The Evil that Men Do Lives After Them

The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones

Said the great man. It is so true, so profound, that I haven’t yet manage to quite grasp its meaning. I can sense it, just around the corner, I can see glimpses of it, but I can’t see the full picture.

The logical structure – right? It’s all logic and logic is music and I can almost make out the tune. So, let’s open our notebooks and make a list. I will not be repeating myself here, read me a little, to get an idea of how my mind works. Or don’t. If logic is my trade, then this article should rely mainly on its internal logic. Shakespeare is trying to tell us:

  1. That life is fleeting. All eternal summers eventually fade and, on a long enough timescale, everyone’s life expectancy drops to zero.
  2. That our intentions are meaningless on the grand scale of things, that nature is evil in its indifference to our suffering and that, whatever we do, we will be no more than relaying its legacy to our children.

Did I miss anything? So let it be with Caesar, Antony continues, in that speech, right after the sentence quoted at the start, and it only makes things a little more confusing. Does he want to bury the good things Caesar had done or is he accusing Brutus and company of the same? It’s number 2. We could have kept the man with all his good…. but now he’s dead and so is the republic, and thus his evil liveth on.

Is it true? Caesar was a great reformer. He did what was necessary to keep the Roman empire alive – and it had been an empire for centuries before they stopped calling it a republic. He saved the Roman oligarchy from its own shortsightedness – for one man, if he possesses the right intellect, will always make better decisions than a large group of people vying for their relative share of the collective power of the state. It’s a principle of math and communication. Any number over, say, a dozen people, will never be able to make a decision unless they have a leader. Juries have foremen, BTW.

But you can’t really call Caesar a ‘good’ man. He was certainly ambitious, as Antony is accusing Brutus of using as a justification for murdering him. He was of an extremely high opinion of himself, which was justified. He wanted power, he wanted to surpass the achievements of Alexander the Great. To be remembered as such. And yet he did a lot of good that did live after him, if you consider his reforms.

But this ‘good’ might actually be unavoidable, if we consider the idea that history always puts the right people in the right places at the right time to take it down its unavoidable course. Then again, nobody said there cannot be minute, random, variations, even if the course of history in general remains predetermined and unchangeable, as a deterministic approach to science would suggest.

But if he saved Rome from collapsing, was it a good thing? As part afedist, part anarchist, in my political and social philosophy, I must certainly ask this question and then shrug and say that I don’t really know the answer.

Maybe, on the grand scale of things, in the longue durée, all actions cancel themselves and we get 0; and maybe Caesar’s reforms did not really make anyone – except a bunch of historians, to put it with vulgar bluntness – happier. And in that case, since what he left after him, though it plays beautiful logical music (you can see it in his writings), is meaningless, then I guess Mark Antony was right, and any good that Caesar could have done could have only been subjective and it could have only been observed, it only meant anything, while the man was still alive.

But I digress. I still stand behind my 2 points, of course, but it is time to go to sleep and to finish editing this article.

Please give me your feedback & peace out.

Daniel.

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