If You Ask Yourself How You Can Serve
Your Country, You Are Helping It Already
Carlos Cardoso Aveline
Building is always slow, destruction is rather quick. How long does it take to build a country, and what is the time necessary for it to be dismantled, if the destructive energies are strong enough?    
We’d better love whatever we have instead of despising it.
Let us consider, for instance, the time and effort employed in building the main capital cities of our present world, and remember how quick and easy it would be to see them destroyed by atomic bombs.
Human nature is such that both aggressive and self-destructive actions often start in subconscious ways, or take place with scarce knowledge on the part of those who make the decisions.
Authorities have a limited assessment of the meaning and consequences of their own decisions. The distance is long between the air-conditioned cabinet of top bureaucrats and the actual reality on the ground. Drastic decisions change life in ways that cannot be foreseen.
In critical times, populations are misinformed and journalists are the first to ignore the real implications of what they are saying. Public opinion is led here and there by fleeting superficial waves of opinion and propaganda. Besides, Sigmund Freud wrote clearly enough about the subconscious temptation of self-destruction potentially present in human minds, especially in times of moral crisis. 
Individuals and groups may be deceived by appearances. Sometimes they quickly destroy themselves while being confident that they are making a marvellous progress to happiness.  
It has never been easy to preserve one’s family, or nation. The existence of our country should not be taken for granted: states are not eternal. Whole nations face danger from time to time, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau – writing in the 18th century – asked himself:  
“If Sparta and Rome perished, what State can hope to endure forever?” [1]
Anger is the Passion of Fools
In times of moral disorder, many a country gets divided and every circumstance seems to challenge collective harmony. Moderate people are then considered hypocrites. Leaders who wish to preserve an honest dialogue and keep a balance between different points-of-view are labelled as untrustworthy, if not ridicule. Anger is the dominating emotion, and intolerance becomes the rule. “Those who think different from me are all dishonest”, the average citizen confesses to himself; and this simplification provides him with a false excuse to leave honesty aside on his part.
When ill-will and fear dominate the emotional agenda, people remember what they hate, but do not think of what they love. Few then are aware of a fact of great importance, mentioned by Helena P. Blavatsky:
“Anger is the passion of fools; it becometh not a wise man.”[2]
In a society of thoughtless people, unprincipled hatred is as easy to find as fear. The irresponsible winds of mistrust easily destroy a marriage, a family, a country. Disguised forms of aggressiveness are sometimes the worst. How can our countries avoid the pandemic of destructive feelings, social crises and military conflicts, including undeclared asymmetric war?
Human life needs a sacred reservoir of higher inspirations, a spiritual and psychological source of inner contentment. We all want peace, yet we ourselves make it impossible. There is something that separates us from the world of harmony. The classical work “Duties of the Heart” explains: “Your mistakes have become barriers between you and your God”. [3]
In other words, it is our accumulated ignorance that prevents us from overcoming hatred and leaving egotism aside, so as to live in full cooperation.
In fact, human potentialities for wisdom and justice are real and unlimited.  They are here all the time. We must decide we want to develop them. We need to patiently identify our mistakes and correct ourselves, in order to cease to repeat our failures once and again like idiots.
Wise men stop and think and are able to learn. Sensible citizens reform themselves. Unintelligent persons make serious efforts to reform others, sometimes using violence.
The Jewish Bible says:
“Better to be forbearing than mighty, to have self-control than to conquer a city”.[4]
Philosophy and religion are sources of common sense and discernment. The life of every nation depends on them.
If we want to preserve our countries during difficult times, it may be helpful to remember that the dead letter of formal legislation has little use during a systemic crisis. There must be a general good-will regarding the Spirit of the laws. If a global crisis threatens countries with implosion, a nation needs a living social contract, a stable decision to affirm itself in solidary ways, a shared ideal that is willingly respected by all.
No community will flourish in the absence of mutual trust.  And trust depends on trustworthiness.
Whenever you see a country facing the danger of implosion, ask yourself how stable the family ties are in it. Few understand the implications of the fact that family is the foundation of every society. The microcosmic and macrocosmic are mirrors to each other. It is the feeling of affinity that keeps families and countries together. Good will nurtures the essence of human condition. Rousseau writes:
“Houses make the town, and citizens make the city”.[5]
We can have a proper country, as long as altruism and the spirit of citizenship are present. And this is different from mere written laws. Sigmund Freud wrote that keeping a civilization alive demands self-sacrifice, and an ability to transcend or sublimate the search for immediate pleasure.
If you ask yourself how you can serve your country, you are helping already. But he who can only argue about the duty of the country to help him should rather take the necessary steps to cure himself from the excess of selfishness. Ignorance must be accepted as part of human reality, but limits should be established to it. A popular saying states that “what goes around comes around”. Whatever you sow, you harvest. He who does good attains a lasting contentment. 
