Leo Tolstoy and his Political Views
Tolstoy is considered as one of the significant influential literature writers. His literal work in the nineteenth century is considered as the hallmark to the genesis of other historical figures. His writing career began before his political and religious views could take root.
Tolstoy’s political views were motivated by his understandings of Christianity and the doctrines of Jesus Christ. While in Russia, Tolstoy saw and experienced many people dying and his beliefs were shattered. His desperation in understanding human nature led him to discover that most of the people who were dying were poor people. These people had nothing in life except some meager belongings.
Tolstoy observed that when these people were facing death they were not afraid. This fact proved to be puzzling, since the dying people were aware of their imminent deaths and yet they were not afraid of dying. He discovered that these poor people had embraced religion and they had faith in their beliefs. The teachings of the bible significantly influenced the poor people’s faith to the extent that they believed that in death they were in transition to a better place.
Though he was not a religious man, Tolstoy decided to read and understand the bible in an attempt to unravel its teachings. His earlier feeling of hopelessness having left him, Leo Tolstoy become an earnest student of the bible and Christianity. His understanding of the bible and its teachings would inspire his political views and observations.
Tolstoy did not convert to Christianity per se but he read the bible as any other literal work. His understanding of the bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ were interpreted according to his understanding and not as per the doctrines of the church. His interpretation of the bible contravened the traditional teachings and practices of the church. Tolstoy interpreted the bibles teaching in his own words and rejected the teachings made by the clerics. His beliefs and interpretation of the bible as the greatest work of inspirational literature rather than Holy Scriptures made him an anarchist in the religious arena.
Tolstoy was of the view that the teachings of non violence by Jesus Christ, when Jesus ascribed to if a man hit on the left cheek, and then give him the right cheek as well. He believed that Jesus understood the nature and the machinations of the oppressive world. The only way to defeat evil doers and oppressors is to behave in the exact opposite of what they expected. Tolstoy’s interpretation of Jesus Christ’s words enabled him to have a new perspective on life and governance.
His observation was that people were oppressed by governments systems which inclined heavily to violence and killing people in solving its problems. Tolstoy was of the opinion that in Governments were evil machinations whose main purpose was to oppress its citizens in the name of maintaining law and order. His oppositions to state functions like the police were to torment people by instigating violence and instilling fear in the population to maintain control of them. Tolstoy could not see why the state killed one bad person only for several others to arise and take his place.
In observing the political structures of the day Tolstoy concluded that Governments were institutions which benefit a few number of people where as the majority of the population suffer to sustain it. Tolstoy observed that similar to the church, the government preyed to the fears and insecurity of its citizens to rule over them. He noted the government used force and violence in enforcing law and order. He realized that the only way to defeat this violent behavior by the system was to revolutionize people’s mindset.
The reference to the bible’s quotes helped him in furthering his agenda. He noted that the government preferred using the maxim “a tooth for a tooth” in maintaining order. He realized that by retaliating violence with violence, chaos and destruction would be the end result. He, therefore, resulted in ascribing peaceful non violent ways in dealing with a violent system.
In his book, war and peace; Tolstoy uses love between individuals as a tool to illustrate the power of showing love to others in overcoming significant obstructions and challenges. His views on addressing the challenges faced when dealing with violent individuals, was that when an evil doing individual is constantly treated and showed love by those he is persecuting, then he is bound to change. Tolstoy believed that evil is like an infectious disease and to overcome it one has to show love instead.
He realized that for this system to be effective then one had to show restraint and sacrifice himself to serve as an example to others. His belief was that if there were a few likeminded individuals then it would be possible to defeat the evil of using force and subsequently governments which relied on force and violence to control and achieve its objectives would cease to have any purpose. Tolstoy’s observed that governments instilled the fear of uncertain events to gain control of the population. In effect the beneficiaries of these are few tyrannical individuals who use the pretense of democracy in deluding people.
For instance, the act of casting votes in electing leaders only gives an illusion of freedom; while in reality the few elected individuals make policies which solely benefit them and their own individual interests. The leaders in these settings are willful in creating systems which illustrate the as just and acting on behalf of the people. This is seldom the case, it makes no sense why a few number of people should make decisions that affect a numerous number of people. The population may not have any knowledge of such decisions nor do they contribute in making them.
Tolstoy’s opinion and belief was that in system where there was no violence, where people were free to engage themselves without threats of violence, then organized governments led by few individuals would cease to exist, giving people true freedom. Tolstoy based his arguments on Christian teachings of love, brotherhood and forgiveness. He observed that if Christians were to live up to these teachings then there would be no need of a state.
Governments impose and practice of a law which require imprisonment of criminals, impose itself as the supreme authority, proclaim and executes judgments on its citizens and is intolerant to threats. These attributes make any state to be in contravention of Christian teachings which as Tolstoy believed were unacceptable. His belief was to revolutionize the world through anarchy.
Although he ascribed to views put forward by other anarchies he did not believe in the practice of violence in furthering his agenda. He was opposed to those who practiced violence which was a vice he was attempting to defeat. In his work, war and peace; Tolstoy illustrates the effects of war. He illustrates war as an act which leads to suffering, destruction of the country and loss of life. In this book, Tolstoy illustrates how violence impacts negatively on social interactions, and deterioration of human life.
The inception of war defeats the purpose of peaceful coexistence, and therefore in order to defeat this evil, love is an essential tool. Tolstoy’s observes human beings as beings who can rationalize their actions; therefore, it is not necessary to be governed as mindless beings who only understand violence. His opinion was that people are capable of distinguishing right from wrong. All they needed were a few people to set the pace and the rest would eventually follow suit.
The need to revolutionize people thinking was essential to Tolstoy. He perceived the government as a formidable force which cannot be defeated by playing by its rules. He could not understand why it purported to protect its citizens while it killed innocent people in the name of purging evildoers and protecting its citizens. The subject of creation of armies ostensibly to protect the citizens but in reality a force to further oppression of people within and without its borders. Tolstoy illustrates this argument in his book, War and peace, where Napoleon invades Russia.
It is evident that the state leaders establish functions like armies to further their greedy ambitions and have no interest whatsoever for the citizen who pay the ultimate price for the actions of their leaders. Tolstoy, in his works; he related to events as he saw them and described the evils in society as he perceived them. In his book, war and peace; Tolstoy illustrates the dangers of entrusting the affairs of a nation to a few individuals. The progression of governments is reliant to misinformation and instilling fear in its people to gain and maintain control. In the event that these machinations are challenged as Tolstoy suggests, then in the long run peace and freedom prevails. He understood that for this to be achieved people would need to sacrifice their individual needs and focus on the long term benefits. This however is difficult and people have opted to remain in their comfort zones where they have subjected themselves and resigned their fate to their states and political leaders.