(If you’re just coming to this site and reading top to bottom, skip down one post to figure out what’s going on.)
Well about three full days have passed since I asked that important question, and it’s drawn a few comments and a bit of attention. So what have I learned?
I’ve learned that the people who make up my audience are a damned pessimistic bunch, for one. The ratio of comments like this:
“Okay, I’m thoroughly depressed now. Have we passed the point of no return? Are we on the verge of another Dark Age?” – Sarah
“Worse than any other aspect of our situation is the sense of hopelessness that pervades even the most ardent devotees of freedom.” – Francis Porretto
“Like you, I am practically out of ideas. Every day we get the choice between slavery and rebellion, and so far, most folks ok with slavery.” – Robert
“The main difference between Bush and Kerry, WRT civil liberties, is what size boot they use when tromping in one place, vs. some other.” – jed
“Answers? I don’t have answers. I think I’m probably in the same boat as most of you. If there was a real fight, I’d fight, but in the meantime, what? Just watch?” – mostlycajun
“At the moment, I don’t intend to have children, and I don’t have any ideas. About the only thing I’m certain of is now is not the time to give up drinking.” – LabRat
“This is why I’m religious: there is no hope for freedom anywhere in the world any longer.” – Sydney Carton
“We’re on the road to totalitarianism right now, and voting the same people into office is not going to turn us from that path. At best it will slow us down slightly, though I’m no longer convinced of that.” – Dennis
“What is the answer? Wait for the collapse of Social Security to bring down the beast and then be ready to fight off every other …ist to restore this country to the intent of the original founders.” – Ken
to comments like this:
“Though it may seem Pollyanna-ish, I believe that we have reached or are nearing the nadir of the current trough, and the upward side of the catenary approaches.” – Mark Phillip Alger
“The side for liberty is winning.” – Doug
was about, oh, 10:1.
The one thing almost all the pessimists had in common was – no answers. Fûz, author of WeckUpToThees! suggests that we start committing civil disobedience when the campaign finance laws start kicking in, restricting freedom of speech. Not “Big Media” – us. You and me. But then Michael Williams of Master of None points out that we live in a system of lots of laws, but only random enforcement – just enough to put fear into others and keep us in our places. (Think RIAA enforcement.) Fûz might be right – but I doubt it.
The most striking thing I found was apathy. This site has received about 1,400 hits since I posted “An Important Question.” It drew 47 comments (not including my replies) from 22 respondents. I posted a link to the essay at AR15.com – surely a hotbed of the perennially pissed-off – which garnered 613 views, but only seventeen responses (two optimistic, the rest pessimistic). That’s a signal of apathy, to me anyway. Interested enough to read, but not interested enough to bitch.
And that defines the problem, as I see it. The vast majority are simply apathetic.
Etymology: Greek apatheia, from apathEs without feeling, from a- + pathos emotion
1 : lack of feeling or emotion : IMPASSIVENESS
2 : lack of interest or concern : INDIFFERENCE
We are, as a nation, impassive. We are indifferent. As I said in my letter to Rev. Sensing,
The overwhelming majority of the populace, I believe, is ignorant and apathetic. They might sense the loss of their freedoms, dimly, but they don’t know and they don’t want to know.
We here in the blogosphere who are (supposedly) active and connected, have no consensus other than “Every day we get the choice between slavery and rebellion, and so far, most folks (are) ok with slavery.”
Well I’m not, but it does appear that way.
As I wrote a long time ago, I believe that a “right” is what a majority of the population of the society I live in believes it is. This is pragmatically true, as opposed to ideally true. Ideally “rights” are concepts shared by all and revered, but practically that’s untrue. You can stand before a magistrate and demand your rights, but in most societies throughout history your understanding of your rights wouldn’t keep your head attached to your body, or in the 20th Century stop the bullet that ended your protests. I’m engaged in a discussion right now with Tim Lambert of Deltoid who professes to believe in a “right” to self-defense, while defending a philosophy that allows complete disarmament of the law abiding populace against agressors. Tim is hardly an exception in this world, now or historically.
A respect for rights isn’t natural, it’s learned – and when we stop teaching our children about our rights, a reverence for them; when we neglect to educate the incoming generation as to what those rights are and why they’re important and why they should be defended even against the seemingly most minor infringement, then apathy becomes entropy and our rights dissolve toward chaos. When we give the rights the Founders believed to be essential only lip service, suddenly we get all kinds of new “rights.” A “right” to abortion. (Don’t write letters.) A “right” to “freedom from gun violence.” A “right” to gay marriage. A “right” to government provided health care. A “right” to… well you get the idea. And all those “rights” are eventually given equal weight – essentially none at all when the rubber meets the road.
