I’m quite enjoying my time off. I decided not to work this summer, not to work for money, that is! I am putting together the courses I will teach this fall. It is quite a lot of work, the way I do it anyway. I’m reading dozens of books, short stories, poems and plays and making study guides.
I teach by theme. One of the themes is “Love and Loyalty.” Of course, for love we will be studying Romeo and Juliet. Grade 9’s always ask why Shakespeare? I tell them, “Would you study basketball without looking at Michael Jordon, or hockey without studying Gretzky?” The Bard is the master of English Language. His themes are relevant and timeless. But the Elizabethan language can be a challenge and sometimes I wonder if it’s really worth the work for grade 9’s.
The concept of loyalty and allegiance is quite intriguing. I think that loyalty is the only way that individuals can gain power in our society. A leader has the allegiance of his/her followers. Giving allegiance is binding yourself to a course of action, the leaders course of action. In doing so, you give your strength to the other–for his/her purpose. A leader must pass many tests, and conquer many challenges in order to gain the allegiance of the “group”. There is always a rival who tries to steal the power of the leader in order to gain his/her power. This rival usually preys on the stragglers and weaker members first, moving up the ranks as he gains more and more followers, more and more strength. Often, the conflict must be ended by a duel, a gunfight, or a war between the two rivals. (Or, in the case of Christ, the defeat of the enemy through defeating the power of death!) We like those who represent the common good to win, but this is not always the case. This theme is common in Westerns, such as Owen Wister’s The Virginian and pirate books, like Treasure Island. In The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn earns the respect of the fellowship and takes his rightful place as King, someone interested in the common good, as opposed to Sauron who wants to rule over the earth at the expense of everyone and everything.
Misplaced loyalty is a loyalty to someone or something that rivals the common good. Usually cowards and people with a high greed-factor bind their allegiance to a rival who wants to use power for personal gain rather than the common good. For example, in The Virginian the cow thief wants the allegiance of the men so that he can use their strength to get richer, and to help him get away with his crimes.
There are examples in history of misplaced loyalty as well. Why did Hitler get away with killing so many people for so long? Why didn’t those who were close to him do something to stop him? Yes, they were loyal. But loyalty is not always a good thing. Wacko Jacko has quite a loyal following as well. Certainly, greed must be a factor in their loyalty. Dallas suggests that the Shoguns of Japan had a misplaced loyalty to their lifestyle and philosophy. They wanted to isolate themselves from the rest of civilization. As a result, they had a weak military. They were left behind in the industrial revolution. An interesting point; however, one could argue that their lifestyle was more earth-friendly and sustainable. Dallas concedes. The Shoguns ruled a very stable society. Their ignorance of technological advancements, however, made them helpless against the Americans when they demanded that Japan open their country to trade with other nations. So, the question is, should one continue to advance in an unsustainable, technological, earth-threatening global economy so that the common good is served? Must a country continue to advance, at the expense of stability and sustainability, so there can be a strong rival to the greedy, capitalistic leader of the Western world? OOPs I’ve made us the bad guys in this scenario. If the shoe fits…?
Loyalty is one of the many examples of a concept that is, in itself, neither good nor evil. The question must always be asked, “To what course of action am I giving my strength?” Those who are already in power are not always committed to the common good. Is the Supreme Court and their interpretations of the Charter of Rights committed to the common good of Canadians? (The Supreme Court does seem to be ruling Canada!) The Gomery inquiry will soon tell us whether or not our money was used by the Federal government to buy favours. Were these favours for the common good? Does spending 32 million dollars of our money, to inquire into the liberal governments conduct, benefit Canadians? What about our role in the global world? Are Canadians looking to ensure the common good or our own wealth? ( The Common-Wealth?) On a personal level, whose purposes are we serving in our daily lives?
As a Christian, it is good to know that my first allegiance, my loyalty, my strength is bound to the actions and purposes of God. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I seek God’s wisdom as to how I should place my vote, should an election arise. I try to ensure that my loyalties remain with those who are committed to the common good.