A Sense of Common Purpose
A point of equilibrium must be established between collective needs and individual aspirations. The many contrasting social groups have to find the point of harmony among them. If some specific sector of society puts its narrow interests above the common good, the whole nation gets in trouble. A crisis will then create the occasion to examine a few questions:
* Do we have a common philosophy, a uniting view of life and a shared ideal which can inspire us all? 
* What dangers – internal and external, objective and subjective – must be faced by our country? Among them, can we see an abnormal degree of mutual mistrust and insincerity?
Political hatred within a country is a symptom of the fact that a common purpose does not exist, or has been momentarily forgotten, in a significant part of the organized society.
When Principles Are Clear and Luminous
Let us think of the global community.
From time to time a new wave of thoughtless globalism seems to take the world by surprise and threatens the independence of individual countries, big and small. Then the plurality of human civilizations is challenged. Such feverish projects usually involve military action, as we see in the examples of Napoleonic France and Nazi Germany. Alexander the Great, the Greek emperor who gladly accepted being worshipped as a God, was a pioneer of such recurrent globalist illusions.
When nations or other international forces become too selfish in their behavior, the shared sense of justice and mutual understanding disappear from the dialogue.
Then intercultural bridges are burnt. Traditions are attacked. Countries with different religions and philosophies are labelled “unbearable enemies which deserve no respect”. Beautiful words are used to hide the facts. Ambition then reigns supreme, and self-indulgence begins to pave the way to hell. Weapons industries take over political power in secretive ways. As a consequence, wars replace the practice of good will. In due time, such a form of collective madness may bring about a high degree of mutual destruction.
Those who intend to preserve communities know that there must be limits to enmity.
Respect for life has to come first. A social contract – a common will, a feeling of mutual appreciation – is necessary around the globe. Such honest attitude is indispensable among nations, political parties, members of families and social groups of every kind. Last but not least, each individual must have self-esteem, self-knowledge, and a humble self-control.
Of Dreams and Deeds
What makes a country resist difficulties? Rousseau says:
“As long as a certain number of men consider themselves to be a single body, they have but one will, which relates to the common security and to the general welfare. In such a case all the forces of the State are vigorous and simple, and its principles are clear and luminous; it has no confused and conflicting interests; the common good is everywhere plainly clear and only good sense is required to perceive it.” [6]
Of course countries need change. And there is no need to lose time with thoughtless efforts to immediately attain radical improvements. The growth of life is gradual, as Theodor Herzl explains through the words of a character in his novel “Old New Land”:
“Old institutions need not go under at one blow in order that new ones may be born. Not every son is posthumous. Parents usually live along with their children for many years. If follows that an old social order need not break up because a new one is on the way. Having seen here a new order composed of none but old institutions, I have come to believe neither in the complete destruction nor the complete renewal of a social order. I believe – how shall I put it? – in a gradual reconstruction of society. And I also believe that such a reconstruction never comes about through systematic planning, but as the need arises. Necessity is the builder.” [7]
Besides an open mind, we need an ability to dream, for it expands our horizons as we face difficulties. Sober, lucid dreams have a healing effect and encourage creative action.
The circles of mutual negativity should be broken, and open chains of mutual understanding gradually expanded. The use of personal attacks must be avoided, for the duty of one who wishes to help a community is to have respect for all and stimulate the best in others.
[1] The Social Contract”, by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Book III, Chapter XI. See the volume “The Social Contract and the First and Second Discourses, by Jean-Jacques Rousseau; Susan Dunn, Editor; Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 315 pages, copyright 2002, p. 216. 
[2] These are the words of an ancient sage, quoted by Helena P. Blavatsky in “The Secret Doctrine”, volume I, lower half of page 415.  
[3] Literally, “your sins have become…”. Etymologically, “sin” means “mistake”. One should avoid looking at it superstitiously. Source of the sentence: Yeshayahu, 59:2, quoted in “Duties of the Heart”, by Rabbi Bachya ben Joseph Ibn Paquda, edition in two volumes, Feldheim Publishers, Jerusalem-New York, copyright 1996, see volume 2, page 741.  
[4] Kethuvim, Proverbs, 16:32, in “Tanakh, the Holy Scriptures”, The Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia-Jerusalem, p. 1312.
[5]The Social Contract”, by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Book I, Chapter VI, last paragraph, footnote. See the volume “The Social Contract and the First and Second Discourses”, p. 164.
[6]The Social Contract”, Book IV, Chapter I, first paragraph. See the volume “The Social Contract and the First and Second Discourses”, by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, p. 227. 
[7] Old New Land”, by Theodor Herzl, Markus Wiener Publishers, Princeton, translated from German by Lotta Levensohn, Third Printing, 2000, 296 pp., see p. 289.
The article “Keeping a Nation Together” was first published in April 2023 at our blog in “The Times of Israel”.  The text is available at the websites of the Independent Lodge of Theosophists since 26 June 2023.
Read more:
* Why War? (A Dialogue Between Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud)