Thursday, October 13, 2016

Tyranny is Always Respectable

It strikes me that, in terms of tyranny, we are always caught up in its previous manifestations. That leaves us vulnerable to the forms it would take next. When tyranny comes next, it won't look anything like Mussolini. No, we are prepared against that. When it comes next, it will be dressed up according to modern orthodoxies, just like Mussolini, Sulla, Marius, Caesar, Robespierre, Lenin, etc, were enrobed in the orthodoxies of their times. Next time our tyrant will come to us speaking of 'safety' and 'security' - like tyranny always does - but next time it will be the safety of women, minorities and such like against a supposed great foe, in other words, it will be about the things we hold precious, but which make us vulnerable to manipulation by the unscrupulous. But if this foe were truly great, would we be able to suppress it, would the one who jumps to the fore as our saviour be able to? Of course not. Classic misdirection.
Next time our tyrant will enslave us, but only after he has drafted us into the service of eradicating the great foe - he is called misogyny and racism this time - the foe who, it turns out, was the only person or institution capable of offering any resistance at all to the new tyrant.
The first casualty will be the media because they are always listening to the wind that blows. That's their job. More than any other group they make the mistake of confusing trends with morality, new with good.
A tyrant uses a people's fears and values against them, not by blatantly contradicting them, but by fanning the fears and pride we have attached to them.
It is best to remember that no ones loves 'the people,' 'women,' or 'diversity,' the least so politicians who direct most of their energy toward accumulating power for themselves. You can't spend 99% of your life working on your own reputation and expect us to believe that the final 1% will be spent on 'the people.' The ones who love 'the people' are found in soup kitchens and retirement homes, nowhere else.
The only defense against tyranny is the insistence on everyone's maximum liberty. We all differ over in what goodness consists. That's not the problem. The problem is the idea that one can increase the good in the world by imposing these conceptions on others. There is a great difference between education and propagandizing. The former respects others' learning processes and their freedom to dissent from your conception. The latter works and works until agreement is met with. It seeks to attain assent at any cost, not understanding that true, fruitful consent can never come about by such means. There are pluses and minuses in everything. Have you hidden this fact when it comes to your pet thesis? Then you are engaged in propagandizing, not enlightenment.
The types of people most prone to the manipulations of the promised saviour are the unwise. These are the people who have to stick with simplistic either/ors - hate/love, tolerance/bigotry, etc. No matter the issue, activists are usually the most simple-minded among us. Although this is itself a gross simplification, it is better to be wary of them than, as we do now, consider that what they have to say is important and that their utterly unschooled position is credible. Activists are simple-minded and they live within the dim corridor of undisciplined feeling. They are the worst; the second ones to fall to the saviour. They don't know how to disengage and look at things impartially for their feelings have always been their only guide.
I have spent my life studying. But even now, at my age, after all of that study and thought, I would be completely at a loss were I to be saddled with questions of how to make the world a better place, company X more profitable, to reduce the debt of country Y, to decrease unemployment, to work out a superior tax plan. How is it that so many uneducated, unthoughtful people believe they have the answers to these problems? The tyrant has no idea either. He or she - likely she - has not spent her life trying to work out these problems in think tanks with the most highly educated people in the world. The highly educated are usually far too smart to have this requisite inflated sense of their own capacities.
In the end, tyrants, journalists and activists cannot live in a vacuum of personal liberty. The US, for instance, was founded by people who wanted to run their own lives, farms and businesses themselves, to engage with whom they saw fit, and not with whom he they did not.


  1. "The only defense against tyranny is the insistence on everyone's maximum liberty."
    Untrue. The best defense against tyranny is a confessional Catholic state. There are a few examples of dictatorships that were somewhat in traditionally Catholic countries: i.e. Franco's Spain, Pinochet's Chile, the Vichy Regime. But all of these were regimes where the influence of the Church was dwindling. The key to maintaining freedom in a democratic state is to maintain stability by having clear moral guidelines which only the Church has the capacity to provide.

    In Plato's Republic he states that what causes the collapse of one form of government is an excess of thing that characterizes it. Democracy is characterized by an emphasis on liberty, what actually leads to tyranny is an excess of liberty. The excess of liberty leads to a period of moral instability which the tyrant capitalizes on. He offers stability and order in the midst of all the moral chaos and is easily able to establish tyrannical rule.

    That is actually very close description to the accounts of numerous democracies that have slipped into tyrannical regimes.

    1. While I am not eager to disagree with Plato, I have the idea that non-nature circumstances, such as in our modern industrialized world means that things don't happen as they would in the more natural, agrarian world. I mean, it's possible to deny the basics of gender, etc., in our world not in his, for example, so that there is no longer any 'common sense' to which a dictator can point people. I think that this is what happens when we try to talk about common sense about human happiness in family life, etc. I feel like I am going off on a tangent here. I hope I am not.

  2. "The only defense against tyranny is the insistence on everyone's maximum liberty. We all differ over in what goodness consists. That's not the problem. The problem is the idea that one can increase the good in the world by imposing these conceptions on others."

    But what you're proposing here is a particular vision of goodness (including freedom) with which others disagree, so differences over what goodness (and freedom) consists in *is* the problem. 'Maximum freedom' means different things to different people. In the end it is an untenable, self-defeating norm. It is unavoidable that some particular vision of goodness should be imposed on people. That follows necessarily from our being social animals.

    1. Of course you are correct. It's hard to put precisely what I am trying to say. I think we need an ethos of freedom rather than one of social justice. Meaning that we need to reclaim a Lockean (for lack of a better word) notion that it's wrong to mess with people's lives. We don't have this. We assume that the state can determine what's in our best interests. Imagine walking into someone's house uninvited at dinner time and proceeding to tell them what they should be eating. Effectively we think that this is okay for the government to do. Why? It's bizarre!