Ettiene de la Boetie’s discourse
On Voluntary ServitudeIt is 4th of February 2007, and its Sunday, the day of the week when one’s liberty is at its peak and I choose to read The Politics of Obedience: Discourse of Voluntary Servitude by Ettiene de la Boetie. It was first published in 1574; later the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy incorporated the ideas in his work. We saw the practical illustration of this discourse when Mahatma Gandhi emancipated thousands of Indians from the British rule. There has to be some substance in this discourse that guided these great figures, and one might reconsider whom one subjugates to.
It was more that 400 years ago when this discourse was written. Most of us may not know that the seeds of liberty were sown 4 centuries ago and not when a country was put under dominance. They just waited to be ripened, and even as we enter the 21st century we realize that the seeds are not yet fully grown. We definitely enjoy more liberty but many don’t; we live in an unbalanced world where liberty is still a matter of choice and not a natural condition. But, what was stated in that discourse still remains a fact today – it is all about will-power that keeps us free; decline to obey and you are free.
The Discourse contains readily acceptable points. Let us not forget that it was written in the 16th century when slavery and servitude was what people were put under by the tyrants.
The tyrants are weak, and they rule by power relinquished by his subjects . We all are born free – it is a natural condition, but we are inclined to live by our wont, training. There are, however, people who rise against slavery and cannot be tamed or enslaved, and they are the ones that keep on reminding us the power of liberty. Tyrants enter the power by force or birth or election, and people are enslaved by either force or deception. It emphasizes that they have no power than the power people give them. Men are, however, not willing to fight for their liberty, thereby losing valor, and continue to live in lamentation of their lost freedom than in enjoyment of their servitude. He says that men who give support to the tyrants (the right-hands) live by conspiracy not companionship; they ave no affection and fear holds them always; they are not friends but accomplices. Friendship exists when one is convinced of other’s integrity. We must all learn to claim our liberty.
You can read the discourse here.