L. Neil Smith's
Number 317, May 1, 2005

"May Day! May Day!"

Some of Them Will be Your Enemies
by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

Over the past few days there's been a lot of talk on the Internet—even on the libertarian mailing list in which I participate—contrasting the new Pope, Benedict the XVI, with the old Pope, John Paul II.

The overall impression most people seem to have is that the old Pope was a kindly and understanding fellow who made a few illiberal errors here and there during his time, like refusing to sanction marriage for priests, ordination of women, homosexuality, and worst of all—from the standpoint of the left-leaning mass media—failing to embrace so-called "liberation theology", a radical mix of Marxism and Roman Catholicism once prevalent among the priesthood in Central America.

By comparison, according to the common wisdom, the new Pope—a German, and therefore a Nazi until he proves otherwise—will be a strident martinet, chastising the faithful for entertaining new ideas, and generally tending to resurrect the Grand Inquisition of which, under a different name, of course, he was the head for a couple of decades.

Before I go further, be it known by all and sundry that I've been an atheist since I was eight years old and discovered that the whole idea of a god is ... well, just silly. That's the entirety of my theology, and I've never felt that the subject merits any further consideration.

I also disagree—vehemently in most cases—with just about everything that the Roman Catholic Church represents, stands for, and teaches. Nevertheless, I've studied all religions a good deal, in an attempt to understand my fellow human beings—most of whom seem to believe they're important for some reason—and somewhere along the line, at about the time I first read Morris West's 1963 novel The Shoes of the Fisherman, even acquired a perverted interest in Vatican politics.

The first thing to understand about all this is that the late Pope John Paul II and the new Pope Benedict XVI were ideological twins. In their own terms, they were fighting on the bright side of the Force. They both believed in exactly the same principles, and they both strove to uphold them in the face, not only of the Church's foes, but of hordes of weak-spined allies, who can do one far more damage than one's worst enemies, as I've been at pains to point out from time to time.

I appreciate this especially because, all my life in the movement, some forty-three years, so far, there has never been any lack of halfwits, cowards, and four-flushers begging—or demanding—that I "tone it down", that I compromise (or at least appear to) with those who oppose me, or try not to frighten the people I seek to inform. Unfortunately, I've found it's sometimes the only way you can educate them.

On occasion it has occurred to me to wonder whether individuals who can be frightened by the truth are worth trying to educate, but that's a topic for another time, I suppose, and once again, I have digressed.

A case in point is my absolute insistence that the Zero Aggression Principle—that nobody has a right to initiate force against another human being for any reason—is what defines both libertarianism and libertarians. Many short-sighted individuals—as well as those who stand to gain in some way by shucking the movement's one and only core belief—have wanted me to give up that idea, and even to stop using the word "libertarian", for various reasons that seemed good or sufficient or expedient to them. And stupid or wishy-washy or corrupt to me.

But I have never wavered and I never will.

Because of that, no matter how strongly I may disagree with them, I can respect guys like Karol Wojtyla and Joseph Ratzinger, both of whom have refused to waver in what they believe. As most of my readers know, I am greatly in favor of abortion. I believe that homosexuals have exactly the same rights I do. And to borrow a line from Rod Steiger (playing the Mayor of New York in The January Man [DVD or VHS]), I don't give a rusty fuck what sex the idiot may be who's declaiming from the pulpit. But if I were a Roman Catholic, I'd want my leaders to stand firm in their convictions—which, of course, would be my own, as well.

Hell, I'd probably be a member of Opus Dei.

Make no mistake: all religions, in my view, are equally stupid, crazy, and/or evil. The fact is, I've spent most of my adult life in mortal combat with their bloody and sickening effects on humanity and the world. But as Brian Keith put it—playing Theodore Roosevelt in The Wind and the Lion [DVD or VHS] —if you aspire to greatness, you have a narrow, crooked path to climb, mostly in the dark. Here and there, your way will be lighted by other great men, some of whom will be your enemies.

The man I used to call the Holy Polack was a bright light in the darkness and a worthy enemy. Benny the Pope—the previous Pope's ideological advisor and hit-man—shows every sign of being much the same.

I can live with that.

ATTENTION AGENTS, PRODUCERS, DIRECTORS, EDITORS, and all interested parties: L. Neil Smith's novel CERES is now available to option as a motion picture project, as a stand-alone work, or as the conclusion to the epic Ngu Family Trilogy. Address serious inquiries to the author at lneil@lneilsmith.org.

Three-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith is the author of 24 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collection of articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at www.lneilsmith.org. Autographed copies may be had from the author at lneil@lneilsmith.org.

Neil is presently working on Ares, another sequel to his 1993 novel Pallas and the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Trilogy, on a decensored and electronically published version of his 1984 novel, Tom Paine Maru, and on Roswell, Texas, with Rex F. "Baloo" May. The stunning 185-page full-color graphic novel version of The Probability Broach, featuring the art of Scott Bieser and published by BigHead Press may be had through Laissez-Faire Books Amazon.com.


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