Human Rule Weighed in the Balances
Part 9—Human Rule Reaches Its Climax!
Supranational political systems: empires, leagues, confederations, or federations formed between nation-states on either a temporary or a permanent basis in pursuit of common goals transcending national boundaries, authority, or interests.
OCTOBER 5, 539 B.C.E., found the city of Babylon in a festive mood. A thousand top governmental officials had accepted an evening invitation from King Belshazzar. Although menaced by the besieging forces of the Medes and the Persians, Belshazzar and his fellow politicians were not disturbed. After all, the city walls were impregnable. There was no immediate cause for fear.
Then, without warning, in the midst of the festivities, the fingers of a disembodied human hand began writing ominous words across the palace wall: MENE, MENE, TEKEL and PARSIN. The king’s knees began to tremble, and he grew pale.—Daniel 5:5, 6, 25.
Daniel, an Israelite and a worshiper of the God for whom Belshazzar and his governmental colleagues were showing contempt, was called upon to explain. “This is the interpretation,” Daniel began, “MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and has finished it. TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and have been found deficient. PERES, your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.” The prophecy certainly bode no good. In fulfillment, “in that very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed.”—Daniel 5:26-28, 30.
Overnight, one form of human rule was replaced by another! In view of recent similar political upheavals in Eastern Europe, we may wonder if what happened to Belshazzar could have meaning for our day. Could this portend something for human rule in its entirety? We have every reason to give this serious thought, because “entire civilizations do perish,” says Columbia University professor Jacques Barzun, adding: “The tremendous endings of Greece or Rome are not a myth.”
Humans have devised every conceivable kind of government. After thousands of years of trial and error, what are the results? Has human rule been satisfactory? Can it provide solutions for mankind’s mounting problems?
A partial answer is given by Bakul Rajni Patel, director of a top research center in Bombay, India. Accusing politicians of “absolute hypocrisy,” she says: “It is fashionable in India and other Third World nations for leaders to stand up on platforms and let forth rousing rhetoric about ‘development’ and ‘progress.’ What development and progress? Who are we fooling? You only have to look at the horrible statistics relating to the Third World: 40,000 children die every day from preventable illnesses.” She adds that at least 80 million children are malnourished or go to bed hungry every night.
‘But just a minute,’ you may protest. ‘At least give politicians credit for trying. Some type of government is necessary if the serious problems facing the world today are to be solved.’ True, but the question is: Should it be a man-made government or should it be one made by God?
Do not dismiss this question as being naive, thinking, as many people do, that God chooses to remain uninvolved. Pope John Paul II evidently also thinks that God has left it up to humans to rule themselves as best they can, since while visiting Kenya some ten years ago, he said: “An important challenge for the Christian is that of the political life.” He continued: “In the state citizens have a right and duty to share in the political life. . . . It would be a mistake to think that the individual Christian should not be involved in these areas of life.”
Humans, proceeding on this theory, and often with religious backing, have long searched for perfect government. Every new kind of government has been accompanied by grand promises. But even the best-sounding promises strike a discordant note when not kept. (See “The Promises Versus the Realities” on page 23.) Clearly, humans have not achieved ideal government.
Did nuclear scientist Harold Urey have the answer? He contended that “there is no constructive solution to the world’s problems except eventually a world government capable of establishing law over the entire surface of the earth.” But not everyone is so sure that this would work. In the past, effective cooperation among members of international bodies has been practically unattainable. Note an outstanding example.
After World War I, on January 16, 1920, a supranational organization, the League of Nations, was established with a membership of 42 countries. Rather than being structured as a world government, it was intended to be a world parliament, designed to promote world unity, chiefly by settling disputes between sovereign nation-states, thus preventing war. By 1934 membership had grown to 58 nations.
The League, however, was founded on shaky ground. “The First World War had ended on a note of high expectations, but disillusionment was not long in coming,” explains The Columbia History of the World. “The hopes centering on the League of Nations proved illusory.”
