating the magnitude of the struggle over good and evil that can be found in the Jews. For instance, it would seem that both the gospel of Christ and the gospel of the Antichrist are to originate from the same race. It seems, that the Jews have been chosen for the manifestation of both the divine and the diabolical. This however, is merely food for thought, and I mean no offense in what I have said, as I believe that Charlie you are Jewish, am I correct?

FRANCO. Oh, only a quarter, right?

CHAPLIN. I will neither refute nor challenge to these claims. //looks dirtily at VOLTAIRE// To do so, I know, would play directly into the hands of the anti-Semites. I am what I am: an individual, unique and different, with a lineal history of an ancestral promptings and urgings, a history of dreams, desires, and of special experiences, of all of which I am the sum total.

VOLTAIRE. //touches hat to CHAPLIN// Prejudice is an opinion without judgement.

FRANCO. //sarcastically// Well, *you've* certainly got a mind for tolerance.

VOLTAIRE. What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly — that is the first law of nature.

CONFUCIUS. We should not be ashamed of our mistakes and thus make them crimes. We may still strive for virtue. By a ruler's cultivation of his own character, the duties of universal obligation are set forth. By honoring men of virtue and talents, he is preserved from errors of judgment. He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star, which keeps its place when all the stars are rotating about it.

FRANCO. You speak of virtue as if it were as easy to come by as air.

CONFUCIUS. Is virtue remote? I wish to be virtuous, and lo! Virtue is at hand. The superior man governs men, according to their nature, with what is proper to them, and as soon as they change what is wrong, he stops.

FRANCO. I don't see you knowing very well how to govern. I became the youngest general in Spain in 1926. In '28 I was made director of the brand new Joint Military Academy to train all cadets. They proclaimed me Generali'simo and the Head of State in Spain in '36! I ruled all of Spain as a benevolent dictator for 36 years, starting in '39 and going 'till death, under which I managed to fuse the idealogically incompatible far-right national-syndicalist Falange political party with the Carlist monarchist parties, and *what,* exactly, have you done?

CONFUCIUS. Well, as a young man, I was a minor administrative manager in my home State of Lu, and at fifty-three, I rose to the position of Justice Minister. //scowl// Unfortunately, after two years of service, there was an *incident* with the "politics" of my Duke which I won't speak of, but which earned my disapproval, and my resignation.

FRANCO. And you wouldn't call yourself a quitter for that?

CONFUCIUS. The superior man exerts an honest, generous earnestness, in the esteem and practice of all propriety. Thus, when occupying a high situation he is not proud, and in a low situation he is not insubordinate. When the kingdom is well governed, he is sure by his words to rise; and when it is ill governed, he is sure by his silence to command forbearance to himself. In leaving my office, I set an example for those around me, that they should not support the Duke who so poorly ran the State. A good man does not give orders, but leads by example.

VOLTAIRE. Now, now, Confucius, don't worry. It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere. //FRANCO scowls// There are truths which are not for all men, nor for all times. And you should be careful: it is dangerous to be right in matters where established men are wrong. Besides, virtue debases itself in justifying itself. But you may know that I stand with you: Men are equal; it is not birth, but virtue that makes the difference.

CONFUCIUS. You are a good philosopher. Though I may not be overjoyed to know what the truth is, you seek it, as I do. They who know the truth are not equal to those who love it, and they who love it are not equal to those who delight in it.

CHURCHILL. I won't refute it, but I must insist that there are exceptions. In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.

FRANCO. I agree. Do what's necessary for the homeland.

CHAPLIN. I dislike war. Wars, conflict, it's all business. One murder makes a villain. Millions a hero. Numbers sanctify. Man as an individual is a genius. But men in the mass form the headless monster, a great, brutish idiot that goes where prodded. This idiot is like a nation at war.

CONFUCIUS. Well, if each individual were genius, then perhaps the war could at least be tactfully run. To lead uninstructed people to war is to throw them away. That waste would be a crime.

FRANCO. What if you were going to kill them anyway? I personally signed all death warrants in my country until the day I died. I'll tell you , there were plenty of them. People died for all sorts of things.

VOLTAIRE. To hold a pen is to be at war. As far as I know, we are all writers in some form or another, right? Confucius, you wrote your teachings for your disciples; Churchill, you wrote multitudes of articles for a variety of newspapers on a vast array of subjects in your day, from what you've told me; Charlie, you can write the most moving speeches for an actor; I've written plenty satirical works, much to my father's dislike--he wanted me to be a lawyer--and Franco, I can't imagine that you've never written anything in your life. All we can do is try to be happy.

CHAPLIN. How can you be happy if people are at war?

VOLTAIRE. I decided to be happy. I find it is excellent for one's health. In truth, we all look for happiness, but without knowing where to find it: like drunkards who look for their house, knowing dimly that they have one.

CHURCHILL. Hmm. I must confess that in that regard I am guilty. You shall never find me too far away from some good brandy, and I love a good cigar just as well.

CHAPLIN. I find smoking an abomination to one's health, and very seldom drink, myself.

