Saturday, January 1, 2011

Surviving captive or dead rebel?

Surviving captive, or dead rebel: which would you rather be?
About 2600 years ago the ancient kingdom of Judah ended when Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took Jerusalem.

Jehoichin, the Judaic prince-child, had watched his father, Jehoikim, play politics and military featherweight between the two opposing empires of Egypt and Babylon. But daddy Jehoikim's maneuverings proved ultimately to be a losing game, as he ended up dead at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar after trying to do Pharoah Neco's bidding.

So the teenaged kid, Jehoichin, was much more compliant with the strong man from Babylon than his daddy had been. When Nebuchadnezzar blustered into Jerusalem with plundering brutality, the young king of Judah consented to exile in Babylon. He lived many years thereafter in Nebuchadnezzar's prison, but at the end of his life was released as an obsequious courtier under Nebuchadnezzar's successor, Evil-Merodach.

When the conqueror Nebuchadnezzar had carted young Jehoichin off to Babylon, he appointed a royal uncle, Mattaniah, as new regent in Jerusalem, and renamed him Zedekiah. But after eleven years of vassalage--what we call today sucking-up-- Zedekiah got cocky and rebelled against his Babylonian master. This resistance did not end well for the people of Judah. Zedekiah was forcibly removed in chains to Babylon, tortured, and publicly humiliated before dying. Nebuchadnezzar beseiged Jerusalem and wasted the city with fire and destruction.

The place was in ruins for seventy years until Cyrus the Persian allowed Jewish ancestors to return and rebuild the place.
So I was wondering this morning, as I read about this: With which of these last two Judean kings do you have more agreement? Jehoichin, who surrendered to the heathen tyrant and adapted to defeat, then survived to become a tamed--what we might call wimpish (wise?)-- ex-king.

Or Zedekiah, whose defiance ended in what we might call a martyr's (or insurrectionist's) painful execution?

I'll just go ahead and say to you now that I can see myself only as taking Jehoichin's path.

A leader adopting this careful strategy could end up like Puyi, the last emperor of China. He survived to become a benevolent historian under his Maoist taskmasters after being imprisoned and "rehabilitated" (brainwashed?). But the survival tact could also yield a fate like that of Nelson Mandela, whose wily perserverance through prison produced ultimate victory for him and his people.
Yet there is a part of me that wants to appropriate the courage of Patrick Henry, who said "Give me liberty or give me death!"
Consider Aung San Suu Kyi, of Myanmar... Liu Xiaobo of China.
Hamid Karzai?
My guess, from this perspective of American comfort, is that in real life the difference between compliance and resistance is not easily discerned, and must be somehow ever-changing in response to events.
How about you? Would you take one strategy or the other?

Glass Chimera

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