Conversione di San Paolo

caravaggio-damascus

For, it is said that while Saul of Tarsus was carrying out his duties as Commissar of Truth, the Messiah he had been denying appeared before him and convinced him of his error. So, after a bit of soul searching, he quit his job and thereafter dedicated himself to the task of preaching the very doctrine he had been denouncing. And because he was now the persecuted rather than the persecutor, he was effective; everywhere he went he found willing listeners, even in Rome itself. More important than their numbers was the conviction of his converts that in the eyes of God the lowliest in society was equal unto Caesar. The psalm of freedom — of the dignity of the individual — reawakened their souls. Neither the lash nor the dungeon vile nor the wild beasts in the arena could rob them of their self-esteem. By their very suffering and death they transmitted their faith to others, the sect grew, and at long last Caesar capitulated.

From the story of Saul, who came to be known as Paul, we draw the lesson: that when people want freedom they will get it. When the desire of the business man for “free enterprise” is so strong that he will risk bankruptcy for it, he cannot be denied. When youth prefers prison to the barracks, when a job in the bureaucracy is considered leprous, when the tax collector is stamped a legalized thief, when handouts from the politician are contemptuously rejected, when work on a government project is considered degrading, when, in short, the state is recognized to be the enemy of society, then only will freedom come, and the citadel of power collapse.

Considering the temper of the times, the emergence of such a public state of mind would indeed be a miracle. But, in some degree it has happened before and therefore we may hope. When the organized religion of power, known as communism (more properly called statism), shall have destroyed all values, and reduced the individual to a nonentity, will its overthrow by moral force be accomplished. In degrading the individual it destroys itself, simply because the degraded individual loses interest in production and ceases to provide the wherewithal for the state. As the state rots away from malnutrition, the individual begins to reassert himself in something called civil disobedience, passive resistance, or some other kind of revolution, and the contest is all in his favor. Freedom comes when Caesar is no longer able to maintain his legions.

Text: Frank Chodorov, Out of Step: The Autobiography of an Individualist. New York: Devin-Adair, 1962 via
Image: Caravaggio, Conversione di San Paolo, 1601, Santa Maria del Popolo, Roma
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