Friday, June 13, 2008

St. Augustine on Pirates

The renaissance of Issues, Etc. is taking its cyberplace at Pirate Christian Radio.

There are those who feel a bit squeamish about associating Christian radio with lawless rogues of the sea. We have yet to hear from the originators how they came to choose such a name for their endeavors. That leaves us, for the time being, to venture our own explanations. Here's the connection, however mythical, that I've chosen to impute. It has to do with an anecdote related by St. Augustine from Cicero's De Res Publica. This quote comes from Augustine's De Civitate Dei Book IV:

Chapter 4. How Like Kingdoms-Without-Justice are to Robberies.

"Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity.

"Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride:

"'What thou meanest by seizing the whole earth: but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, whilst thou who dost it with a great fleet art styled emperor.'"

You might be moved to check out the entire text of Augustine's De Civitate Dei -- though you may not make it to say all that you want.

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