Monday, November 17, 2008

Crises

Boy, this sure is some economic storm we have going, isn't it? Well, actually, it's more of a crisis, I would think. In fact, that's pretty much how everyone has been describing it: the banking crisis, the stock market crisis, etcetera. Yep, I'll have to amend that earlier statement to say that this is some kind of crisis we have going here.

Nothing like a full-blown crisis to make us all yearn for a strong leader to guide us through the rough waters.

~~ "Any excuse will serve a tyrant." --Aesop ~~

Nothing like a crisis to create a sense of community (wow- did you ever notice that the word "unity" is contained in "community?" I'm just saying.).

Nothing like a crisis to get people into lock-step and keep everyone's oars going the same way.

Nothing like a crisis to bring like-mindedness to a group of people who should all, ostensibly, have the same stake in the resolution of said crisis.

There is also nothing like a crisis to allow certain inconvenient rights and privileges to be held in abeyance... only until the crisis passes, of course. The leader must do what is right, and he can't be afraid to let old-fashioned rules and regulations get in the way of doing what is right. Right?

~~ "I begin by taking. I shall find scholars later to demonstrate my perfect right." --Euripides ~~

Indeed, without a crisis, how would a soft-totalitarian, populist leader ever get political traction? How would he get the people fired up enough to take to the streets and demand that someone take care of the damn crisis? I mean, someone has to do something-- anything! Don't they?

~~ "Under conditions of tyranny it is far easier to act than to think." --Hannah Arendt ~~

History is replete with examples of crisis born authoritarianism. Nary a dictator has been created without the vital ingredient of a crisis-- or crises, if he is very skillful. Crises, in fact, are always welcome to the despot-- or would-be despot.

~~ "This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector." --Plato ~~


If Fortune cannot be relied upon to send along a crisis, then the enterprising tyrant must be willing and able to manufacture his own. If one does come, but is insufficiently severe, then the autocrat must be able to embellish it to the point that the magic kicks in.

What magic, you ask? Why, the mesmerizing magic that comes from a population being controlled by fear. Something almost mystical happens when large groups of people are caught up in panic and fear. True to human nature, they look to someone-- anyone!-- to get them through the frightful circumstance.

~~ "'Necessity' is the tyrant's plea. --John Milton ~~

So, you see, appealing to the most basic insecurities and concerns will almost always guarantee the dictator the fealty of the masses-- that is, if he is skillful enough to play those fears like a well-tuned instrument. This almost always involves a call to do this or that for the "good of the people," or "the common good," or for "national unity." (There's that word again!)

~~ "The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants, and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience." --Albert Camus ~~

History offers many examples of this-- and not just the obvious ones. For every Hitler or Mussolini, there is a Wilson or an FDR. The main difference is that the latter two were burdened with some semblance of power-checking, which kept them from overstepping the way the former two did, and thereby allowed them to fare much better in the long-term P.R. department. They also avoided the over-the-top excesses that helped bring down the curtain on Il Duce and the Mad Corporal.

~~ "A great wave of oppressive tyranny isn't going to strike, but rather a slow seepage of oppressive laws and regulations from within will sink the American dream of liberty." --George Baumler ~~

What they all do have in common is that crises either brought them to power, or solidified their power to the point where they were virtually almighty. The poetic beauty of that is that all of the aforementioned leaders assumed to their thrones on top of an enthusiastic population-- because the huddled masses honestly believed these men to be deliverers; and they were, to a large extent, just that.

~~ "But thou know'st this, 'Tis time to fear when tyrants seem to kiss." --William Shakespeare ~~

Remember, the truly gifted potentate will always give something of value to the hordes he controls; and will try to maintain the ratio of fear-to-leadership that got him to the top in the first place. To do otherwise usually leads to very unpleasant endings-- as we see in cases such as Caligula and Nicolae Ceausescu. Still, it is in the "goodies" that the tyrant offers where we see the truth of the whole thing.

Almost without fail, they offer the impossible-- or, at least that which cannot be sustained. It could be Hitler's promise to lead the Aryan people to the promised land of racial purity and Valhalla on Earth. Maybe it's Wilson's pledge to establish God's own kingdom in America. Or, perhaps it could be miraculous tax cuts that go to ninety-five percent of the population, and yet the money for which has no real discernible source of origin.