On September 1, 1939, World War II began, plunging the League into a pit of inactivity. Although not formally dissolved until April 18, 1946, it died, to all intents and purposes, as a “teenager,” not even 20 years old. Before its official burial, it had already been replaced by another supranational organization, the United Nations, formed on October 24, 1945, with 51 member states. How would this new girding attempt fare?
A Second Try
Some people say that the League failed because it was defective in design. Another view places the main blame not on the League but on the individual governments that were reluctant to give it proper support. No doubt there is some truth in both views. At any rate, the founders of the United Nations tried to learn from the ineffectiveness of the League and to remedy some of the weaknesses the League had manifested.
Writer R. Baldwin calls the United Nations “superior to the old League in its capacity to create a world order of peace, cooperation, law, and human rights.” Of a truth, some of its specialized agencies, among them WHO (World Health Organization), UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), and FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), have pursued commendable goals with a measure of success. Also seeming to indicate that Baldwin is correct is the fact that the United Nations has now been operating for 45 years, over twice as long as the League.
A major UN accomplishment was in the hastening of decolonization, at least making “it slightly more orderly than it would have been otherwise,” according to journalist Richard Ivor. He also claims that the organization “helped limit the cold war to the battleground of rhetoric.” And he praises the “pattern of global functional cooperation” that it helped produce.
Of course, some argue that the threat of nuclear warfare did more to prevent the Cold War from heating up than did the United Nations. Rather than keeping the promise embodied in its name, the uniting of nations, the reality is that this organization has often done nothing more than serve as a middleman, trying to keep disunited nations from flying at one another’s throats. And even in this role of referee, it has not always been successful. As author Baldwin explains, like the old League, “the United Nations is powerless to do more than an accused member state graciously permits.”
This less-than-wholehearted support on the part of UN members is at times reflected in their unwillingness to provide money to keep the organization operating. The United States, for example, withheld its dues from FAO because of a resolution considered critical of Israel and pro-Palestinian. Later, this major UN financial backer agreed to pay enough to retain its vote but still left more than two thirds of the debt unpaid.
Varindra Tarzie Vittachi, a former deputy director of UNICEF, wrote in 1988 that he refuses “to join the general lynching party” of those who disavow the United Nations. Calling himself “a loyal critic,” he admits, however, that a widespread attack is being made by people who say that “the United Nations is a ‘light that failed,’ that it has not lived up to its own high ideals, that it has not been able to carry out its peacekeeping functions and that its development agencies, with a few noble exceptions, have not justified their existence.”
The chief weakness of the United Nations is revealed by author Ivor, when he writes: “The UN, whatever else it can do, will not abolish sin. It can make international sinning rather more difficult, however, and it will make the sinner more accountable. But it has not yet succeeded in changing the hearts and minds either of the people who lead countries or of the people who make them up.”—Italics ours.
Thus, the defect in the United Nations is the same as the defect in all forms of human rule. Not one of them is capable of instilling within people the unselfish love for right, the hatred for wrong, and the respect for authority that are prerequisites to success. Think of how many global problems could be alleviated if people were willing to be guided by righteous principles! For example, a news report about pollution in Australia says that the problem exists “not through ignorance but through attitude.” Calling greed a fundamental cause, the article says that “government policy has exacerbated the problem.”
Imperfect humans simply cannot form perfect governments. As writer Thomas Carlyle noted in 1843: “In the long-run every government is the exact symbol of its people, with their wisdom and unwisdom.” Who can argue against logic like that?
“Be Shattered to Pieces!”
Now, during the 20th century, the climax of human rule has been reached. Human governments have schemed to form the most brazen and defiant conspiracy against divine rule that has ever existed. (Compare Isaiah 8:11-13.) They have done so, not once, but twice, creating first the League of Nations and then the United Nations. Revelation 13:14, 15 calls the result “the image of the wild beast.” That is fitting because it is an image of the entire human political system of things on earth. Like a wild beast, elements of this political system have preyed upon earth’s inhabitants and caused untold misery.