In 1776 a group of men, excellently educated (whether self-taught or formally) and with a new but common understanding of the rights of humanity, decided they’d had enough and stood up to be counted. They pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor and took up arms against an overwhelming enemy. These few men led many more who were angry but not so committed. Another Mencken quote (the man had so many): “It doesn’t take a majority to make a rebellion; it takes only a few determined leaders and a sound cause.” We can’t define a cause, though. Nor an enemy. “We have met the enemy and he is us.” – Walt Kelly.
Francis Porretto also said this:
Violent revolution is a nasty prospect. Alongside the unpleasantness of it, there is also this: most revolutions in history have intensified tyranny, rather than ameliorated it. Alternatives are certainly welcome.
Civil disobedience is less nasty for everyone but the disobedient. Though most people don’t have the courage for it regardless of how valid it appears, in every generation there are a few who’ll put their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor on the line to defend some principle of justice. But successful civil disobedience has a list of necessary preconditions that can be hard to meet. The carnage among the courageous few is enough to make one think…and back away.
I’m beginning to repeat myself, I think.
Commenter Brian wrote:
I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s better to live outlaw like I did when I was a kid than to bother acting like I’m a citizen. The law seems to do nothing beneficial, and I’ve always been willing to break it.
There’s no need to respect the laws that don’t respect you, or fear the gov- just embrace freedom and accept that you COULD be imprisoned or killed, but you’ll live freer than almost anyone before that happens. It’s worth it, to me.
That echoes Francis in his next paragraph:
There is a third way, and it can be applied to many of the usurpations of power that occur in American society: passive resistance, sometimes also called passive non-compliance. It is much less risky to its practitioners than civil disobedience, and it doesn’t usually set the streets awash with blood. More, it has a good record of success, although when it wins, it doesn’t always win everything one has hoped for.
Francis then goes on to expound on what it takes to make passive resistance a successful strategy for manipulation of the government. But Brian, I think, has the right of it – screw strategy. Embrace freedom and accept that you could be imprisoned or killed and live free while you can. Teach your children about those ideal rights, and live them. Don’t respect those laws that don’t respect you, and be willing to pay the consequences of violating them if you get caught.
So my life, my fortune, and my sacred honor stand ready to be sacrificed in the defense of my rights and the rights of those I love as I understand them. I am a citizen of this nation as much or as little as it protects and defends those rights under which it was founded, not as they are (mis)understood today. I will obey those laws with which I agree, follow those laws I am unwilling to suffer the penalty for, and I will disobey those laws I find egregious. This may mean that, at some time in the future, the State may decide to “selectively enforce” itself on me to make an example. At that time and at that place I will decide how to respond, for that choice is mine and always will be. In the mean time, I will agitate for those rights, making sure those in power remember that they swore oaths to defend them whether they understood them or not. I will continue trying to educate others so that they, too, understand what it is they are losing, what they are allowing others to throw away, and so they will hopefully not choose slavery.
That’s what I owe my grandchildren.
Hudson was wrong, the game wasn’t over. He died anyway – but he died fighting, not lying down, defending himself and his people. Like Hicks said, sometimes I want to take off and nuke the place from orbit – it’s the only way to be sure – but I’m just a grunt and don’t get to make those decisions.
UPDATE 4/8 9:30AM: The Geek responds.
UPDATE, 10:25: From the comments, Dano writes:
I’m not sure I agree with your “apathy” conclusion, Kevin — at least, not as applied to the readers of your post(s). The nation, overall, being apathetic (“fat, dumb and happy” comes to mind) I’ll go along with. You asked for “ideas” and as I’m in the Pessimistic Camp, I haven’t got any. Rather than comment and say “I don’t know what to do,” I merely read. It’s going to get worse before it gets better (if it does) and I don’t expect to see it get better in my lifetime. I’d love to be wrong.
Read the Geek’s piece linked at the bottom of the post. I stand by the apathy conclusion. Being pessimistic and using that as an excuse to just stand by and watch as the structure collapses is apathy. “I can’t do anything!” is not an excuse not to try.
Stand up. Be heard. Make your opinions known. Write your congresscritters. Write letters to the editors when peices are published you don’t agree with, and when they publish stuff you do. Call or write your TV news outlets when they do something objectionable or praiseworthy. Start a blog.
If we’re going down anyway, let’s all go down fighting every inch of the way. Fvck ’em – WE’RE AMERICANS! We don’t back away from a fight.
And who knows?
The horse might learn to sing.