Whatever they offer and give, though, is tainted by the fine print which states that acceptance of the leader's magnanimous gifts implies loyalty and acceptance of the rest of the package... and the rest of the package is never what the trusting souls expected or wanted.

~~ "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive." --C.S. Lewis ~~

No matter how we look at it, the stark truth of the matter is that people under tyranny almost always get there voluntarily. Why is it so common and so hard to avoid? I suppose that the nature of man-- or rather "men"-- is the real culprit. Every civilization has buried inside of it a flock of scared sheep, wanting nothing more than to be taken care of. This is endemic to the human animal-- and most especially visible where people live together in large numbers.

It is also worth mentioning that the idea of being a benevolent dictator is powerful stuff, and does not always begin with evil intent. Many a good man started out his march to despotism with grand goals and a sincere heart. Plus, it must be said that the perks are inarguably attractive. Who wouldn't want to be "The Man?"

~~ "Slaves would be tyrants were the chance theirs." --Victor Hugo ~~

How, then, is a thinking populace to avoid such a thing? I believe the answer is that "the people" cannot avoid it. Really, only "the person" can fight off this cancer. That is, along with his fellow "the persons," of course.

I would put forth that whenever a populace acts in the collective, it advances its own march toward tyranny. The populace would be well served to understand that the "common good" most certainly leads to common misery, and even outright slavery.

In fact, by my account, there has been exactly one social experiment in the history of the world that stood a chance against impending totalitarianism. Care to guess which experiment that was?

Only in America has the world seen a government put in check; with its very design compelling it to defer to the individual.

Only in America has the individual been allowed (encouraged, rallied, cheered) to seek his own way and go as far as his own talents and will would let him-- all without interference from government; so long as he did no wrong to another individual's rights.

Only in America has the idea of a benevolent "nanny government" been seen and called what it really is: soft-tyranny.

Our founders absolutely knew of the dangers of creeping authoritarianism. They knew them and they called them out by name. The framers of our great system swore to one another and to their posterity that they would-- and we should-- remain vigilant and fight against this Leviathan at all times and at all costs. Truly, they felt there was no higher calling than to ensure freedom's fire stayed lit.

I'll close with a few choice words from men whose equal I will never be, but whose example I will treasure and strive to emulate all the days of my life.

What do you say, fellow person... want to join me?


~~ "The liberties of our country, the freedoms of our civil Constitution are worth defending at all hazards; it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors. They purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood. It will bring a mark of everlasting infamy on the present generation – enlightened as it is – if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence, without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of designing men." --Samuel Adams ~~

~~ "Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value." --Thomas Paine ~~

~~ "I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." --Thomas Jefferson ~~



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7 Comments:

Anonymous Liberalpounder said...

Wow, The Great One would be mighty proud at this. Very nice work, KMG.

19/11/08 00:08  
Blogger kmg said...

You are too kind, Pounder. I must confess that it would be my everlasting honor to have Mr. Levin read something of mine.

19/11/08 05:11  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is your best yet, KMG. Very well done.

The amazing thing about this wonderful republic crafted by our esteemed Founders is that it has lasted as long as it has.

History will prove that the most important amendment to preserving this country was/is the 2nd.

SAJ

19/11/08 16:44  
Blogger kmg said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

19/11/08 18:34  
Blogger kmg said...

Oops.

Oh, yes, SAJ! I absolutely agree that the 2nd Amendment guarantees all the others!

Thanks for the kind words. I feel a sense of rebirth regarding this site and others like it. I think we all need to start getting our act together in forums like this. Clear thinking and sharing of rational thought are going to be among our most important lifelines in the coming turbulence.

Step one is trying to educate as many people as possible of the potential dangers we are facing.

19/11/08 18:37  
Blogger Barbara said...

We all would love to have unity, but we want it to be on the right side of the Constitution. It scares me that we may have a dictatorship in the making.

This is indeed the worse crisis that has ever hit our shores. But when like-minded people get together, there is nothing impossible! Stand up for what is right, regardless of the circumstances.

21/11/08 22:50  
Blogger kmg said...

Not just like-minded... but also "right-minded."

I'm just saying...

22/11/08 19:22  

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