Reflection: Tyranny by any other name still smells…

Tyranny deletes freedom by definition.  It limits or eliminates choices.  Others make decisions on your behalf: what you must do, where you can go, and at times even what you must wear.  German Jews in the thirties wore the Star of David.  There was no debate.  The face of democracy in Myanmar is currently under house arrest — at least through the next election.

The military is a tyrannical system (perhaps by necessity) where people with rank tell those without rank where to go and what to do and even what to wear.  The fact that the military is often successful in its missions is to be considered.  Tyranny is not necessarily cumbersome or inefficient – not like democracies.  Mussolini made the trains run on time, and the people of Italy rejoiced.

But to succeed, there are two things tyranny must do: it must dehumanize people, and it must insulate (isolate) those at the top so their decisions are not touched by people (common humanity). 

First:  Sometimes, tyranny may demonize people, like the Jews in Nazi Germany or like the Nobility in the early days of the French Revolution; and it is not uncommon to so characterize the perceived enemies of the prevailing tyrannical order.  And to be sure, enemy lists are common:  keep that in mind all of you wacko-liberals and conservative, right-wing extreemists!.  Yet for most people – those not actively engaged in some form of dissent – at the least, tyranny must dehumanize.  This is the only way to insure that “a few people” can make those hard decisions that may mean life or death for “most of the people” living under the tyranny.  It might be hard to deny Bob or Mary their daily bread.  It is not so hard to deny 276-B and 617-M.

The military is well known for name, rank and serial number.  That the men and women have names is nice, but what really matters is the rank and serial number.  In the military, people are not people, they are numbers; and if you doubt the dehumanization that the military does in order to function effectively, try some basic training.

Second:  It is imperative that those at the top be isolated in order to make the hard decisions without being swayed by genuine human considerations.  This follows like night and day from the need to dehumanize.  Those at the top and also those on the job need to live in a psychological bubble, if not in a real one.  This is the way bureaucrats have worked successfully since the beginning of time.  The chief defense for death camp prison guards at Nuremburg was “I was just doing my job.”  It did not matter to them that people were being gassed and thrown into ovens.  “I was just paid (required) to do my job, and that is all I did.”  The bubble is imperative for any tyrannical system to operate effectively.

Why is this important?  Because too many people are suffering and I cannot see any relief on the horizon.

Tyranny through the last century and into this one has come in many forms.  One primary form has been in the board room and the upper reaches of the corporate world, and it is particularly apparent when a company becomes “Too big to fail.”  Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost over the past several months at an alarming rate.  Do you think anyone has lost any sleep over that fact?  Corporate Executives generally cannot even name a person on the “front lines” in their own business.  It’s just numbers.  We had 50 in that department.  Now we have 30.  (And to be clear, those 30 now have to work like slaves for fear of their own job).  Meanwhile, 20 more have joined the ranks of people who through no particular fault of their own have been discarded.  Yet the company goes on, telling people what to do, where to go (if they want to keep their job) and even what to wear (dress code).

And, of course, there is the government.  Now, you knew this was coming so don’t get your partisan knickers in a twist.  Instead, let’s go back a bit in time.  One (if not the) primary purpose of the United States Constitution was to guard against tyranny.  The Great Experiment, so-called, was to have a severely limited and deliberately restricted central government which would be responsible for the minimum duties deemed necessary for unity.  The central government was to keep its hands off and fingers out of everything else…everything.  Life was to be in the hands of the states, the local communities and with certain individual liberties guaranteed.  I don’t believe anyone would argue with the fact that we are a long way from the American ideal.  These days, it is nearly impossible to find any aspect of life where the federal government does not have some stake – a finger if not a whole hand.  So what happened?

It is debatable, but just as fast as I can put it: I believe the tipping point came when the Union (central government) forces beat the States (we called it the Civil War).  And Lincoln was a Republican.  By the time of Herbert Hover (another Republican) things had slid so far (and the central governors had become so isolated) the answer perceived for the stock market crash was MORE regulation and HIGHER taxes.  (Can you say, “Let them eat cake?”).  Of course, this led to the election of FDR, (a Democrat) who, far from pulling the government back from intervention in life, actually accelerated the process.  (Crisis you know: Depression and then the war).  The agricultural business in this country was socialized so long ago by price supports and subsidies, we don’t even question it.  Likewise steel, railroads, well… etc.  Then, LBJ (another Democrat) further accelerated the process by designing federal programs that actually encouraged dependency which, to speak plainly, encouraged the tyranny of the central government to tell people what to do, where to go, where to live and how much they were worth!

I believe both Kennedy and Reagan (in their own ways) did try to slow down the growth of tyranny, but more recently, Clinton sped it back up again, and so did Bush.

So now we have Obama and we find we are going to be told what kind of cars we can drive, what our salary will be, how much money we can make with the warning that if we make too much, it will be taken from us.  We are to be told what doctor we can see, what treatment we can get if we get ill, how we can heat or cool our homes, what energy we are allowed to use, and how much it will cost us… and what can you do with your own property without getting nine million permits and plan approvals first, not the least from the EPA.

With all of this, do I blame Barak Obama?  Absolutely not.  He is the conclusion, not the premise.  So what then, is the Great experiment over?  Despite all of the safeguards built into the system by the founders, have we slid into tyranny anyway?  Perhaps we have.  What I really want to know, though, is what our uniform is going to be.  It can’t be brown shirts.  That’s been done.  Personally, I vote for green shirts.  That would seem to fit the current culture and climate.

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