The Conclave on Liberty Hill

When the Creator was convinced that his greatest creation, the planet Earth, was doomed, he decided to abandon it. After all, Preserving it was not really his forte and Destroying, it went completely against his nature. So he decided that he would go and make an even greater and more enduring creation somewhere else.

After sailing through the Cosmic Sea for some time, he settled on a particular location and built a new land. It was a rather large island with vast expanses of fertile lands, clear ponds, mulberry trees, rich vineyards, bamboo groves, fir woods and heather moors. In the centre, there was a tall hill with a flattened summit. The Creator then populated the land with humans, animals, birds and all other manners of living creatures. He then sat back to admire his work.

Just before he was about to give himself a self congratulatory pat-on-the-back and go for a long nap, he realised that he should do something to make this new creation last longer than his previous one. And so, he went through the Annals of Time and cherry-picked some of the greatest thinkers and philosophers of planet Earth and placed them on the tall hill. He then spoke to them:

"I want you folks to deliberate among yourselves and come up with a decent way to organise this new society. I understand that previously, the humans tore themselves and my planet apart. This time, I want this land to last longer. Build a society that won't destroy itself and will live forever."

Satisfied with his instructions, he went to sleep.

The people on the hill took two days to process what happened and got to work on the third day. They discussed and debated about Earth for a week and finally decided that inequality and oppression were the major problems that destroyed their old home. And so, "Freedom" they decided, would be the sacrosanct ideal on which the new society would be built upon. They named the hill they were discussing upon, "Liberty Hill" and began the conclave.

Someone said, "Democracy is the obvious option. If we are to create a society where a person can live as he pleases, where a person is not under the will or lawmaking authority of a single entity but rules himself as a part of a collective entity, then I see Democracy as the best option available."

Many nodded in assent. But a man named Plato stood up and expressed his disagreement. "Man living as he pleases? That is a ridiculous notion. Do you want to create a society where everyone goes about putting all their pleasures and appetites, whether necessary or indulgent, on an equal footing, dishonouring none but satisfying all of them equally? This life carries neither order, nor necessity and will absolutely not help in creating a long-lasting society. A man is truly free only when he is fulfilling his role to this new land to the best of his abilities."

"Oh really?" someone enquired. "Then how do you propose we organize this society?"

Plato responded, "Simple. The society shall be divided into classes and castes based on merit and will be ruled by the highest class...the philosopher, who are firmly grounded on wisdom and reason and are free from the bonds of desire and personal ambition. We will rule

the humans down there, dedicated to establishing only the Good in the society. Wouldn't that be a beautiful sight? All classes working together harmoniously to preserve this society?"

Some members of the conclave agreed but many muttered angrily. Finally, John Locke spoke. "No. I do not see how a philosopher king can remain incorruptible. Furthermore, it goes against the state of nature - freedom. I believe that men living together according to reason, without a common superior with authority to judge between them, is properly the state of nature. And hence, I propose we establish a representative Government that is consented by the majority of the people. And if the Government abuses its trust and violates the people’s freedom rights, the people are entitled to rebel and replace that Government with another to whose laws they can willingly give their consent. This Democratic system will maintain the state of nature and in my opinion, is the best form of organising this society."

This was accepted overwhelmingly by the conclave. But a man named Jean-Jaques Rousseau had other ideas. "The moment a people allows itself to be 'represented' by a Government, it is no longer free - it no longer exists. And if you say that without a big representative Government, a society cannot exist, then I heartily disagree. Our society can exist as a confederation of small cities, with each city functioning as a small Government. In each city, the people decide and deliberate on policies without any intermediary. They will together decide on the appropriate quality of products. They will together decide the prices of services such as medicine. They will together decide on how to maintain their welfare. This is the appropriate blueprint for a free society."

Now the conclave was divided. There were merits to both Locke's and Rousseau's ideas. As the thinkers were debating amongst themselves, a woman who called herself Ayn Rand stood up and spoke. "Why do we need some collective entity - some "Government" - to make our decisions? Freedom is the fundamental requirement of man’s mind. A free mind does not work under compulsion. It does not subordinate its grasp of reality to anyone’s orders, directives, or controls. It does not sacrifice its knowledge, its view of the truth, to anyone’s opinions, threats, wishes, plans, or ‘welfare.’ In a free society, it's the customers - not the government - that regulate product quality by their choices to buy or not buy. It's the doctors - not the government - that decides what services to offer, to what patients, and at what prices. It's the individuals who are responsible for saving for retirement. It is not a government we need. It is the right to have free minds. It is from the work and the inviolate integrity of such minds - from the intransigent innovators - that all of mankind’s knowledge and achievements come from. It is to such minds that society owes its existence and endurance."

As the thinkers were considering this new line of reasoning, a man huffed. During his time on planet Earth, the world knew him as Karl Marx. He said, "Freedom is the right and capacity of 'all' people to determine their own actions, in a community which is able to provide for the full development of human potentiality. Only in a community, each individual has the means of cultivating his gifts in all directions and therefore,only in a community is personal freedom possible. In the society you advocate for, Rand, only a select few can enjoy real freedom. Those who have no means of living other than selling their labour and life may have freedoms, but their opportunities are always restricted. It is true that a society that ensures freedom to 'all' may restrict certain freedoms to others. But you see, the development of real freedom always and everywhere means the restriction of the freedom of others to oppress and do wrong. Freedom for the vast majority necessarily means restriction of the freedom of a small minority to exploit others and destroy nature and society."

The thinkers took this in and began quarrelling again until another man stood up and walked to the centre. His name was Gautama Buddha. He spoke in a calm and serene voice. "There is merit in what all of you said. Plato's idea of moral and selfless philosopher kings, Locke's ideas of a majoritarian government and the people's right to rebel, Rousseau's idea of a small democratic city, Rand's idea of a free mind and Marx's emphasis on freedom for 'all' and the community. But I believe that freedom begins with generosity, which leads to moral living, which in turn leads to mindfulness. This is what creates true freedom and happiness. We need to create a society in which all people let go of their material desires and lead a moral life dedicated to pursuing their freedom and happiness. No system of government is perfect. But Democracy seems to be closest to our essential human nature. And so I believe that we must organize our society in democratic way that espouses all the above ideas. The society should be composed of small and democratic cities where the people can deliberate and govern themselves. The people of these cities should have the right to rebel and depose their Governments if their freedoms are violated. Every single person should have the right to develop himself to his fullest potential and have a free mind. And most importantly, the people should live moral and selfless lives, free of unnecessary material desires, thereby becoming philosopher kings of their own."

The thinkers and philosophers discussed among themselves and came to the conclusion that this was a reasonable compromise. With a vote, they unanimously approved the proposal and walked down the hill to let the people know the outcome of their conclave and begin the preparations required to build this new society. A society where everyone will be free and equal. A society that will not tear itself apart like the older one. A society that will hopefully endure by the time the Creator wakes up from his sleep.

Writer: Sai Reddy

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