CHURCHILL. I neither want brandy nor need it, but I should think it pretty hazardous to interfere with the ineradicable habit of a lifetime. And as for what will become of my health, in general, I am an optimist — it does not seem to be much use being anything else. Besides, my health is my business, it is my person that affects those around me, and quite frankly, there have been many despicable men in history who never even thought about drinks or smokes.

CONFUCIUS. The superior man is earnest in practicing the ordinary virtues, and careful in speaking about them. If, in his practice, he has anything defective, the superior man dares not but exert himself; and if, in his words, he has any excess, he dares not allow himself such license. Thus his words have respect to his actions, and his actions have respect to his words. Is it not just an entire sincerity which marks the superior man?

CHAPLIN. Well, as I've always said, a day without laughter is a day wasted. Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain.

FRANCO. That's the ticket. Trust that God will make everything turn out all right.

VOLTAIRE. Personally, I believe that to pray to God is to flatter oneself that with words one can alter nature.

CHURCHILL. So you don't believe in God? Finally, someone I can relate to. My already tarnished faith in God was forever lost when I read Winwood Reade's Martyrdom of Man. It left me with a rather sombre vision of a godless universe. I was aggressively anti-religious for a time, though I eventually adopted a more tolerant belief in the workings of some kind of divine providence.

VOLTAIRE. Man has had a long history with religion; all kinds of religions, and it has brought us thus far. Why, if the ancients did not fear the wrath of the divine, would they still have been virtuous? Would they have discovered medicine if they had not felt that, with the help of special herbs they could invoke the help of the gods? Would man have so respected water or fire had he known that they could be commanded without the help of heavenly beings? Quite honestly, Winston, if God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.

What I believe is that the Eternal has his designs from all eternity. If prayer is in accord with his immutable wishes, it is quite useless to ask of him what he has resolved to do. If one prays to him to do the contrary of what he has resolved, it is praying that he be weak, frivolous, inconstant; it is believing that he is thus, it is to mock him. Either you ask him a just thing, in which case he must do it, the thing being done without your praying to him for it, and so to entreat him is then to distrust him; or the thing is unjust, and then you insult him. You are worthy or unworthy of the grace you implore: if worthy, he knows it better than you; if unworthy, you commit another crime by requesting what is undeserved.

In a word, we only pray to God because we have made him in our image. We treat him like a pasha, like a sultan whom one may provoke or appease.

FRANCO. Well, at least you respect Him. You mentioned other religions before, though; I am glad to hear you say that *the* God is the one that would need inventing. He is the true God, the God which I worship under the Roman Catholic Church.

VOLTAIRE. You'll forgive me for saying so, but the agglomeration which was called and which still calls itself the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.

FRANCO. What have you got against the Holy Roman Empire? Against the Roman Catholic Church?!

VOLTAIRE. The superstition. Superstition is to religion what astrology is to astronomy, the mad daughter of a wise mother. These daughters have too long dominated the earth. It would do the human race an eternal service to extirpate this infamous superstition. All of Christianity, including Catholicism, is assuredly the most ridiculous, the most absurd and the most bloody religion which has ever infected this world. Indeed, where is the prince sufficiently educated to know that for seventeen hundred years the Christian sect has done nothing but harm? Is it any wonder that there are atheists in the world, when the church behaves so abominably?

FRANCO. Excuse me, sir! Are you *looking* for trouble?

CONFUCIUS. //warningly// When anger rises, think of the consequences. The superior man is satisfied and composed; the mean man is always full of distress.

VOLTAIRE. Why, I dare say no. But you see, here is the trouble: I offend you, and, were you still ruling a nation, you send your army out to attack me in my country, especially if I were the leader this other nation.

FRANCO. Actually, I'm much more of a Navy man, myself. My father, Nicolás Franco y Salgado-Araújo, was a Navy paymaster--very rude to my mother. Mom, too, María del Pilar Bahamonde y Pardo de Andrade, also came from a family with naval tradition. Even one of my brothers, Nicolas, became a navy officer and diplomat. I tried to follow my father, but the Naval Academy was closed from 1906, when I graduated, to 1913. Because of this, I did end up joining the army, but my family history lies on the sea. //bows head, hand over heart//

VOLTAIRE. Well, either way, seeing as neither case is true anymore, I see no problem in saying that, going back to just governments, or lack there of, formerly there were those who said: "You believe things that are incomprehensible, inconsistent, and impossible, only because we have commanded you to believe them; go then and do what is unjust because we command it." Such people show admirable reasoning. Truly, whoever is able to make you absurd is able to make you unjust. If the God-given understanding of your mind does not resist a demand to believe what is impossible, then you will not resist a demand to do wrong to that God-given sense of justice in your heart. As soon as one faculty of your soul has been dominated, other faculties will follow as well. And from this derives all those crimes of religion which have overrun the world.

CHURCHILL. I knew there was a reason why I didn't believe in religion. Why do people feel the need to argue, fight, and spill blood over something so trivial as their religious viewpoints? Christians, Catholics, Deists.... you all believe in the same God, right?

