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choosing tyranny

Kenneth Pike, professor of Philosophy and Law at Florida Institute of Technology recounts giving a lecture in which he compared the political philosophies of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. At the conclusion of the lecture he asked students which seemed worse: tyranny or anarchy. In the discussion a consensus began to gel around anarchy being preferable over tyranny; anarchy affords greater personal freedom and, therefore opportunity for improvement.

But then Tamara raised her hand. Tamara’s classmates mostly reflected middle-class post adolescent Americans of assorted races. But Tamara herself was conspicuously Muslim. “I’m from Iraq,” she told the class.

“Saddam Hussein was a tyrant. When I was little, I heard stories about girls disappearing from school and never coming home, but it was always someone else’s school. It never happened to anyone I knew, only to some friend’s friend or some cousin’s cousin.

“Sometimes it was scary, but life was mostly normal. We went to church and school. We talked to our neighbors. When Saddam Hussein was removed, there was anarchy for a while. No one went to school or church. My neighbors were killing each other over clean water. Things got better eventually, even better than when Saddam ruled.

“But if I had to choose between anarchy or tyranny for the rest of my life, I would choose tyranny.”

Professor Pike recalled how Tamara’s classmates became transfixed. Her personal experience breathed life into a philosophical discussion, transforming it from speculative hypotheticals into a real world problem carrying life and death consequences. Instead of defaulting to slogans or cliches, they began analyzing their presumptions—thinking more carefully and deeply. ~

Dan Nygaard