Certainly, you have heard of the phrase Liberté, égalité, fraternité. This is the official French slogan since the French revolution. However, it hasn’t become in use until the third French republic. Translated into English, it stands for liberty (freedom), equality and fraternity (brotherhood). The first to have made this motto was Maximilien Robespierre in his speech “On the organization of the National Guard” (French: Discours sur l’organisation des gardes nationales) on 5 December 1790, article XVI, and disseminated widely throughout France by the popular Societies. But what does it really mean?
We all have a certain sense about liberty, or freedom, should be. We think we have the right for self-determination, the right to live free. And certainly, everyone on the face of the earth has that right. But the truth is, virtually none of us are really free. This right is only reserved for the happy few, the elite. The rest of us have a Social Security Number (USA), National Security Number (UK), or any kind of national registration number (for an overview, see Wikipedia: national identification number).
Some time ago, I have written a blog about the true nature of freedom, called freedom vs. slavery. In that blog, I tried to explain who is truly free, and who is still a slave of some sort. The sad fact is, that 99.9% of the global population is bound in slavery, but doesn’t even know this. For an explanation about that, you can read my blogs capitis deminutio maxima, capitis deminutio media and capitis deminutio minima. Only the latter of the three means true freedom!
For many decades, even for many centuries, mankind has fought for equality. In Ancien Régime France, equality meant nothing more than being equal to one’s kin or caste. Nobles were equal only to other nobles, clergy only to other clergy, peasants only to other peasants. Citizenship was yet to be “invented”, however people living in cities or strongholds surely had certain rights that differed from the peasants’ rights. The military was subject to nobility. All in all, interacting equality was nowhere to be found. The French revolution was to change all this, but yet (again) it did not quite do so completely.
The first fraternity, or brotherhood, in written history is to be found in the founding of the Roman Catholic Church, with the First Council of Nicea, May 20th to June 19th, A.D. 325. Then there is the order of Freemasons, but the founding year is as yet unclear. Later in history, in the year 1119, the Knights Templar is said to be founded as the military force in the Holy Crusades. In the Middle Ages, another type of brotherhood surfaced. We now know them as guilds or trade unions. Eventually, in 1776, a Bavarian gold trader named Bauer (later changed their last name into Rothchild) started the first modern formalized bank which by now has grown into the foremost powerful organization we now know as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), officially founded on December 27th 1945. For an overview of other fraternities, see this Wikipedia overview.
It is a public secret (common knowledge) that each and every fraternity on Earth takes care of its own. Whenever a member is in trouble, or in need of assistance of any kind, their brothers will be there to aid their fellow member. In this context, this Bruce Springsteen song gets a completely different meaning:
(Source: Youtube, https://youtu.be/M3Bz0d2xm7U)
Now that you know some more about the phrase, let’s take a look at what it really stands for. Despite of what you may know, or had learned to believe, it definitely does NOT mean freedom and equality for all mankind. In fact, one can clearly see that the phrase is solely meant to express the constitutional rights for any kind of organised brotherhood. So it is NOT about the trinity of the separate words combined, but merely a combination of the first and second concept in service of the latter! Each and every one of us is surely born free. There is no mistake. But as soon as we are born, our parents (usually our father) goes to City Hall to have our birth registered. Precisely from that moment on, i.e. the actual birth registration, we are no longer free but merely slaves, bound to serve those who command.
However, one is truly able to reach all three. It may take some effort and endurance, but clearly one can have it all, usually through craftiness, power of will and hard labour. But one will first have to find one of them before being able to reach the complete trinity. In fact: brotherhood precedes both liberty and equality. As such, only through the brotherhood of man one can reach both liberty and equality.