I have previously written about the Spanish Civil War, through the eyes of José Maria Gironella and his novel, “The Cypresses Believe in God.” I am now reading the second installment of his trilogy, “One Million Dead.”
I have only started the novel; I have come across a very good passage – a statement by Ignacio, oldest son of Matías Alvear and his wife Carmen Elgazu. The statement is made to David and Olga – his teachers during high school, and a married couple with whom Ignacio had at one time become quite close. As background, from my post on the first novel:
Gironella describes the activities of the private teachers – David and Olga – socialists with a vision of indoctrination for schoolchildren. In the fragmenting and rebuilding of society, they find an uneasy home with the communist Republicans.
David and Olga have taken sides with the reds – the communists. It is this side that overran Gerona in the wake of the coup – which failed in the region, although successful elsewhere. David and Olga have developed teaching methods – indoctrinations – which are seen as favorable by the communists, hence being placed in authority over the education methods in the district.
It is the communists that fired the bullet that took the life of César, Ignacio’s seminarian brother, in the first nights of the war. Ignacio held great love for his brother, whose attitude to life can be best summarized in a statement he made in the past to Ignacio: “What gives me the greatest pleasure is to feel that I love.”
With this background out of the way, what is this passage so worthy of note, the statement by Ignacio to his former teachers David and Olga, teachers now affiliated with those who killed his brother and want to do the same to others close to Ignacio and his family?
“You’ve spent years laying down the rules in the district and almost throughout the city. Your attitudes are the law to many; they were to me in the past. So that if Olga strikes a nun in the Rambla, then poor Santi, and with him all the poor Santis in Gerona – and they are legion – automatically discovers not only that nuns can be slapped, but that it must be healthy to do it, a sign of security. And so the chain begins…”
The authority sets the example. The application to the envy and murder of the hearts of many people today can best be found in the following statement by Frédéric Bastiat, in the opening paragraph of “The Law”:
The law perverted! The law—and, in its wake, all the collective forces of the nation—the law, I say, not only diverted from its proper direction, but made to pursue one entirely contrary! The law become the tool of every kind of avarice, instead of being its check! The law guilty of that very iniquity which it was its mission to punish! Truly, this is a serious fact, if it exists, and one to which I feel bound to call the attention of my fellow citizens.
I know that teachers are not the same as monopoly law enforced by civil government. However, when individuals see behavior by those in authority that violates moral behavior (call it the non-aggression principle, if you wish), it is reasonable to expect that many will be swayed by such examples.
I need not provide examples, I think.