In T. H. White’s novel, The Once and Future King, the wizard Merlyn lives backwards in time. In the twelfth century, when he advises the young King Arthur and his foster brother Kay, he is an old man who remembers the twentieth century, when he was young. From the book:
Kay looked up, with his tongue between his teeth, and remarked:
“By the way. You remember that argument we were having about aggression? Well, I have thought of a good reason for starting a war.”
“I would like to hear it.”
“A good reason for starting a war is simply to have a good reason! For instance, there might be a king who had discovered a new way of life for human beings — you know, something which would be good for them. It might even be the only way of saving them from destruction. Well, if the human beings were too wicked or too stupid to accept his way, he might have to force it on them, in their own interests, by the sword.”
The magician clenched his fists, twisted his gown into screws, and began to shake all over.
“Very interesting,” he said in a trembling voice. “Very interesting. There was just such a man when I was young — an Austrian who invented a new way of life and convinced himself that he was the chap to make it work. He tried to impose his reformation by the sword, and plunged the civilized world into misery and chaos. But the thing which this fellow had overlooked, my friend, was that he had had a predecessor in the reformation business, called Jesus Christ. Perhaps we may assume that Jesus knew as much as the Austrian did about saving people. But the odd thing is that Jesus did not turn the disciples into storm trooper, burn down the Temple at Jerusalem, and fix the blame on Pontius Pilate. On the contrary, he made it clear that the business of the philosopher was to make ideas available, and not to impose them on people.”
I know we could never get George W. Bush to read a big thick book like this. But I wish we could get some studio to do a faithful animated version of the whole book and put it on a DVD for him to watch sometime when he doesn’t feel like working.