Last summer I wrote a series of posts on Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, describing how Tolkien’s classic trilogy uses the ring as an allegory for the evils of government power; that is, a power unrestrained by natural law.
Here I continue my quest to destroy the ring, with a quotation from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
“It is hard to be sure of anything among so many marvels. The world is all grown strange… How shall a man judge what to do in such times?”
“As he ever has judged,” said Aragorn. “Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear. Nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man’s part to discern them…
Here, Aragorn is answering Eomer, who has caught Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli travelling in Rohan without permission.
And haven’t you heard something along the lines of, “well politics/ government is so screwed up, who can say what is right or wrong!?”
Right and wrong haven’t changed, and it doesn’t change when it involves government agents. It is wrong to steal, it doesn’t matter if you have a badge, or a job with the Internal Revenue Service. It is wrong to kill unprovoked, it doesn’t matter if you have a badge, or a job that offered you free college to do so.
“Well in a perfect world, your ideas about not needing government might work, but…” No. My ideas about rejecting the evils of government will make the world more perfect (but still not perfect, we won’t ever get there). It is about eliminating a double standard for behavior.
It is wrong to hurt others. All the confusion that Eomer is experiencing does not change that fact. And as Aragorn says, it will always be up to man to hold people accountable for their wrongs, to discern what is truly right. Just because it is sometimes hard to see, does not change the fact that there is a right and wrong.
But then Eomer brings up the law: technically, he is supposed to arrest Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli, and bring them to the King in order to hold them accountable for trespassing in Rohan without permission.
“But I do not doubt you… Yet I am not free to do all as I would. It is against our law to let strangers wander at will in our land…”
“I do not think your law was made for such a chance,” said Aragorn… “Aid us, or at worst let us go free. Or seek to carry out your law. If you do so, there will be fewer to return to your war or to your king.”
And this is the problem with victimless crimes; that they outlaw actions regardless of whether anyone has been harmed by that action. Sometimes, even activities considered suspicious may be done for a very good reason.
What is right trumps the law in this case; Aragorn’s quest to save his friends is more important than some government statute.
So it is up to Eomer to decide if he is to do what is right, which involves shirking his duty, and failing to enforce the law.
Eomer goes with his conscience, as I would urge all agents of the state to do. Throwing someone in a cage for posessing a plant is a horrible thing to do, even if it is your job and you get paid to do so. Stealing someone’s money is an actual crime, and using the excuse that it is because they were speeding makes it no better.
Enforcing a victimless crime, even if one does so regretfully, is a worse action than the crime being policed.
It is right of Aragorn to threaten to protect himself under such circumstances.