Last Monday as I issued my Newsletter in a dark little ciber near the bustling outdoor market in Carranza an International Human Rights Observer from Maine sat next to me checking the news on her hometown newspaper's website. Suddenly she became excited. About a year ago she'd been arrested in Bangor for protesting the war in Iraq. Her group had expressed its opposition by refusing to leave a federal building at quitting time. After being arrested she and some others had paid their fine but six protestors chose to bring their case to court, arguing that they were obeying a higher law. Now a year later her friends had won their case. The jury had acquitted them.
Everyone had been surprised, including us, for it was clear that they'd really broken the law. Apparently the jury had been so disgusted with US foreign policy that they'd sided with the protesters.
Was this good or bad? A law clearly had been broken, so shouldn't laws be enforced? What if the jury had been composed of bigots considering charges against a minority member whom public opinion already had fingered as its scapegoat? Shouldn't honest interpretation of plainly written law guide court opinions, not people's moods and prejudices?
On the other hand, wasn't protesting an unjust war a responsibility of any good citizen?
Whenever I'm faced with such a conundrum I seek guidance in Nature.
First I reflected on what "higher law" the protestors might have been appealing to. I'm guessing that it was that no nation has a right to attack another that shows no sign of being a real danger to the first nation.
How high that "higher law" is, however, is debatable. In politics everything is seen through filters of biases arising from genetic and/or social preprogramming, past experience and even rational thought.
In contrast, in Nature we find the ultimate authority on how high "laws" are. That's because since the beginning of time the things of Nature have evolved in a certain way, and the general trends characterizing this evolution are obviously sound, since Nature has always hung together and continues doing so today. Nothing else in the Universe has such a track record.
Therefore, in Nature, is there some standard or principle to help me evaluate the soundness of the Bangor protesters' argument that they were obeying a "higher law?"
I think that there is. Consider the natural paradigm I've so often alluded to that "diversity is sacred." Here's how my thinking works:
Since one nation imposing its will on another lessens diversity of cultural expression, diversity of political organization, and diversity of philosophical orientation, then that imposition is inharmonious with the way Nature generally struggles toward diversity.
The same conclusion can be reached applying the natural paradigm of "really big things fracture into smaller parts," as demonstrated by our Bobwhite species breaking into several regional subspecies. Maybe Mother Nature thinks that if a country is big enough to start discretionary wars in somebody else's land, it needs some fracturing, and protests can be the beginning of that.
On the other hand, in Nature there's also the paradigm of "big fish eat smaller fish." Therefore, the Bangor protestors don't have all the paradigms of Nature on their side.
In the end, each person decides which set of paradigms he or she identifies most with.
Whichever choice is made, two things are clear: One, even ambiguous political questions become more solvable when we apply Nature-paradigm tests to them, and; two, you define yourself by which paradigms you regard as "highest."