In praise of folly

In 1509 Erasmus of Rotterdam, in the house of Thomas More, wrote and published his satirical work "In Praise of Folly." 

According to Erasmus, as expressed in his work, foolishness had proved its power over mankind.

Four hundred years after Erasmus' publication, stupidity triumphed: World War I was a world-wide folly. This war was initiated by the big countries, the German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian and Ottoman empires, which collapsed as a result of this war.

When I led an underground life in the old USSR, I believed that that country would last for centuries, that it was a powerful and invulnerable empire, an empire of evil. But who says that evil must necessarily be punished?

On the contrary, it is often the good that is punished: you want to do good, but you get evil in return.

But the evil empire of the USSR collapsed unexpectedly quickly, after only 74 years. The stupid war in Afghanistan contributed to the collapse of the USSR. The lifetime of this empire was much shorter than many other empires. Scrappy little Israel, where I live, has been around longer than the USSR.

The Dutch physicist Hendrik Anton Lorenz, winner of the Nobel Prize, wrote: "I am happy to belong to a nation too small to do great foolish things."

According to Lorenz, the larger the country, the more misfortune it brings to its own and other citizens.

In 2022, the largest country by land mass in the world, the Russian Federation, started a war against the neighboring state of Ukraine, claiming it was dangerous to its own existence.

There are 190 different nationalities in the Russian Federation. So, according to Lorenz, the greatest amount of foolishness is to be expected on its part.

Although Lorenz was not a historian, he turned out to be the creator of a quite realistic historical formula: "great foolishness comes from great countries." 

Besides the Russian Federation, there are several other big countries on earth that are sources of big stupidity: the United States, China, and India.

In addition to these countries, there are several other countries on earth that claim to be big countries, hence candidates for doing big stupid things.

The collapse of a big country is apparently also a consequence of it doing big stupid things. So, while big countries exist, their very existence threatens world peace.

Perhaps if the Russian Federation gave independence to 189 non-Russian nationalities and split up into several countries, and the U.S. were to become the separated states of America, that is, 50 countries emerging from one country, the number of dangerous follies in the world would be reduced many times over.

Large territories and large populations create such great national ambitions that it is difficult for reason to get into people's heads and stop dangerous imperialist projects.

But large countries tend to shrink in size because of their great misadventures arising from their megalomania.

It is possible that the Russian Federation, seeking to reduce the territory of Ukraine, will shrink significantly in size as a result of the war it has unleashed and become much less dangerous to its own and others' citizens.

At that point, the stupid war will reduce the amount of stupidity on the globe.

Image: John M. Kelly Library Rare Books / University of Toronto / University of Ottawa, via Wikipedia // no restrictions

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