VOLTAIRE. //to CHURCHILL// Well, when it is a question of money, everybody is of the same religion.

CONFUCIUS. //forcefully// This is why you must not let any part of your soul be dominated. I don't know about your God, but the ancients who wished to illustrate illustrious virtue throughout the Kingdom, first ordered well their own states. Wishing to order well their states, they first regulated their families. Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their persons. Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectified their hearts. Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts. Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge. Such extension of knowledge lay in the investigation of things.

Things being investigated, knowledge became complete. Their knowledge being complete, their thoughts were sincere. Their thoughts being sincere, their hearts were then rectified. Their hearts being rectified, their persons were cultivated. Their persons being cultivated, their families were regulated. Their families being regulated, their states were rightly governed. Their states being rightly governed, the whole kingdom was made tranquil and happy.

From the Son of Heaven down to the mass of the people, all must consider the cultivation of the person the root of everything besides.

VOLTAIRE. Confucius, the secret of being a bore is to tell everything.

CONFUCIUS. Voltaire, silence is a friend who will never betray.

CHAPLIN. Though what you describe is admirable, it is too ideal to exist.

FRANCO. I myself am much more of a pragmatist than and idealist.

VOLTAIRE. The perfect is the enemy of the good. For those of us who try, but are not perfect, we must strive for what is realistic, but less than perfect. If the ideal is so very different from what is almost, then that ideality becomes the enemy. You must realize that the human race as a whole is flawed.

CONFUCIUS. I know that perfect is the virtue which is according to the Mean, though rare have they long been among the people, who could practice it! But better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without, I suppose.

CHAPLIN.h Exactly. In the past, there have been some benevolent dictators, but in general, oh, what's the saying? Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. There are exceptions, but in general, I don't challenge it. Dictators free themselves, but they enslave the people. Thankfully, the hate of men will pass and dictators die; and the power they took from the people will return to the people and so long as men die, liberty will never perish. We may all fight in the name of democracy, in the hopes that the greed and bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress may pass.

FRANCO. Ptuh. I'm insulted. Even Churchill likes my fascist government, and *he* ran a democracy. Really man, you should have taken over. People like you, right? Democracy is so overrated.

CHURCHILL: Didn't I say? The worst form of government except for all others yet tried? //To Franco// You yourself were not really the best of rulers. You did what it took to unite your country under one force. I believe that in your shoes I would have done the same thing. As I said earlier, a leader first needs courage, and frankly I have less support for the weak politicians who don't do anything except for kiss up to those more powerful than them. This, kissing up, this appeasement disgusts me. An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last. You did what you had to do, and a clever tyrant can do much more for the people than weak politicians disregarding the tyrant's vices. But despite this, I could never consciously take Great Britain back to the days of monarchy.

FRANCO. Hey. You yourself said that you supported my squash of communism, and I did reluctantly come to accept that, after my death in '75, Spain would start a process toward democracy. So long as it isn't communism, I'm okay. There will be no communism! Although, some people still believe that the government I overthrew in the Spanish Civil War, under Jose Calvo Solteo (yich!), was a democracy. //shakes head// Hmm, too bad. I bet they're the same people who still view me as a harsh dictator, rather than the strong leader who pacified Spain. I can't deny I like the latter better.

CONFUCIUS. By the ruler's cultivation of his own character, the duties of universal obligation are set forth. By honoring men of virtue and talents, he is preserved from errors of judgment.

VOLTAIRE. Unfortunately Charlie, clever tyrants are never punished. Your view of politics is also admirable, and slightly more realistic, but don't expect the entire world to follow democracy anytime soon. If you want good laws, burn those you have and make new ones.

FRANCO. Charlie, I thought you were a communist or something?

CHAPLIN. My prodigious sin was, and still is, being a non-conformist. Although I am not a Communist I refuse to fall in line by hating them.

CHURCHILL. Oh, please tell me you're joking! Socialism, and through it Communism, is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy! As I said before, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.

FRANCO. I agree. //glares at CHAPLIN// Communists should be crushed like worms.

CONFUCIUS. The Superior Man is all-embracing and not partial. And before you start: when embarking on the journey of revenge, dig two graves.

FRANCO. //glowers for a moment; light tone// On the other hand, Winston, you helped out the Soviets in WWII when Hitler invaded.

CHURCHILL. Let's put it this way: If Hitler invaded Hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons. The enemy of your enemy is your friend.

CHAPLIN. These debates are one reason why really, I am not a political man and I have no political convictions. I am an individual and a believer in liberty. That is all the politics I have. On the other hand I am not a super-patriot. Super-patriotism leads to Hitlerism - and we've had our lesson there. I don't want to create a revolution - I just want to create a few more films.

VOLTAIRE. Excellent philosophy. Opinions have caused more ills than the plague or earthquakes on this little globe of ours. We should all think for ourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too. What do you all say to a few rounds of Poker in the next room?

//general acknowledgement as they all trundle away to the next room//

//end scene//