The League ended in disaster in 1939. The same fate awaits the United Nations in fulfillment of Bible prophecy: “Gird yourselves, and be shattered to pieces! Gird yourselves, and be shattered to pieces! Plan out a scheme, and it will be broken up!”—Isaiah 8:9, 10.
When will this final shattering of “the image of the wild beast,” along with the system of human rule it reflects, occur? When will Jehovah end the human rule that challenges his sovereignty? The Bible gives no set date, but Bible prophecy and world events say: ‘Very soon.’—Luke 21:25-32.
The handwriting on the wall is there to be seen by all who care to look. As surely as Belshazzar’s kingdom was weighed in the balances and found deficient, just that surely has human rule in its entirety been judged and found wanting. It tolerates political corruption, provokes wars, promotes hypocrisy and selfishness of every kind, and neglects to provide its supporters with adequate housing, food, schooling, and medical care.
When human rule goes, it will go, as it were, in one night. Here today, gone tomorrow—replaced by God’s Kingdom, perfect government at last!
[Box on page 23]
The Promises Versus the Realities
Anarchies promise unlimited, absolute freedom; the reality is that without government there is no framework of regulations or principles within which individuals can cooperate for mutual benefit; unlimited freedom results in chaos.
Monarchies promise stability and unity under the rule of a single regent; the reality is that human regents, of limited knowledge, hampered by human imperfections and frailties, perhaps even moved by wrong motives, are themselves mortal; any stability and unity are therefore short-lived.
Aristocracies promise to provide the best in rulers; the reality is that they rule because they have wealth, a certain blood descent, or power, not necessarily because they have wisdom, insight, or love and concern for others; the inadequate ruler of a monarchy is simply replaced by the multiple rulers of an elite aristocracy.
Democracies promise that all the people may decide for the benefit of all; the reality is that citizens lack both the knowledge and the pure motives necessary to make consistently right decisions for the common good; democracy was described by Plato as “a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.”
Autocracies promise to get things done and to do so without undue delay; the reality is, as journalist Otto Friedrich writes, that “even the best-intentioned men, once they enter the jungle of power politics, have to confront the necessity of directing actions that they would, in normal circumstances, be inclined to call immoral”; thus “good” autocrats turn into power-driven rulers willing to sacrifice the needs of their citizens on an altar of personal ambition or expediency.
Fascist governments promise to control the economy for the common good; the reality is that they do so none too successfully and at the cost of personal liberty; by glorifying war and nationalism, they create political monstrosities like Italy under Mussolini and Germany under Hitler.
Communist governments promise to create a Utopian, classless society with citizens enjoying complete equality before the law; the reality is that classes and inequalities still exist and that corrupt politicians fleece the common man; the result has been widespread rejection of the communist concept, with its strongholds threatened with breakup by nationalistic and separatist movements.
[Box on page 23]
About the United Nations
▪ The UN currently has 160 members. The only countries of any size that do not yet belong are the two Koreas and Switzerland; a Swiss plebiscite held in March 1986 rejected membership by a 3 to 1 margin.
▪ Besides its main organization, it operates 55 additional special organizations, special agencies, human rights commissions, and peace-keeping operations.
▪ Every member nation is granted one vote in the General Assembly, yet the most populous nation, China, has about 22,000 inhabitants for every one inhabitant of the least populated member, St. Kitts and Nevis.
▪ During the celebration of the United Nations International Year of Peace in 1986, the world experienced 37 armed conflicts, more than at any time since the end of World War II.
▪ Of all UN member nations, 37 percent have fewer citizens than does the united international “nation” of Jehovah’s Witnesses; 59 percent have fewer citizens than the number of persons who this year attended the Memorial celebration of Christ’s death.
[Pictures on page 24]
It has been beyond the power of imperfect humans to provide perfect government
League of Nations